FORT SILL, Okla., June 13, 2019 -- If there were IQ tests for smart buildings, then the barracks going up north of Vessey Hall would be a candidate for Mensa.

These buildings are the companion piece to Vessey Hall, headquarters of the 95th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception), whose mission is in-processing the newest of the new recruits for the 434th Field Artillery Brigade. Phase II of the Fort Sill Reception Complex will complete the 95th AG footprint here with two company operation facilities (COFs) bursting with cutting-edge technology.

Army Corps of Engineers' designer of record for the project is its Fort Worth District, the Center of Standardization for Barracks, explained Rick West, area engineer for the Fort Sill Area Office, Tulsa District, Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE).

The Fort Sill COFs are the first of their kind and will set the standard for other reception station barracks. As particular needs are identified at other installations around the country, this design will be site-adapted and used at other places, West said.

The same company that built Patriot Estates and much of the Air Defense Artillery School, Harper Construction Company Inc. of San Diego, was awarded the $59.5 million contract for the job Dec. 14, 2018.

The Corps issued its notice to proceed Feb. 5, 2019. Project duration was projected to be approximately 27 months. Anticipated completion date is sometime around May 3, 2021, 818 days after the notice to proceed.

One major hurdle for the builder was the expansive clay soils on Fort Sill. These are problematic for anyone building here, and so all facilities in this project require special foundations.

Joe Marcano, ACoE construction manager for the project, said the first thing was to excavate the site from one end to the other. The 960-bed A Battery COF, which has a barbell-shaped floor plan, will be on the west side, and the 240-bed COF housing B and C batteries, shaped like a cross, will be to the east.

The project is so massive in that construction not only goes from the ground up, but also west to east. In this way, a task-specific crew can start on one end and keep moving east as other crews follow along behind. This shortens the amount of time needed to get the work done and provides the most synergistic use of resources, West said.

Once all the clay was dug out, Harper Construction and designers from ACoE's Fort Worth District undertook an elaborate process for the select fill that replaced it. A non-expansive fill material was blended on site. It has a low plasticity index, which means it doesn't swell or shrink much with fluctuations in moisture.

Harper and the designers did many tests to ensure that the consistency of the mixture was maintained across the entire job site.

Water and sewer lines were laid. Plumbing, electrical, and gas connections had to be stubbed in at specific gridlines so they could weave their way up through a mesh of steel reinforcing rods in the gigantic waffle slabs, so called because the ribbed mat foundation design looks like a waffle when it comes off the griddle.

The slabs are 2 feet deep. Each COF has multiple foundation sections, each of which has to be rigid enough to resist both the uplift forces that any swelling soil might have and also be able to withstand any settlement when the soil dries out, West explained. And, everything in this project has to last for at least 50 years.

These slabs are huge. For the westernmost section of the A Battery COF, the builder had to bring in a 61-meter pump, the largest one in Oklahoma, to be able to pour wet concrete onto the outermost edge of the slab from where the pump was placed. Altogether, 2,400 cubic yards of concrete went into the mesh. The slabs have no joints; once a pour starts, it has to run continuously until the slab is complete. That pour started at 4 p.m. one day, continued all night, and wrapped up the following morning.

Two 41-meter pumps were brought in for the June 7 pouring of A Battery's center section, where the administrative offices will be. West said

Lawton has three concrete plants, two large and one small, and one of the larger plants had every bit of its equipment and personnel tied up on this pour.

This one section -- one of five for the building -- will have 550 tons of steel in the mat and 1,200 cubic yards of concrete on top of it, Marcano said. The foundation as a whole will contain a staggering 3,000 tons of steel and 12,000 tons of concrete.

During the pour the site was a beehive of activity. Concrete mixers were constantly arriving to drop the latest batch into the hoppers that supplied the pumps or heading back into town to go after more.

As the liquefied concrete gushed into the grid-work of interlacing steel rods at a rate of 180 cubic yards an hour, two very interesting things were going on.

At the north end of the site, an orange barrel was casting tiny droplets of water all over the work site as it pivoted in first one direction and then another.

West called this a water fog machine, or mister. Its job is to replace water as it evaporates from the fresh concrete so that the slab will cure properly.

Meanwhile, concrete finishers scurried around, using a blade on the end of a pole to smooth out the surface. But wait! What's that guy doing standing on the back of a machine that runs around like a stand-up lawnmower?

Marcano identified this as a laser screed, and it does the work of 17 people, which considerably speeds up the process. This is one of the first times this cutting-edge technology has been used here.

Final surface finishing is the last thing to happen, and it has to wait until the concrete has set sufficiently to get mechanized power equipment up on it.

Here's another amazing fact about Fort Sill Reception Complex Phase II: Remember TBUP, the training barracks upgrade program that renovated each of the five "starships" for 434th FA Brigade's basic training battalions?

There's a chilled water plant in Building 5900 that serves the training side of post, and before TBUP it was severely taxed and had been for a while.

But the starship renovations over the past decade reduced that load by sealing up the building envelopes and eliminating the infiltration of outside air.

Add to that the installation of more energy-efficient HVAC systems, and the chiller now has enough excess capacity to help serve two neighboring dining facilities, Marcano said.

What makes this even more environmentally friendly, said West, is that the water chiller plant can now use recycled water from Fort Sill's wastewater treatment plant as part of its cooling fluid.

Runoff from the new barracks will go to the wastewater treatment plant and get recycled right back at 5900, he noted.

And, there's more. The reception complex will be linked into the Directorate of Public Works' Energy Management Control System (EMCS), sometimes referred to as the Utility Monitoring Control System (UMCS).

"It actually does both of those functions, as well as some others," Marcano said.

Ever wonder why the DPW trucks suddenly show up to fix a problem in your building before anyone has called it in?

It's not because they have a crystal ball or ESP. Their seemingly magical appearance is because Fort Sill's buildings are outfitted with a host of sensors and alarms.

These connect to a building control system in DPW headquarters where people are working full time to monitor everything.

Some of the alarms in Fort Sill's buildings aren't always seen outside the perimeter fence, Marcano said. Some are for various exhaust fans.

Folks might ask, "Why do you need an alarm in an exhaust fan?" That's because it's exhausting some critical part of a building not found outside of a military installation.

So a controls contractor will have to install multiple controls all over the barracks and tie them into the vast network that feeds into DPW headquarters.

Editor's note: The conclusion to this article will be published June 20.