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March 2011 : FES Journal

New U.S. Southern Command Facility Saves Energy, Utilizes Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection Measures

By: Armando Hernandez, PE, Sr. Project Manager and Steven Lubinski, PE, Project Manager, MACTEC Engineering & Consulting, Inc.

A new 640,000 square-foot, campus-style facility on a 55-acre site in the City of Doral, Fla. for the U. S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) is an excellent example of a successful stakeholder partnership.

"The project involved close cooperation between the city, Miami-Dade County, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Everyone chipped in," said Doral Public Works Director Eric Carpenter.

Contributions included assistance with the installation of a municipal roadway and traffic signaling as well as critical water, sewer and electrical utilities.

SOUTHCOM is one of 10 unified Commands in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). It is responsible for providing contingency planning, operations, and security cooperation for Central and South America, the Caribbean (except U.S. commonwealths, territories, and possessions), as well as for the force protection of U.S. military resources at these locations. SOUTHCOM is a joint command comprised of more than 2,300 military and civilian personnel representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and several other federal agencies.
Previously spread over a number of sites in northwest Miami-Dade County, SOUTHCOM now brings together all the components of the joint command. Key elements include an operations center, child care center, medical clinic, fitness center and the Conference Center of the Americas, designed to host multi-lingual conferences and meetings accommodating representatives from the 31 nations in the hemisphere.

As the USACE quality assurance and construction administration representative, MACTEC provided expert senior engineers, managers, architects and administrative support for project management, cost estimating and scheduling, as well as inspectors in areas including: structural, civil, electrical, mechanical, communications, LEED, safety, information technology, security, and anti-terrorism/force protection.

This $280 million construction project includes significant information technology and information technology- related security aspects. The IT infrastructure involved countless miles of electrical wiring and cabling to support classified voice and data networks. It featured highly complex, world-class level aspects of many disciplines of construction all working toward the common goal of satisfying DoD requirements for proper separation and safeguarding of various types of classified information. The federal requirements originating from the publications of dozens of federal agencies had to be closely scrutinized to ensure proper information security measures are in place.

In addition, MACTEC provided document control, performed schedule analysis, tackled pay application reviews, reviewed contractor submittals, as well as performed construction inspection across all engineering disciplines. The contractor's performance was continuously compared to the performance criteria and a level of prescriptive requirements.

A few key points and facts:

  • Project facilities included three major buildings and all support facilities and infrastructure. It included a number of energy efficient (LEED) features such as motion sensor lighting, water efficient toilets and sinks, bicycle racks, and carpool parking. State of the art anti-terrorism/force protection measures were incorporated into the design. Building model wind tunnel testing was performed. The roof was tested locally to resist 155 mph sustained winds and 185 mph gusts, exceeding the requirements of the Florida Building Code.
  • The project was the largest design-build project in the state of Florida at the time, and was completed in a very aggressive 27-month time frame.  Continuous on-site collaboration between the project teams enabled the efficient negotiation and execution of contract options, modifications, submittals and payment application reviews, and owner technical clarifications. Furthermore, the Army's "can-do" attitude inspired everyone to keep the project on track.
  • MACTEC provided quality assurance of the contractor's accident prevention plan and program which included proactive forecasting of safety trends onsite, swift action for safety violations, and safety rewards for the craft.  There was continuous involvement from USACE, MACTEC, the contractor (Hensel Phelps), and the subcontractors addressing crane use, fall protection, activity hazard analysis, reporting, hot work, scaffolding, trenching, and electrical work. The program also involved orientation meetings, team site walks and continuous pre-activity meetings. The Army contributed by leading pep rallies during safety events. With the team approach to safety, the project was able to achieve over one million consecutive man hours without a lost-time accident.  The project was also twice awarded the USACE Mobile-District Celebrate Safety Project of the Quarter in recognition of the outstanding safety record.
  • With the challenge of thousands of rooms in this project, the punch list process featured hand-held devices where the design-build contractor recorded status in a room-by-room basis.  This comprehensive list of items to be completed or corrected was also complicated by the team's agreement to provide early access and shared occupancy to the ultimate users (US Southern Command) in order to begin planning and equipment setup.  Damage and final touches to the early access areas had to be carefully monitored to achieve a final turnover. The high degree of emphasis and effort placed on completing punch lists enabled the team to accommodate early access for the users and to facilitate a smoother and faster transition to occupying the new headquarters complex.
  • The project was out of the norm for USACE Mobile District in their approach to management of the project. MACTEC comprised the majority of USACE's team onsite and served as USACE's Quality Assurance and Construction Administration Representative. The MACTEC team was quickly mobilized and coincidently had just come off a large Miami International Airport expansion program where they monitored the quality control programs of Hensel Phelps and other major contractors. MACTEC had knowledge of the local construction methods, as well as local agencies that normally would not be involved in a federal project. A local office supported logistics until a trailer camp was built. Project control was maintained through corporate cost, scheduling and document control systems until the USACE's Resident Management System was up and running. Corporate quality assurance systems were immediately utilized and quickly adapted to USACE project specific procedures. MACTEC was also able to give continued support for ongoing operations and maintenance, warranty work and follow-up enhanced commissioning work.
  • Partnering is an important aspect of any design-build project. With the Corp's leadership, trust was quickly earned by all parties. The construction team was also supported by invaluable government IT and security auditing services offered by the US Army Information Systems Engineering Command (USAISEC) and Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).

The end result is a win-win for all stakeholders.

"The SOUTHCOM facility is an architectural marvel, with state-of-the-art technology all with an artistic flare," said Doral Vice Mayor Robert Van Name. "Park-like in its presentation, this is not your run of the mill facility."

Now that the 2,300 military, civilian and contractor employees who comprise the U.S. Southern Command are under one roof, it also portends well for the local economy. The Florida Defense Alliance reported that in 2008, the military spent almost $800 million on procurement, salaries and pensions, part of a $3.6 billion total economic impact on South Florida.

SOUTHCOM, noted Rocky McPherson, director of Enterprise Florida's military and defense programs, also "reinforces our ability to maintain cooperative relations with our Latin and South American neighbors and expand our international trade and export capability."

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