Army Engineers help transform ChiAfA..vres Air Base into a state-of-the-art installation
April 21, 2009
- A massive makeover wave is changing this sleepy farming community into one of the most modern military facilities in Europe.
- Europe District is helping design a new wing in the new NATO headquarters in Brussels.
- The $16 million, 94-room lodge will open its doors this spring, replacing the leased Hotel Le MaisiAfA..res
- Europe District is in discussions to help design a new $130 million SHAPE International School.
CHIEVRES AIR BASE, Belgium - Before World War I, there was nothing but fields.
In the 1940s, the Germans turned a single grass runway into an airfield called air base 404.
And in the 1950s and 1960s, NATO decided to place its military force's central command, known as SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) nearby, increasing the value of the airfield and starting the first of several waves of improvements to the base.
Today, a massive makeover wave is once again under way in this sleepy farming community in central Belgium with the intent to make ChiAfA..vres Air Base one of the most modern military facilities in Europe by early next decade.
After recently being dubbed an "enduring installation" and receiving an influx of new troops from Stuttgart, Germany, along with quality-of-life enhancements desired by the community, ChiAfA..vres is now undergoing more than $30 million in construction and renovation projects to ensure it has the capability to train, mobilize, deploy, sustain, support, recover and reconstitute assigned and mobilized operating forces, said Fritz Kroesen, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District regional program manager for U.S. Army Garrison BENELUX.
By your leisure
In August 2007, construction began on the air base's biggest Corps-managed construction project ever - a three-story, $16 million Army lodge that will serve the base, NATO, SHAPE and diplomatic communities, Kroesen said. The lodge, expected to be completed this spring, will also replace the commercially leased Hotel Le MaisiAfA..res, saving the Army close to $2 million a year.
"As with any project, we faced some challenges with changes and some design and site condition issues," he said, "but so far, we've been able to keep the lodge on track."
Army Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation (DFMWR) officials anticipate a June grand opening of the 94-room facility, which includes four rooms that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The lodge will accommodate 30 standard rooms, 60 family suites with kitchenettes and two extended-stay rooms with kitchenettes. It will also offer other modern Army lodge amenities such as high-speed internet access, on-site laundry, microwaves and refrigerators in rooms, AFN television, and state-of-the-art building management systems. More importantly, the lodge complies with anti-terror force-protection regulations - something the Hotel Le MaisiAfA..res does not.
"This lodge will be a huge improvement for Soldiers and their families, and more importantly, it's a lot safer," Kroesen said. "Projects like this are great examples of the quality service the Corps provides."
In addition to the lodge, construction on a $16 million commissary for the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) is nearing completion, Kroesen said.
The new facility, scheduled to be completed in August, will be twice as large as the existing commissary, said Julio Ochoa, project engineer.
The new commissary will have a modern sales area, produce and meat departments, and a deli/bakery that will include a rotisserie for shoppers, he said.
"This new facility will make a positive impact on the community with the increase of product availability," Ochoa said. "There aren't many places to eat around here, but once the commissary is complete, people can come here and pick up something."
Additionally, the facility will have higher efficient refrigeration equipment and a central heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system that will make for a more cost-efficient and energy-efficient building, he said.
With these two large projects nearing completion, project managers can turn their attention to the other numerous projects in the greater BENELUX area, including some outside the fence.
The Corps is playing a small part in the development of the new NATO headquarters in Brussels, said John Curtis, regional program manager for NATO headquarters. Currently, Curtis is "on loan" to the State Department to help with the design of a U.S. wing of a new nerve center.
"Our role is smaller than we'd hoped it would be, but the State Department wanted to ensure that they were being properly represented during the design process," Curtis said. "They looked to the Corps and we're excited to be playing a part in this monumental project."
Additionally in Brussels, the Corps is working on designing and constructing a $6 million gym and an art and music classroom building for the DoD Education Activity's Brussels American School, which serves more than 300 students from Kindergarten through grade 12 from 21 different countries, according to the school's Web site.
Project engineer Douglas Bonham said he is working a design change that will enhance the project by enabling faster and much quieter construction - a real benefit for the teachers and students who will be continuing their studies directly next to the large construction project.
In the past 50 years, the Corps has constructed only one facility on SHAPE - the child development center built in 1999, Kroesen said. However, in March, Col. John Kem, Europe District commander, and other Corps leadership met with 37 NATO nation representatives to discuss the design of a new $130 million SHAPE International School, which hopes to ultimately produce diplomas recognized by all European countries.
Roughly 4,200 students from 38 nations attend the existing SHAPE International School. The school was constructed in piecemeal fashion over the past 42 years and was supposed to be temporary, said Maj. Gen. Leonardo di Marco, deputy chief of staff support for NATO SHAPE, during the conference.
Officials hope to replace the aged and substandard facilities with a modern school, conducive to excellent learning and teaching standards.
"The improvement of the educational facilities here at SHAPE is a common vision for this project," the general said.
A recent feasibility study conducted by Parsons, the engineering and construction firm contracted by the Corps, noted 83 percent of the facilities should be demolished as the structures do not meet health, safety, educational, environmental and energy-efficiency standards.
"All you have to do is walk around the campus and you'll realize that this is needed," Kem said during his presentation of the design process to the NATO representatives.
To bring this facility to SHAPE, the Corps will have many challenges to overcome, said Paul Jerome, DoD Dependent Schools-Europe project director. For starters, rather than each nation footing the bill for a separate facility or the school lobbying for NATO funding to replace or renovate the buildings, nations who want to participate in the future school will pool their funding to design the combined facility.
"This is a unique approach to getting a facility up on a NATO installation," he said. "You can't just turn to page 12 and say, 'This is the next step,' [because] this has never been done before."
To start the process, Jerome said DoDDS-E and Corps project manager Philip Cohen will meet with all the nations that have expressed interest in the concept and re-evaluate the scope. Cohen said he expects to kick off design in June and estimate 15 to 18 months to complete design.
"What has been done up to this point is not design," Kem said. "[The feasibility study] has answered the questions, 'Is it feasible'' and 'Can we build this''"
The answer, according to the study, was a definite "yes" with Parsons determining that the entire facility could be constructed in one- to two-year phases on the school's current site without interrupting school operations.
The new facility would integrate facilities for the DoDDS-E elementary, middle and high school, the international departments and an international kindergarten.
The schools will also share facilities such as a theater, cafeteria, gym and other common areas. The benefits of this integration are improved efficiency, improved security, on-site parking and most importantly, the replacement of deteriorating, antiquated facilities.
The project would most likely take a total of four to five years from design start to construction completion. "We're excited to be part of this project," Kem said. "We're looking forward to the challenge."