By U.S. ArmyMarch 26, 2010
FORT BLISS, Texas -- Construction is a constant on every military installation. New improvements to the commissary; a new wing for the clinic; a new gymnasium; these are the usual projects, each aiming to improve services for the local civilian and military population.
But the norm is not the case at Fort Bliss, where construction almost dominates the landscape - even though most of it will support a population still thousands of miles away.
The post is currently undergoing the largest transformation in its 160-year history with the arrival of the 1st Armored Division Headquarters and its support units from Europe later this year. Ahead of this and the influx of personnel that will triple the post's population, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is constructing around 10 million square feet of building space on more than 4,500 acres.
Although the arrival of the division is still months away, the Sacramento District, along with the Fort Worth District of USACE, have already completed construction on three brigade combat team headquarters. The first HQ building was completed last year, the second is wrapping up with furnishing and landscaping, and the third is undergoing final inspections. The third BCT HQ building is 74 days ahead of schedule, according to Chuck Hubbard, chief of the Sacramento District's Army/Air Force Section of the Military/Hazardous, Toxic, and Radioactive Waste Branch.
Each one of the three-story, 129,000 square-feet BCT headquarters buildings will house the BCT command element, as well as seven subordinate battalions. Each of the first two floors will house three apiece, around 15,000 square feet per battalion. The BCT command will cover half of the third floor, sharing it with one battalion and additional support elements.
Along with office space and conference room for all of the supporting command elements, the Corps of Engineers built training rooms in the HQ buildings, each capable of holding 300 personnel. These training rooms can be modified by using temporary walls and converted into three 100-person capacity rooms for more specified training.
Another feature included in every building was the LEED Green Building Rating System.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a voluntary, consensus-based standard to support and certify successful green building design, construction and operations according to the U.S. Green Building Council website.
LEED is internationally recognized, and aims at improving energy savings and water efficiency, as well as reducing CO2 emissions.
The Army's standard of LEED Silver was used in the construction design of each building, said Hubbard. Lighting and air conditioning are all centrally controlled, and day/night settings, along with seasonal settings, ensure increased energy efficiency.
Housing needs for the soldiers of each BCT has been satisfied with the construction of 11 barracks, said Hubbard, using a modular design concept. This consists of constructing the exterior wall of the building, then filling in the middle with smaller, pod-like segments.
"They come out in little pieces, and then snap it together," said Hubbard.
Besides the barracks, each BCT will have its own parking lot, dining facility and vehicle maintenance building.
Along with the BCT headquarters buildings, the Sacramento District has completed the construction of a Combat Aviation Brigade headquarters. The $16.8 million building, constructed with a modular design similar to the barracks, has just been furnished and is currently undergoing landscaping.
The CAB area will include two hangars and new pavement connecting the hangars to the current airstrip. These hangars will be used to house and maintain the unit's vehicles, to include UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.
Although construction is complete, the unit is still deployed and will not move into the building until sometime next year.
At a current population of around 11,000 and with training sites in two states, Fort Bliss is considered a large post already. By the time all the units have moved in, more than 30,000 soldiers, civilian employees and family members will call the southwestern Texas post home.