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Posted 2/21/2013

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By Tanya King
Seattle District Public Affairs


Facilities can’t be built fast enough to accommodate the rapidly growing 1st Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Even if they could, space and money are scarce. Having a master plan is the answer to ensuring the right buildings are built at the right time.

It’s not possible to build when money is available without giving thought to the end result, according to Lt. Col. Mike Sierakowski, 1st SFG engineer. Funded construction projects need to be completed to house Soldiers living in outdated facilities. Once vacated, the old buildings will be demolished, making way for other new buildings.

The goal is to preserve space for future growth based on what JB Lewis-McChord planners think requirements are going to be while taking sustainability into account.

To help solve the long-term demolition versus construction puzzle, the unit partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District, and architecture and engineering firms BergerABAM and Mithun. Common themes emerged as the planning team jotted down ideas on pieces of paper and brainstormed.

“From planning, we came up with a sustainable compound in a walkable environment that would be a great place to live and work and train,” said Fred Brown, Corp of Engineer’s Special Operations Command program manager. “It got everyone on the same sheet of music from the start. Everyone had ownership in the process, because they were able to express what was important to them, and we listened.”

Creating a master plan is taking a vision and making it tangible, which is particularly important when working with the military, Brown said. Achieving the vision would’ve been extremely difficult without a master plan.

“We can’t just drop in buildings without taking into account how they relate to one another,” he said. “We can maximize space usage and enhance functional relationships between buildings through compact development.”

The master plan became the construction road map with flexibility being the key, said Morgan Ennis, Corps of Engineers project manager. If they weren’t flexible, the plan could become obsolete in a few years as new requirements for mission, security or manning arose.

“The master plan helped us to look ahead 10 to 20 years,” Sierakowski said.

The plan increases the site’s overall capacity while relocating and consolidating functions so most administrative, housing and personnel support facilities are on the West Compound. The East Compound houses most battalion operations and supporting maintenance facilities.

Walking paths and jogging trails are incorporated throughout the design to encourage walking as a mode of transportation. Similar buildings are collocated, increasing ease of use and functionality. The theory behind housing these components together is to provide a more walkable campus, maximizing green space and making it a more enjoyable place to live and work.

Achieving this level of functionality wasn’t easy, however. Roadblocks included security concerns and environmental and sustainability issues.

At round-table discussions, each team member contributed something different to the plan.

“The design firms would provide information about things we [1st SFG] didn’t think about, such as modern sustainment and green building codes,” said Sierakowski. “They also helped us achieve a campus feel with trees and running paths.”

The plan is Silver certified in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, which considers innovation and design process, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, sustainable sites, energy and water efficiency, and atmosphere.

“We tried to maximize green space and grassy areas,” Brown said. “We thought it would help with quality of life and be a good use of existing real estate.”

In addition to environmental consideration, designers incorporated heightened security measures because of 1st SFG’s mission.

“We tend to be a lot more secure than conventional Army,” Sierakowski said. “We isolate ourselves, so, if there’s ever a need for us to secure ourselves within the cantonment area, we can.”

One of the biggest benefits, he said, was the ability to brief higher headquarters on how the unit’s unique needs would be met and show the road map. They can then prioritize, obtain funding and build gradually while still remaining flexible enough to add buildings where place-holders are incorporated in the design as the mission changes.

“A lot of times there are a lot of great ideas, but the military has constraints the civilian world doesn’t have,” Brown said. “It’s nice to put a plan on paper, but this plan is realistic and buildable.”