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Fort Jackson Improves Facilities for Recruits

Wed June 13, 2012 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

A $37 million construction project is nearing completion at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C., providing recruits with modern training facilities. Basic Training Complex III is located on 35 acres within the United States Army Base.

Fort Jackson BTC III is a Battalion Company Operations Facility (BCOF) Complex consisting of three 64,689 sq.-ft. (6,009 sq m), three-story BCOF structures. Each is oriented on a 70-acre site to create a campus layout surrounding training areas. The design consists of “L” shaped buildings housing 228 soldiers and a total site capacity of 1,440 soldiers. The design shape is composed of classroom areas, the two-story barracks component housing sleeping areas, latrines, drill instructor areas, stairs and mechanical and electrical spaces, plus a first level covered training area. They were arranged to facilitate easy access and movement between components.

B.L. Harbert International LLC (BLHI) served as general contractor, overseeing most of the new construction. BLHI is Birmingham, Ala.-based and focuses on government, international, commercial, health care and civil construction around the globe. According to project manager Robert Croke, changes at Fort Jackson were overdue.

“Fort Jackson’s current basic training facilities were simply outdated, so this project was clearly needed. The design phase began in October 2010, with plans developed and submitted in civil, structural and architectural/MEPF packages. Site construction began in late January 2011, while the first footings began in mid-February. The original completion date was April 19, 2012, but user-requested changes were issued late in the project, which extended the completion date to the end of June,” said Cooke.

“The biggest challenge for this project,” Croke continued, “was the aggressive schedule. The Army only allowed 540 calendar days for the entire project. This included the design phase, meaning the construction team had less than 15 months to complete all three buildings. Furthermore, almost all U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [USACE] projects require an extensive mechanical systems commissioning process, which further stresses the project schedule.

“Considering the condition the buildings must be in to complete commissioning activities, the project must essentially go from footings to punchlist in 12 months. Also, the economic hardships throughout the construction industry had a substantial impact on the various subcontractors on the project. Much more aggressive pricing has become necessary in order to remain competitive for contract awards, resulting in tighter budgets and less room to react to the inevitable contingencies that arise in the course of a construction project. These conditions demanded much more involved and aggressive management practices from BLHI.”

Established in 1917, Fort Jackson is the largest and most active Initial Entry Training Center in the U.S. Army. It is headquarters to the U.S. Army Soldier Support Institute, the U.S. Army Chaplains Center and School and the Defense Academy for Credibility Assessment.

The construction project calls for traditional structural steel frame, with metal stud and drywall partitions, along with one boiler, one chiller, two water heaters and five air handlers for each building. The largest piece of equipment used was a 110-ton (99.7 t) crawler crane for the steel erection. Croke said previous experience with USACE work has been crucial to success on the military installation.

“The exhaustive commissioning process is only one of several aspects of a USACE project that greatly differs from work in the private sector. Imagine having three city or county building inspectors assigned to your project, and then having all three of them walk the project daily. That will give you an idea of how scrutinized one of these projects is,” Croke said.

Each Corps project also typically requires at least three quality control representatives for each major aspect of construction, including civil/architectural, mechanical, electrical, as well as a quality control manager.

“This staff is necessary just to develop and manage the large amount of additional paperwork and meetings that a project with the Corps requires, not to mention the increased cost associated with the larger staff. A contractor or manager without any experience with the Corps of Engineers would be completely overwhelmed, and a profitable and on-time project would be nearly beyond reach unless they really understood what exactly was involved,” Croke stated.

For crews dealing with Fort Jackson’s daily operations, the main concern has been increased traffic flow each Wednesday and Thursday, as the graduating basic training units hold their family days and graduation parades. The site also is inaccessible from 6 am to 7 am each day, due to physical training on the roads.

Choosing the right architects was another concern for planners. According to architect David Burnet of the Jackson, Miss.-based firm Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons, “In the last five years, we have completed many Department of Defense projects with a total value in excess of $600 million dollars, including barracks, dining halls, vehicle maintenance facilities, hangars and company operations facilities. Our client satisfaction is evidenced by our repeat customers. We have an acute understanding of government agencies’ schedules, criteria and budgetary requirements, and we knew that we could provide Fort Jackson with a quality, timely project.”

Burnet pointed to the Department of Defense’s strict regulations regarding design standards and regulations such as anti-terrorism features, blast ratings, access control gates and LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) requirements.

“The target LEED requirement for military facilities is currently the Silver designation. Areas that must be considered to achieve acceptable LEED status are sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Our project team implemented a comprehensive ’total design’ approach to addressing sustainability throughout all phases of design, construction and commissioning. Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons has completed more than 20 projects encompassing more than 100 buildings that have been designed to meet LEED Certifiable and LEED Silver ratings.

“Additionally, the design and construction processes are accelerated in a Fast-Track delivery approach, Decisions must be made at a rapid pace, with little room for error,”?Burnet continued. “Site construction and structural placement may begin prior to completion of building design. Also, our specialists recognize the particular needs of DoD projects. Many require secure communication networks, storage of sensitive data, restricted access control systems and secure vaults.”

The biggest obstacle, said Burnet, was providing a contemporary building that blends in with adjacent buildings while at the same time has its own identity.

