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Posted 8/28/2014

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By Carol Labashosky, public affairs


The Corps of Engineers’ in-house design teams at the Louisville District are responsible for design of a wide range of building types for military and civil works projects and have been exceeding expectations and doing it more cost effectively, than their private sector design firm counterparts. The Corps’ in-house design teams operate very similarly to those design firms, and an analysis has revealed that the Corps’ in-house design teams stay within budget and had notable reductions in contract modifications, or design changes from those of the architectural/engineering community. The in-house teams are showing that they are efficient and, on the average, their design costs are competitive.

The district’s design-branch teams consist of six basic disciplines that include architecture, interior design, structural, mechanical, electrical and civil engineers.

The team designs a complete and usable building from the foundation to the roof and everything in between. The process involves the architects and interior designers defining the floor plan and form of the building to reflect functional, technical, social, environmental, and aesthetic considerations. Structural engineers ensure that the building is built to be strong enough and stable enough to resist all structural loads—gravity, wind, snow, rain, seismic activity. The mechanical engineer designs the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and plumbing and fire protection. The electrical engineer designs the power, lighting and fire alarm requirements for the building. The civil engineer is responsible for the exterior features surrounding the building which include drainage, utilities, roads, parking and walkways that serve the building.

Many of these design elements are unseen and taken for granted, such as the mechanical and electrical elements, but these components require special expertise to be designed correctly and efficiently. Someone who will work in a Corps’ designed project will turn on a light switch in a building, for example, but the design behind it, the conduit, electrical wiring and its housing are all considered by the designer. These components usually aren’t on the radar screen of those who work there. Fire egress routes and how far away exit stairs are from offices are other important factors in the design. Each designer considers all these things, including force protection, life safety, building codes and much more.

Three notable projects—coupled with award-winning design strategies—exhibit the skills, precison and professionalism of the district in-house design team.

Pittsburgh, Penn. Air Force Reserve Lodging Facility

The challenge was to create and maximize the number of visiting quarters and business suites. The lodging master plan included an additional three buildings that are visiting quarters and a dining building. Positioning the business suite balconies facing outward resulted in 40 sleeping rooms for each phase creating an exterior court for guests. Each building operates independently reducing utility costs when not occupied. Large trees and a rain garden make the property appealing. The entire complex is tied together with sidewalks, stairs, landscaping and low level site lighting making an impact on visitors. The design progressed logically from the existing facilities and complemented the rolling hills and topography.

It was the first project in the district to achieve LEED Gold Certification in 2012. It received the ABC of Western Pennsylvania Excellence in Construction Award. Energy efficient features include insulating concrete forms, 30 percent water use reduction by using low flow toilets, faucets and shower heads. The erosion and sediment control plan were more stringent that the NPDES program requires. Fuel efficient vehicle parking encouraged alternative transportation. Construction waste was managed to reduce material sent to landfills by 75 percent. Motion sensors turn off lights in unoccupied spaces while light controls enable occupants to select optimum lighting when and where needed.

Fort Campbell, Kentucky Sustainment Brigade Administration Facility

Another in-house design showcased project is the Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Sustainment Brigade Administration Facility which was completed in the fall of 2013. The facility is a state-of-the-art office building that houses the Sustainment Brigade Defense and Accounting Services (DFAS). The district established the facility as a pilot sustainability project. This project received the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design LEED Gold Certification in March of 2014. Its green features include enhanced storm water management, geothermal HVAC, solar hot water, rainwater harvesting system and lighting design strategy. A photovoltaic panel system is in place where energy generated is returned to the grid rather than to facility’s demand. Photovoltaic refers to the arrangement of components designed to supply usable electricity with the sun as the power source. In total, these features reduced the building’s energy consumption by 50 percent.

"The project design team worked to ensure no sustainable feature was overlooked," said Architectural Section Chief Garry Minter, Louisville District. "The project team has successfully designed a structure that will showcase to all who process through the 101st Airborne and Fort Campbell the superior capabilities of the Army facility of the future."

Because the project was a pilot design and construction, the design progression explored maximizing sustainable design features suitable for the Fort Campbell region. The building provides proof of an energy efficient, water-saving, environmentally friendly approach, and its successful design features are justified for use on similar regional projects, said Minter.

Saint Charles Army Reserve Center, Missouri

The Saint Charles Army Reserve Center is located at the 88th Regional Support Command’s historic Weldon Spring Training Area, Saint Charles, Missouri. The project was completed this past June.

The design team created a campus environment incorporating two recently completed Army Reserve facilities. The project includes four new buildings, personal vehicle parking, a military vehicle hardstand and a deployable medical sets area. The team was able to include many unique and sustainable design features such as an insulated concrete form wall as an air barrier, bioretention areas incorporating native prairie grasses, pervious asphalt parking, a reflective PVC membrane roof system and an on-site septic mound system.

The district design-branch leadership anticipates that this project will be nominated next year for a design award due to its unique and sustainable design features.