FORT KNOX, Ky. — Only a fence, which surrounds the entire span of the old Ireland Army Community Hospital, hints to something big that is about to happen to a landmark that has towered over Fort Knox for more than six decades.That something, according to officials here, is the deconstruction and removal of every square inch of the 462,000-square-foot facility, expected to be completed by August 2021.“The historical and cultural aspects of the hospital have been preserved and recorded,” said Ashley Ryan, master planner at Fort Knox Directorate of Public Works. “The building itself, though, will be demolished.”Nick Bibelhauser, Fort Knox resident engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the administrative contract officer for the contract, said the demolition is expected to occur in two phases.The first phase, which should last about six to eight weeks, began Dec. 1.“They are going to be doing a lot of interior asbestos abatement,” said Bibelhauser. “Anyone passing by won’t know that the demolition is going on, other than maybe some dumpsters appearing outside.”Bibelhauser said concerns surrounding the demolition of the building have made it unfeasible for a quick implosion or the use of a wrecking ball in removing the building from the landscape.“It’s because of the hospital’s proximity to some housing and the nearby gym,” said Bibelhauser. “We also have an ambulance garage that is very, very close to the existing building that’s actually going to stay in place.”There is a barely more than a sidewalk distance that separates the garage from the hospital. Officials said the ambulance service will continue operating from that facility.“As part of our construction contract, all the utilities from that ambulance garage are now fed from the new medical clinic rather than from the hospital,” said Bibelhauser.For the second phase, plans for deconstruction of the old hospital will focus on demolishing it from top to bottom, layer-by-layer, starting with the tower. Bibelhauser said the equipment used will be small enough to be hoisted by large cranes and then able to traverse the hallways. Chutes will be placed throughout to transfer debris into large dumpsters on the ground.“We’re looking at the first of the year when they’ll start that phase,” said Bibelhauser.One possible snag to the project may come in the form of water. Bibelhauser said regulations require that water be used throughout the demolition process to keep dust to a manageable minimum.“There’s a possibility that demolition could get delayed if there’s freezing temperatures,” said Bibelhauser. “If there are prolonged periods of really cold weather, they’ll have to stop during them.”Plans for deconstruction of the hospital started several years ago when U.S. Army officials decided to reduce its footprint after the departure of Armored Force personnel. At the height of its capabilities, the facility served over 318,000 active duty, Reserve, Guard, Family and retiree patients, according to the Ireland Army Health Clinic website at HERE.Ryan said the facility is no longer needed or practical.“The medical clinic no longer has any use for Building 851,” said Ryan. “Fort Knox doesn’t have space issues like that, and we don’t have a requirement for a building that big. It’s a very complex building to maintain.“It worked as a medical facility; it would have a difficult transition into any function that we would maintain,” she continued. “We would have to renovate every space every time we moved somebody in, and every time we tear into the wall, we would have some [asbestos] abatement we would have to complete.”Even though the decision to demolish the building had be made, portions of it were still occupied until October.Ryan said there has been a lot of coordination between Fort Knox, U.S. Army Medical Activity and the Corps of Engineers for the entire medical footprint that includes the old hospital, the new clinic and the even newer Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic.Both Ireland and VA medical personnel resided in the old hospital. Ryan said she and other planners had to first move all of them out before deconstruction could begin.Ryan said the project, when completed, will convert the footprint into an entirely green space. Gone will be the underground concrete foundations, the plumbing and electrical conduits; even the asphalt parking lot will be removed.“My primary concern is trying to be optimistic about future growth on the installation,” said Ryan. “So all of the open land could be used again as any additional medical requirements come up due to new growth at Fort Knox.”