“The mission of the sustainable design team is challenging because cost-driven projects have the potential for all design decisions to be based on first costs, not necessarily considering life cycle costs and other sustainable design principles,” Burnet said. “Recognizing this concern, goals and strategies are collaboratively defined by both the designers and constructors to ensure that sustainable design solutions are functional, efficient, constructable, cost-effective and met the requirements of the users.

“We must take into account the particular requirements of each agency with whom we work. Some design standards to which we are held are not available without clearance. Most federal agencies and virtually all military installations require vigorous screening for site and information access. Site observation is not usually a casual event.”

Burnet said Building Information Modeling (BIM) was used to enhance the efficiency of the design/build process.

“A building model produced by BIM can support multiple different views of the data contained within a drawing set, including 2D and 3D drawings. Conflicts between the mechanical, electrical and structural designs can be identified and resolved before construction begins. This reduces change orders and controls costs.”

Palmetto Site Prep of Orangeburg, S.C., worked with BLHI’s construction team on the Basic Training Complex. The work involved clearing 220,000 cu. yds. (168,202 cu m) of cut and fill, more than 24,000 sq. ft. (2,2296 sq m) of segmental retaining walls, 15,000 sq. yds. (12,541 sq m) of asphalt paving, 15,000 sq. yds. (12,541 sq m) of concrete paving and sidewalks, 11,000 linear ft. (3,352 m) of curb and gutter and utilities including storm drain, water and sewer. The project also includes an upgrade to the BTC II lift station to boost capacity for BTC III requirements.

“Fort Jackson was one of the largest jobs we’ve ever done as a company, volume wise,” explained Palmetto estimator Greg Rickenbaker. “It took a lot of coordination with the amount of different work going on at the site and all the different trades. We had to consider all the underground utility work going on, making sure not to tear up anything. One of the biggest challenges for us was the retaining wall. It was one of the largest ever, with the tallest point around 23 feet tall and a corner that proved a bit difficult.

“We had to rent a few pieces, but most of our in-house equipment was Caterpillar. To move that much dirt, we used a Link-Belt 700 LX excavator and off-road trucks. We used smaller excavators, dozers and rollers for the storm drain installation, domestic water and sanitary sewer. It took a lot of work, but it was very rewarding to serve the military and our soldiers, who serve us every day.”

Comfort Systems USA was the mechanical contractor for the project, while Harlan Electric Company of Nashville, Tenn., served as the electrical contractor. According to electrical project manager Gary Keith, “The first significant challenge was the installation of an overhead high-voltage distribution line to provide electrical power for this project. This line ran from a substation located approximately two miles from the job site. This installation required dealing with varying issues, as well as unfavorable weather conditions.

“Additionally, the three buildings were under construction simultaneously. However, the tasks being performed in each building were almost always different. This required significant planning and organization to ensure the right materials were on hand, at the right location and made it necessary to constantly evaluate and adjust the sequence of the scheduled construction activities. Harlan’s electrical superintendent, John Jordan, closely coordinated with BL Harbert and all other subcontractors on the project to successfully meet these challenges and complete this project on time.”

Each BCOF serves a single training company of 240 soldiers, but, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can accommodate a temporary surge of 288, if necessary. The Battalion Headquarters (BNHQ) is comprised of administration, command operations, special functions, storage and classroom components for the training battalion. The Lawn Equipment Storage Building is a storage building for lawn maintenance equipment and is subdivided with partitions, to provide an individually securable storage space with separate access for each of the five companies. The Dining Facility is comprised of delivery, storage, preparation, cleaning, serving, seated dining and field feeding components.

The physical training features enable each company to oversee the mandatory physical training of their assigned trainees in a safe and controlled environment. The minimum mandatory exterior training areas for the complex include one, closed, ¼ mile running track per battalion, one 18,500 sq. ft. physical training (PT) pit per Company and four 4-station climbing bar sets per Company. PT pits are used for hand-to-hand combat drills, as well as calisthenics and are constructed of a durable, low maintenance surface, designed to minimize injuries during training. The track must be a separate stand-alone feature, not incorporated into other site features, such as roads or walks. The entire track must be observable from one central location to allow minimal drill instructor oversight.

The fort includes more than 52,000 acres, including more than 100 ranges and field training sites. Soldiers, civilians, family members and retirees are all part of the Fort Jackson community. Each year an additional 12,000 students attend courses at the Soldier Support Institute, Chaplain Center and School and Drill Sergeant School, which trains all active and Reserve instructors. Fort Jackson employs almost 4,400 civilians and provides services for more than 115,000 retirees and their family members. In addition, Fort Jackson receives almost 60 percent of all the female recruits of the United States Army.

Randy Cephus, deputy public affairs officer with the Fort Worth District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said, “Basic Training Complexes are required by the Army to accommodate living, dining, training, administrative and command operations. If the complex was not constructed, approximately 1,200 basic training soldiers would not be housed and trained in quality facilities. They would be forced to be housed and trained in either substandard facilities or temporary modular facilities. We feel that this leads to lower quality of life, increased potential for illness, lower morale and reduced retention rates. Soldiers are the centerpiece of our formations and they deserve quality accommodations.”

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