FORT BENNING, Ga. – Soldiers residing at the Olson Hall barracks are seeing an improvement to their quality of life through major renovations and repairs taking place there. Sections A and G were the first to undergo this modernization process, with construction on sections B and C scheduled to begin 2023.
U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning’s Directorate of Public Works renovates barracks, and other key infrastructure to support long-range modernization plans, improvements, and energy initiatives, which help provide the quality of life Soldiers and Families and deserve, and mission support the Maneuver Center of Excellence needs.
The Olson Hall barracks are known as the “Cuartels,” which is a Spanish word meaning barracks. These large, permanent buildings were planned in the early 1920s, making the “Cuartels” the heart of Fort Benning’s main post.
The 29th Infantry Regiment was given the mission of building the post. For eight years, the Soldiers of the 29th lived in tents while they built the newly adopted Cuartel-type barracks. The three-floor building was three quarters of a mile of concrete, brick, and steel construction. Its design was such that it could be built in separate sections, and once completed would have the appearance of one continuous U-shaped building.
The first section was finished in September 1925, which cost about $325,000, or $5.5 million in today’s dollars. Other sections were added at approximately two-year intervals, until the buildings were completed in 1929.
Today Fort Benning is home to the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence and its Infantry and Armor Schools. Together, these schools comprise the Army’s maneuver force. The MCoE also trains those hoping to become Rangers, paratroopers, and snipers, among others.
Olson Hall barracks, designated for housing Soldiers attending the MCoE Maneuver Senior Leader Courses, is comprised of seven sections, each with the capacity to house about 100 Soldiers and totals 361,390 square feet.
The ongoing renovation project includes complex upgrades achieved through modern construction techniques and the replacement of outdated and inefficient building systems.
“The renovations of Olson Hall provide Soldiers a modernized place to live which allows them to focus on their training and enjoy their down time,” said Cynthia Sewell, project engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supervised design and construction during phase one of the renovation of sections A and G. Each approximately 40,500 square feet in size, underwent many major improvements, both outside and inside.
“Building 399 phase one is a $31 million full facility restoration project,” said Derick Wolf, chief of engineering, Directorate of Public Works. “Over time, the standards for buildings have appreciated much since the 1930s, so what we want to do is bring it up to current standards so Soldiers can focus on their training.”
Exterior finishes included demolition and abatement, renovation and installation of new roofing water and ice shields, exterior wall repair and cleaning, concrete repair, stairwell and entrance repair, lighting replacement, and painting.
Interior repairs and renovations included demolition and abatement; renovation of living spaces; renovation of common areas; repairs and upgrades to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, as well as heating, ventilation, and electronic air conditioning (HVAC) controls and other supporting utility systems; painting; replacement of flooring, ceilings, and lighting; and safety upgrades.
Part of the renovation process included modern, updated finishes to rooms and common areas, new floor coverings, new ceramic tile in toilet and shower areas, as well as updated lighting, plumbing fixtures, toilet accessories, and doors. Newly restored and modernized fire sprinklers and fire alarms, and improved energy efficiency will replace existing outdated systems and equipment.
“Phase one is approximately $31 million and phase two is currently at $30 million, said Amy Vaughn, resident engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District. “Based on these numbers – and there are two more phases – the estimated cost for the entire renovation is closer to $125 million.”
Part of the cost will be recouped through energy-efficient features include exterior wall spray foam insulation, insulated windows, LED lighting, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and electronic controls for HVAC systems.
Thermal performance windows were installed for energy-efficient cooling and heat loss prevention. Programmable environmental controls and doors equipped with weather stripping and gaskets were installed, repairing and tuckpointing the brick veneer and applying a clear coating to the exterior brick help preserve the building’s exterior.
The U.S. Army’s readiness is focused on investing significantly in modernizing housing and barracks to improve Soldiers’ quality of life. Implementing major renovation projects, such as those taking place at Olson Hall, will increase the quality of life of Soldiers and is directly tied to increased Army readiness and retention.
"We are proud to partner with the Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, on the renovations of Olson Hall. This critical project will provide a modernized facility that will improve the quality of life for Soldiers and their Families for years to come," said Col. Colin Mahle, Fort Benning garrison commander.