Atkins North America Right-Sizing Air Force Real Property

Atkins North America Right-Sizing Air Force Real Property

United States military civil engineers and facility managers are working hard to find ways to reduce their facilities’ carbon footprints, to optimize space and to improve energy efficiency while still providing an environment that facilitates a high-performance military. This unique challenge, spurred by recent Federal and Department of Defense (DoD) mandates, is one which the Air Force Civil Engineer is determined to answer through programs such as 20/20 by 2020 and Build to Last. In recent years these initiatives have become more than a call to arms; they’ve become the spark that’s set fire to a whirlwind of creative and unique space and sustainability solutions.

The Air Force 20/20 by 2020 program goal is to right-size its real property footprint by optimizing installations in support of their mission through an innovative asset management approach. Major General Timothy A. Byers, the Air Force Civil Engineer responsible for installation support functions at 166 bases worldwide, recently stated the 20/20 by 2020 goal would be achieved in part by “optimizing space usage, demolishing obsolete and excess facilities, and incorporating energy and sustainability in all we do.”

The Air Force’s Build to Last strategy focuses on installation and environmental stewardship. The vision is consistent with the October 2010 DoD Sustainable Buildings Policy, which requires compliance with Federal High Performance Sustainable Buildings (HPSB) principles and achievement of a minimum LEED Silver certification.

Byers explains this strategy by commenting that “sustainable facilities are in line with our strategic vision of Build to Last. Our installations are our war-fighting platforms, so our dedication to sustainable installations is not only key to our nation’s air, space and cyberspace superiority, but also paramount to our ability to effectively and efficiently ‘fly, fight and win.’”

Below are three examples of how Air Force installations in the United States have found ways to demonstrate the military’s commitment to space efficiency and sustainability.

Luke Air Force Base

Support activities performed by the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) at Luke Air Force Base (AFB) and its 1.7 million acre Barry M. Goldwater Range in Glendale, Ariz., include fire protection, explosive ordnance disposal, readiness, design and construction, environmental programs, family housing, and operations and maintenance. In their facility management role, civil engineers maintain everything from air conditioning to road paving. As a result, the 56th CES recently initiated a comprehensive space utilization study for two of the Base’s aging structures – Buildings 1150 (B-1150) and 1158 (B-1158).

Built in 1959, B-1150 was originally designed to house one of the nation’s Semi-Automated Ground Environment (SAGE) Air Defense Command and Control Systems. Known as the “Blockhouse,” the three-story reinforced concrete structure was built to withstand significant blast pressures. Today B-1150 is the primary administrative facility for Luke AFB, which includes a variety of base and mission support functions. As a result, the building plays a vital role in the mission of the 56th Fighter Wing.

Courtesy Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau

Courtesy Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau

The Blockhouse’s original construction included few walls and very few offices. It was primarily open space with emphasis placed on airflow and access to equipment, cable racks and other support equipment. When the SAGE system was shut down in 1983 and the equipment removed in February 1984, the Base reutilized the building for what is now a hodgepodge of offices, waiting rooms, break rooms, conference rooms and classrooms.

Built around the same time as B-1150, B-1158 is the power production and environmental control (HVAC) center for B-1150. At nearly 28,000 square feet (SF), the cast-in-place reinforced concrete structure houses system components, such as large operational and non-operational generators that originally provided primary power to the Blockhouse. Throughout the years, B-1158 has become a haven for discarded B-1150 office furnishings and equipment. The primary power equipment and supporting infrastructure, including four generators, tanks, piping and coolant system, have not been used in 10 years.

The HVAC equipment is still functional and necessary for proper operation of B-1150. However, the HVAC systems were originally designed and installed to cool an enormous computer system with a significant heat load – much more demanding than cooling office space. Thus, CES assumed the system was not operating optimally with respect to energy efficiency and, therefore, should be a prime target for reengineering or replacement.

Luke AFB Recommendations & Rearrangements

Information collected included CADD floor plan drawings, various facility reports and studies, and S-File (real estate records reflecting existing condition and proposed use) data. The study identified more than 14,000 SF of underutilized or vacant space in B-1150. As a result, the assessment team developed recommendations to improve existing space utilization and efficiency within the Blockhouse.

A comparison of the 56th CES Administrative Space Standards (based on Air Force Handbook [AFH] 32-1084) shows actual space assigned exceeds space authorized by more than 22,000 square feet. This space discrepancy, coupled with existing underutilized space, provided opportunities for consolidation and improvement. The final plan recommended changes, rearranges and longer term solutions that freed up 22,000 SF (out of 200,000 SF) to house additional personnel, which cleared the way to demolish other buildings.

The B-1158 recommendations ranged from traditional renovation and reuse to “out-of-the-box” development opportunities, such as building an energy cogeneration plant and an Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) Program that engages private sector entities to acquire and to leverage value from non-excess DoD installation real estate assets.

In the past, proposals recommended storing propane in the Luke Salt Formation underground salt domes, which lay under the Air Force Base. While this may have seemed far-fetched at the time, storage of propane in salt domes is a common practice. When coupled with the practicality of modern propane-fired cogeneration plants and Luke’s future as a center for solar power, such an idea begins to take on new relevance.



