By Ms. Sarah Gross (USACE)December 1, 2017
Just outside the National Capital Region, construction is underway on a new innovative center for some of the most highly-trained employees in the U.S. Secret Service.
The roughly $9.6-million, 20,500 square-foot cutting-edge center will feature spacious, efficient work areas with proprietary equipment, multi-purpose rooms, an emergency medical area, plenty of natural light and superior ventilation.
Its primary beneficiaries are not people, however -- they're Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherds.
"This is the training facility for canines in the Secret Service," said Frances Young, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District design manager. "These are tactical and sniff-testing dogs that are imperative to the mission of the Department of Homeland Security."
Baltimore District engineers designed and are overseeing construction of the canine training complex that will replace the existing, outdated Maloney Canine Building at James J. Rowley Training Center in Beltsville, Maryland. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Nov. 29 to mark the official construction start of the new Maloney Canine Training Center, which the project team estimates to complete in early 2019.
"The Secret Service knew that their facilities no longer met their needs," said Larry Young, Baltimore District architect. "That's where we came in. We provide the engineering expertise and space requirements to meet their mission demands."
The new complex increases the capacity of its predecessor. It entails a training facility with administrative spaces, classrooms and odor introduction and observations rooms that support canine training requirements. Attached by an access road and canopy, a separate 36-kennel facility focuses on care and maintenance of the canines, including space requirements for a veterinary emergency examination room, laundry room, food preparation and storage rooms, and tactical equipment storage. An existing 1-acre yard will be upgraded to provide advanced training capacity for the canines, while two new breakout yards will flank the building to provide extra areas for relief and relaxation.
"This project breaks away from our typical military construction projects and offered our design team the chance to work outside of the box and take on a new challenge," said Col. Ed Chamberlayne, Baltimore District commander. "As an avid dog lover, I'm honored to be able to provide this training facility for some of the most impressive canines in our nation and their handlers."
These facilities represent the first new construction on the campus in almost two decades, and the antiquated aesthetics of the current buildings provided the design team the chance to bring a more contemporary look to the environment.
"We wanted to break away from the established style and color schemes to incorporate more of a 21st century feel to include a blue accent color that mimics the Secret Service blue," said Frances Young.
The interior space also exhibits modernization in design and functionality.
Much like a typical 9 to 5 desk job, the canine building is where the canines come to put in their time prior to heading home with their handlers. The team went to great lengths to ensure their working environment is safe and effective.
"Everything we designed was with the safety of the canines and handlers at the forefront," said Frances Young.
The space was designed to reduce dog-to-dog contact for both medical and behavioral purposes, as well as dog-to-non-handler-human contact.
"It is important to ensure that the dogs do not see one another nor have contact with one another," said Frances Young. "We designed the space to reduce any sort of confrontation."
There are both standard and isolation kennels in the kennel facility that are designed back to back. Standard kennels serve to hold non-certified canines day and night, certified canines during the day or are used for boarding when handlers are out of town. Isolation kennels provide quarantined areas until the canines are medically vetted and cleared to train. All spaces are 14 x 8 feet and are comprised of masonry block walls and durable solid stainless steel proprietary gates.
The most distinctive design of all relates to handler safety and entails a one-of-a-kind system of double wing gates for each kennel. These gates allow personnel to sanitize kennels or perform other necessary functions without contact with the canines. Employees enter through an entryway double wing gate and then open a lateral wing gate in order to latch the two doors together to create a containment area in the kennel. The dogs are first guided into this area with treats dropped from a small access slot above. To the team's knowledge, this swing gate technique has never been done before.
Besides limiting both dog and human confrontations, the design team had to make sure there were no means of escape.
All standard kennel walls extend 8 feet high and are enclosed with a chain-link fence material atop. Isolation kennel walls extend up to the ceiling.
"These animals are highly-skilled and highly-intelligent; they are trained to scale walls, so we have to ensure that they cannot escape their kennels," said Larry Young.
Cleanliness was also a critical aspect of the design.
"We really must be concerned with sanitation because if the canines get sick, they are temporarily out of commission," said Frances Young.
Several design features were employed for the physical health of the canines as well as their mental health.
Temperature control was a major consideration during the design. Inside temperature will be kept within 10 degrees above or below outside or ambient temperature, so canines remain acclimated to outside training conditions. There are certain thresholds, however. The temperature may not drop below 45 degrees nor exceed 85 degrees.
The floor material was also of great concern.
"We worked very hard with Secret Service to get the right epoxy floor material with the right grip, so neither the canines nor their handlers slip, and so it's not too harsh on the paws," said Frances Young. "Concrete like at the old facility is not only slippery, but it holds moisture, which breeds bacteria."
Sky lights and a lot of windows were included in the design because the team found that the canines respond well to natural light.
In addition, fresh air-flow maintenance is attributed to proper ventilation and removing waste quickly.
"The air-exchange rate in the building will be far beyond the minimum standards," said Bill Bonenberger, Baltimore District mechanical engineer. "We focused on bringing a lot of fresh air in and moving odors out."
Besides the air flow, odors will also be minimized through waste management practices.
The floor in kennels slope to create a gravity-fed drainage system to remove waste from the area.
"In lieu of using open trenches, each kennel contains a trapped drain that connects to the main sewer system to wash down waste," said Lou Corio, Baltimore District mechanical engineering technician. "The waste from the isolation kennels is kept separate from the rest of the kennel waste to assure that cross contamination between un-vetted and cleared dogs does not occur. The system is designed with large lines in order to minimize pipe clogs from toys or other foreign materials that may be introduced to the drain."
To ensure the safe breakdown of waste residue, specially-selected enzymes and/or bacteria strains are introduced into the waste system to quickly degrade organic waste, reduce odors and improve long-term system efficiency. The kennel wash-down system consists of a high-pressure water hose and a sanitizing hose located in the kennel corridor areas. The kennel wash-down piping will be connected to a central water booster system to ensure water pressure of 120 pounds per square inch.
Spaces were also designed for a new industrial and efficient dishwasher and an ionization machine.
The old facility used a standard-sized dishwasher. Secret Service is upgrading to a commercial kitchen dishwasher that moves items and utensils along a conveyor system and is a more efficient use of water. The new ionization machine is like a giant armoire that releases a special solution to rid expensive, dirty bite training suits of bacteria.
The final design was the culmination of several layers of incorporating guidelines, research and coordination.
The design was adapted from Department of Defense's Military Working Dog Facilities standards to meet Department of Homeland Security specifications; follows the objectives of the Rowley Training Center's Master Plan; and incorporates methods to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, silver certification.
In addition, the design team visited other kennels built within the last 20 years, including Customs and Border Protection and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives facilities. From these site visits, the team was able to incorporate current best practices into the design.
The team also worked closely with the center's special agent in charge, Kimberly Cheatle, who not only runs the facilities but acts as the head trainer, too.
"Cheatle and her team were integral in the design process," said Frances Young. "From attending a multitude of meetings even down to helping with furniture selection, they have been with us since the beginning."
During the groundbreaking ceremony, Cheatle emphasized how collaboration has led to success.
"Our partners walked with us every step of the way leading up to this event. We've been anticipating this day for a long time. With our increase in training demands, these new facilities will help us serve our mission for years to come."