DARMSTADT, Germany - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District co-hosted its annual German-American partnering conference with Hessisches Baumanagement here March 1-2, 2011.

The conference, which welcomed representatives from several federal, state and local German construction agencies, sought to develop and sustain working relationships in an effort to alleviate construction- and contracting-related issues.

In an effort to promote a friendly atmosphere, District Commander Col. J. Richard Jordan III spoke in German to the more than 130 participants, saying it was a sign of respect to his German partners.

"Since the theme of this year's conference was teamwork, it's important that we all speak the same language if we're going to be a team," Jordan said.

In addition to a networking reception and a tour of historical downtown, conference attendees heard presentations on fire protection code and requirements, Building Information Modeling, and execution of the U.S. Military Construction Program.

Anne Schulz, an architect with Hessisches Baumanagement, said that one of the benefits of the conference was the opportunity to meet, network, and learn from our colleagues in a relaxed environment away from work where open discussions can be held.

"I have enjoyed this conference because it is truly a joint team-building event. It helps to build respect, confidence, trust and knowledge in pleasant surroundings," Schulz said.

Matthias Vollmar from the German Federal Ministry of Traffic, Construction and Urban Affairs, said the post-presentation discussions were the most helpful in leading to improvement on both sides of the construction processes.

About a month before the conference, the district hosted a one-day partnering session with its customers - the end-users of the facilities the German construction agencies build - to discuss their most pressing construction- and contract-related concerns. Jordan said he was happy to be able to share with the German agencies his customers' perspective as well as results from the 2010 USACE Military Program Customer Survey.

The survey, taken annually by customers, addresses their satisfaction during the previous year's construction and renovations projects that the district and the German construction agencies worked on together.

"Of course we are not going to find solutions to our challenges in two days, but it is an opportunity for us to come together as a team and talk," Vollmar said. "This is a good event because it is not just an American or a German conference but a joint event, and this is really partnering and teaming."