BY EVE WARMFLASH
Architects designing military buildings today are helping to realize big changes in the government's approach to planning, designing and constructing facilities.
"Quality of life" has entered the lexicon of designers, planners, design agencies and even base commanders and end users. Concepts like "quality of life" and "whole quality" impact all areas of the design process -- from the overall planning and layout of facilities on a base to the design requirements of each building type, including its interior layout and furnishings.
An all-volunteer armed force has been a factor in creating this new design standard. Military leadership wants to retain trained personnel. To remain competitive with the private sector, they
|WJA's design for Fort Lewis whole barracks renewal.|
Two projects recently designed by WJA, a 28-year-old Seattle architectural design and engineering firm, illustrate the military's new approach to design projects.
One is an 80,000-square-foot bachelor enlisted quarters, Ross Hall, constructed at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS), Bremerton. Though quality of life issues permeated all areas of the project, says Dan Callan, WJA's principal in charge, it had the largest impact on the front end of design.
According to Callan, the Navy's planning process, which now includes an intensive four-part "PEP" (parametric estimating programming) phase, resulted in a significantly different -- and improved -- design for Ross Hall than originally conceived.
"More time is being spent on planning and programming each project," Callan says. This planning phase now involves the design team together with the end users and the client, or design agency. "The Army and Air Force call it the PD, or project definition, phase. With the Navy, it's the PEP. The result is that now cost and program requirements are clearly identified up-front."
Callan says the design team was able to propose major changes to this housing project early on. The Navy's original concept was to build a 12-story high-rise bachelor enlisted quarters. During the PEP, the design team studied the impact of a tall building
|Shields Hall, designed by WJA.|
I>Photo by Steve Keating
The lower-rise building proposed by WJA redistributed square footage to common spaces and allowed the addition of more recreation areas. It also provided a new light-filled atrium and central stair. The Navy approved WJA's alternative design.
"During the PEP study we had many discussions with the Navy about how to house 300 people in a single building while still creating a community feeling," said WJA's project manager, Lou Ernst, explaining the importance of the atrium and central staircase.
"We also discussed the size of the brick, the location of windows -- all these different visual elements that we felt could break down the scale of the building. We also introduced the idea of bringing natural light into interior corridors and creating separate identities within different parts of the building."
Though the PEP process has added time to the overall design process, Callan says clients have also been innovative in reducing time in other areas, like providing "over-the-shoulder" reviews in the architect's office.
Mike Matthews, CHA, the director of Hotel Services at PSNS, was one of the users involved in the planning and design of Ross Hall. Before coming to work for the Navy six years ago, Matthews spent his hoteling career in the private sector.
According to Matthews, the early interaction between the design
|The atrium at Ross Hall, bremerton. The architect is WJA.|
Photo by Steve Keating
Ross Hall and Shields Hall, an adjacent 12-story bachelor quarters designed by WJA during the same period, have recently opened. Both have received high praise from all ranks within the Navy.
"These facilities are a big change from people's normal concept of 'barracks,"' Matthews said. "Everyone thinks of barracks as being open bay with shared bathrooms. The Navy has a new concept with the new 'whole room concept.' Now, when you're making decisions about a facility, you really need to ask yourself 'how is the resident going to respond to that decision?"'
The Army has implemented similar changes on housing projects, as seen in the Whole Barracks Renewal at Fort Lewis. This project, designed by WJA, HNTB, the Seattle District Army Corps of Engineers, and Fort Lewis Public Works, included planning and design for an entire troop complex. The Whole Barracks Renewal provides housing for over 1,400 personnel, dining facilities, operation facilities for 24 companies, and separate headquarters
|The interior of a Ross hall living unit.|
Here, the design team's approach to quality of life is reflected in creating a sense of community across the 115-acre site. The master plan creates an open, pedestrian-friendly environment within each brigade. Housing, dining, community support, and work activities are located in separate facilities around a central pedestrian spine, encouraging soldiers to move freely between their various routines.
The architectural design also connects the buildings to the specific site. "It's important that buildings tie into their environment," Callan says. "At Bremerton, we made an historical connection between Ross Hall and the historic structure next to it, which was part of why we made the new building a low-rise structure, giving it a brick skin and gabled roofs. At Fort Lewis, we tied the buildings into the Federal style architecture on the base."
According to Steve Glover, chief of Master Planning Branch at Fort Lewis, there was also a conscious effort to improve the single soldier's quality of life, which has historically been lower than the married soldier. This resulted in the design of a new 1+1 barracks module. Glover sees this new standard as a significant step forward in barracks design.
"The Air Force and the Army worked together to create this new 1+1 barracks standard," says Glover. "They developed a specific set of criteria, such as increased privacy, providing kitchenettes and baths, building walk-in closets and increasing storage space."
The new module provides E-1 through E-4 soldiers with two separate sleeping rooms and a shared kitchenette and bathroom. Higher rank E-5 soldiers get private whole modules.
|The Collocated Officers Mess at McChord Air Force Base, designed by ARC Architects.|
Photo by Chris Roberts
WJA and HNTB provided interior design packages that included a wider selection of contemporary colors, materials and quality wood furnishings than typically procured on military barracks projects.
"The Army's current vision is to instill total Army quality as a way of life," says Glover. "There's definitely more emphasis on providing quality in the facilities."
According to Glover, the Army plans to spend half of its construction dollars on future barracks projects.
The Air Force is also pushing for high quality design in its facilities, as seen in the recently completed Collocated Club at McChord AFB. This facility was designed by ARC, in association with Arrowstreet, Inc. The $1.6 million renovation includes a 3,600-square-foot addition and provides officers' dining and enlisted dining facilities.
Maintaining consistency and quality design has been a driving force behind all the projects on the base, according to Matt Kitterman, lead architect in the Civil Engineering Squadron at McChord AFB.
"Air Mobility Command's Design Center is making everything more consistent on all the bases," says Kitterman, who also oversaw work on the Collocated Club. "There's a big push to develop design guidelines for all types of facilities so that wherever you go, consistency and quality is there."
Arrowstreet, architect ARC and AMC's interior designers worked closely with the end users in creating the interior design. Since its opening in 1995, the Collocated Club has become a showpiece on the base. The interior design includes upper level finishes, including cherry and maple hardwoods, and fabric wall finishes. It also provides dimmable light fixtures, track lighting, and exposed wood beams and decking.
WJA's Callan believes the military market will continue to be a competitive environment for architects to get work. Showing experience designing facilities for a government client is not the only criteria in getting selected.
"It's true, they want to see your experience with the building type, but they also want quality design," says Callan. "There's also a lot of competition between bases, with each base wanting to have high-quality facilities. So they're also looking for firms that will produce award-winning designs."
Callan speaks from some experience. Over the past six years WJA has received honor and merit awards for several of its military projects. The Fort Lewis Whole Barracks Renewal project was just accepted for consideration in the Society of American Military Engineers Design Excellence Awards program. And last month WJA was selected to design a new bachelor enlisted quarters for the Naval Air Station at Fallon outside Reno, Nev.
With quality of life at the forefront, the future bodes well for architects producing interesting, high-quality design projects for the military market.
Eve Warmflash is a freelance writer who has worked in the design industry since 1982, including several years with WJA.