Building luxury accommodations on a tight budget for our nation’s finest

Fort Lee in Virginia is home to the Army Logistics University. For the men and women of our armed forces studying there, it’s a home away from home. The U.S. Army’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Command, tasked with ensuring a high quality of life for the armed forces, saw the need to build improved on-base accommodations for those attending the Army Logistics University.

The demands of the job

The military operates on tight, transparent construction budgets, with the highest building performance standards and energy efficiency requirements built into every project. Each facility must meet US Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED Certification criteria and stand up to a lengthy lifecycle (typically 50 years), while providing the flexibility to accommodate a range of future uses. But this $86 million project placed even more demands on our project team. Our largest DOD project to date, the original request for proposal (RFP) suggested a highly aesthetic, 15-story building that promoted a relaxing experience. A tall order on a short budget.

Thinking outside the bid solicitation

No building at Fort Lee rose much higher than three stories, and the base’s fire department couldn’t service a 15-story high rise. So we evaluated the option of a shorter building and found major savings as well as aesthetic enhancements. We proposed and built a 7-story lodge that minimized ground improvement costs and allowed for more cost-effective building systems. With the new footprint, the project team could use prefabricated, light gauge metal framing that streamlined the construction schedule and eliminated the need for separate metal studs on the building’s exterior and interior load bearing walls.

The result was increased flexibility to invest in visually pleasing aesthetics. And the final design complements the base architecture to form a coherent campus with the adjacent Army Logistics University. The site development even affords more space for storm water and convenient parking, with a pleasant walking path to the Army Logistics University.

Getting the job done

When awarded the project in 2010, we got to work, assembling a strong, multi-disciplined team to get the job done. Using an innovative Design-Build approach, we identified best-value solutions that allowed us to meet and exceed all of the military’s requirements, including a tight budget. The end result is a 1,000-room lodge that provides our military with comfortable accommodations and compares to luxurious, private hotels in the area. We completed the project on-time, on-budget and to LEED Silver standards.

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