B-1158 could be returned to its prior use as a power generating facility, making Luke AFB an energy-secure installation with the ability to operate “off-the-grid.” While such solutions are speculative at this time, they demonstrate the level to which B-1158 could become a high performing facility.

Administrative use of B-1158 in an EUL development is another possibility. Although this option is less likely due to the current real estate market, excess space could be converted into useable office arrangements. With a nominal indoor ceiling height of 33-feet, two floors of mezzanine-style construction could easily be accommodated. Provisions would have to be made to update to current fire protection standards (mandated by a change in use) as well as power and communications.

Architectural features could be incorporated into the north wall, which would replace the radiator system and, perhaps, allow for a window-wall to improve interior lighting. With a set-aside for an interior atrium and elevator, the facility could easily yield an additional 40,000 to 45,000 net square feet of administrative space.

In an administrative or office environment EUL, the increased security from being on Luke AFB could be a plus or minus, depending on the client. Therefore, careful matching of needs would be required in order to increase, not decrease, marketability. A successful EUL arrangement would allow Luke AFB to receive use of part of the newly developed space as their payment-in-kind.

Ellsworth Air Force Base

South Dakota facility managers had a slightly different objective when they launched their space utilization study. In 2010, the Air Combat Command (ACC) Installations and Missions Support Directorate (ACC/A7) initiated a pilot retro-commissioning program at Ellsworth AFB to take a fresh look at how well certain structures meet current occupant needs. The ACC/A7 then took corrective action wherever possible.

The objective was to find ways to create a healthier work environment, to decrease occupant complaints, to improve productivity, and to decrease operating and maintenance costs. A beneficial byproduct of the pilot program was to comply with Federal requirements to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent by 2015 (Energy Policy Act of 2005, Sec 102) and energy intensity by 3 percent annually through 2015 (Executive Order 13243, 2007).

Through the pilot program, engineers assessed, tested and modified seven very different base facilities, most more than 30 years old. All exhibited air quality problems associated with aging or improperly operating equipment and environmental control systems. The team was able to establish performance baseline and benchmarks for each structure using historical utility billing data, metering data, work histories, customer complaint logs, customer surveys and Building Automation System (BAS) trend data. Data logger sensors provided additional system diagnostic monitoring, which helped to identify issues and improvement opportunities.



Once compiled, system performance data provided the framework for test procedures, which would subsequently verify that system performance meets building performance requirements. Since completing initial assessments and making adjustments, Ellsworth AFB engineers have reported that four of the seven project buildings with good meter data have shown an average of 18 percent reduction in annual energy usage. Retro-commissioning also provided significant improvements in indoor air quality, along with reduction in air temperature fluctuations.

Ninety percent of Current Facility Requirements (CFR) could be met at a relatively low cost if Ellsworth AFB makes the recommended corrective actions in each building. In most instances, these recommendations show return-on-investment (ROI) payback of less than four years, with most less than two years.

Tyndall Air Force Base

In Florida, engineers and facility managers are pushing new collaborative, sustainable tools to the next level. For example, the new Fitness Center at Tyndall AFB, located near Panama City, Fla., is the first Defense Department building to achieve the prestigious LEED Platinum certification.

The two-story, 75,000 square-foot fitness center’s “green” building components include: alternative energy sources, including a solar power system; high-efficiency cooling and heating systems; recycled materials from construction demolitions; permeable paving; and high-efficiency lighting and controls. The Fitness Center is also winner of the 2009 U.S. Air Force Merit Award.

More recently, the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment (AFCEE) initiated a demonstration project to develop a building information model (BIM)/energy model for the new Fitness Center to determine if BIM data could be shared with the BUILDER Sustainment Management System (SMS) developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL).

The team successfully demonstrated prototype software tools that allow for two-way exchange of information between the intelligent 3D model and BUILDER SMS software. The team also developed an energy model from the existing 3D model and conducted a gap analysis to determine actions required (and benefits realized) if the Air Force had chosen to pursue LEED Enhanced Commissioning credit, as pursuit of this credit was not an objective in the design of the facility.

According to the LEED 2009 definition, enhanced commissioning is a set of best practices, which go beyond fundamental commissioning to ensure that building systems perform as intended by the owner. These practices include designating a commissioning authority prior to the construction documents phase, conducting commissioning design reviews, reviewing contractor submittals, developing a systems manual, verifying operator training and performing a post-occupancy operations review.

The National Academies of Science Committee on Advancing the Competitiveness and Productivity of the U.S. Construction Industry noted in its 2009 report that large firms and government agencies are in the best position to lead the effort to drive change towards a more competitive and productive U.S. construction industry. Currently, the U.S. Air Force manages approximately $2 billion of traditional military construction per year in a typical portfolio of 100 to150 projects. This volume puts the Air Force in a unique position to drive wide-reaching change while fulfilling its vision of more efficient, sustainable facilities to support its operational mission.

Whether the goal is to identify duplicate or unnecessary space or to streamline energy usage across multiple facilities, Air Force installations across the country are finding creative ways to right-size its real property footprint, to optimize how it manages installations in support of its mission and to deliver sustainable structures.