The Van Voorhis Elementary School project site on Fort Knox, which is being managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District, is busy with crews operating heavy equipment to construct the new 104,000 square foot school that will replace the current 84,000 square foot facility. The $59.8 million construction contract, which began December 2021, had a sporadic start with inclement weather causing 23 days of delays.
The soil at the location for the 21st century Department of Defense Education Activity school consists of wet clay, which has the potential for long-term settling and negatively impacts the performance of a foundation. To ensure stability, about 200 concrete pillars will be installed to support the load of the building. Crews are currently drilling 60 feet to the bedrock to accommodate the piers. In addition to setting the piers, utility work and under slab plumbing are being completed.
The project team faced other challenges before construction began. “One of the biggest challenges for the design of the Van Voorhis project was the cost escalation during design,” said Sarah Ignacio, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District project manager. “The cost estimate during design was higher than expected and as a result, some of the work was descoped out of this contract, such as the electronic security system procurement, which will now be acquired through a separate contract vehicle through the Huntsville District.”
In addition to material cost increases, availability of construction materials such as roofing has been constrained. To ensure the project remains on schedule, the contractor ordered many supplies early and has been obtaining materials that are currently available. The procurement of more supplies at the beginning of construction has created its own challenges. The housing of these materials has required the contractor to coordinate with Fort Knox personnel to obtain alternate storage areas.
Upon completion of the construction, the Louisville District will coordinate with Huntsville District, construction contractor and vendors to install furniture, audio-video equipment and electronic surveillance systems within scheduled completion timeframes. The existing school will be demolished upon completion of the new facility.
The new Van Voorhis Elementary School will accommodate 510 Pre-K through 5th-grade students and is Architectural Barriers Act compliant, which incorporates accessibility for individuals with disabilities. In accordance with DoDEA 21st Century Education Facilities specifications, the educational facility will incorporate five neighborhoods with five learning studios, art room, music room, performance space, science labs, career technical education labs, a gymnasium and two staff collaboration spaces. The project is scheduled to be completed October 2024 and open doors for students for the 2025-26 academic year.