MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 21, 2010) -- Rising above the hills of the Presidio of Monterey is the Defense Language Institute's new general instruction building (GIB), completed in September by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District.

The $28 million building will house 60 classrooms for military students learning foreign languages, the first of three scheduled for Corps construction to accommodate the growing DLI.

"The GIB will be a state-of-the-art instruction facility that will add 9.5 percent classroom capacity," said Col. Darcy Brewer, garrison commander at the Presidio of Monterey.

Although classes haven't yet started in the GIB, the building is already getting attention for its uniqueness.

Because the building was located near the boundary fence for the Presidio, there was concern that it might overwhelm nearby neighbors. In order to avoid this, designers decided to sink the building 25 feet into the hillside of the original site. This led to another challenge. The building would now be surrounded by steep slopes on three sides.

Originally, the plan called for building a two-tier masonry retaining wall to hold in the slopes. The contractor, Roebling Inc. of El Dorado Hills, Calif., suggested a soil nail wall, which consists of placing long nails into the soil at measured intervals to stabilize it. Further stabilization was achieved with a rigid coat of concrete. Finally, a bridge was constructed to allow entry into the building directly from the street.

"Everybody wants to enter a building on the first floor," said Sacramento District architect Hans Nettel. "But because we built into the hill to accommodate the neighbors, it made more sense to build a bridge from the street, which was level with the second floor, than to make people climb down a steep set of stairs to the entry. Originally, the administrative offices were supposed to be on the first floor, but because of this change, we moved them up to the second floor."

"Not only did this process save the project $300,000, an additional $200,000 in savings was realized when the original design of a five-story building was changed to a four- story building," said Jack Davies, the Sacramento District's project engineer for the building.

Along with the bridge, designers added features to the GIB that would provide students a place to relax during training, all while saving on the electric bill.

"One special feature we added was the courtyard," said Nettel. The courtyard is located in the center of the building. Monterey weather can be cold and foggy, even in the middle of the summer, but "the courtyard protects the students from the weather and allows them to go outside during breaks in their shirtsleeves," added Nettel.

Skylights in the courtyard will provide light for the rooms below and benches around the skylights provide seating areas for students. Nettel designed stairwells at the ends of the building to allow enough natural light to minimize the use of electric lights during the day. Even with the added changes, the project continues to meet deadlines.

"We are on-time and on-budget," said Davies. "Our customers have been great to work with." Two more general instruction buildings are planned, which will essentially be the same as this building.

The additional GIBs will all aid the DLI in their mission according to Col. Danial Pick, commandant of the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey.

"This building, along with the two that will be built, will allow us to move students and faculty on post," Pick added.

Pick said the buildings are a modern addition to the Presidio's historic post.

"We have a mixture of buildings that were built early in the twentieth century," Pick said, "but these three buildings will be brand new, state-of-the-art facilities that have the technology we need, the space we need and the configuration we need to be able to do a good job in providing foreign language education."