By MAUREEN ROSE
Gold Standard Acting Editor
The Army Corps of Engineers, along with contractor B.L. Harbert International, is building a $40 million complex on Fort Knox for the 19th Engineer Battalion. The comple-tion of this project will permit 19th Engineer Battalion to move into a purpose-build facility that better meets its operational needs.
The 197,000 square foot facility is the fruition of a plan to house the engineers that was created in 2006 when the unit relocated to Fort Knox. By the end of 2014, the 19th will be the Army’s largest engineer battalion in the United States Army as two more companies are projected to join the 19th’s current five companies.
The complex has been designed to meet the particular needs of this unit, according to Jason Root, the ACoE resident engineer on the job site.
“In the past, the Army and the Corps of Engineers built cookie-cutter buildings, but now the Army is moving toward more flexibility in the standard designs to allow for a unit’s needs,” said Maj. Kevin Schrock, project officer with the Directorate of Public Works. “The standard designs can be scaled to accommodate the size of unit occupying it.”
The plan calls for five buildings in the complex: a battalion headquarters building, barracks, company administrative building and two company readiness modules. The administrative building and the readiness modules together form the company operations facility, which is the standard for new facilities of this type.
“Fort Knox has done a great job with how easy they have made it for the Soldier to reach the dining facility, vehicles and equipment, and COFs,” said Root. “The Soldier wouldn’t have to get in his car during the duty day. Everything
will be accessible within this complex, within easy walking distance.”
“Various elements of the installation are working together with the Corps of Engineers to stay connected with the project— utilities, fire department, force protection and so forth,” Schrock added.
That coordination makes a big difference, said the engineers.
“That ongoing participation allows us to anticipate issues before something is built,” said Chris Phillips, the project engineer on the job. “Nothing is more frustrating to engineers and customers than to have to pay for something to be reworked.”
With the Soldier in mind, the convenience factor will be huge. The barracks will feature the 1 plus 1 design so that each Soldier has his own bedroom where he can close the door for privacy, while sharing a kitchen and bath with just one other Soldier.
The COF area will include secure areas for Soldiers to store their TA-50 gear so that their living areas remain living quarters.
Root—former military himself—shared an incident after a field exercise wherein he stored his diesel-fume saturated TA-50 gear in the handiest spot he could find, an armoire at his house. Unfortunately, he failed to notice that armoire was also where his wife hung her formal gowns. Needless to say, the fumes saturated the space.
“It was a real come-to-Jesus moment,” Root said of his wife’s reaction, explaining how important appropriate storage space is for Soldiers.
But the complex design goes beyond convenience; conservation is high on the blueprints as well.
Geothermal wells are planned so that heating and cooling will be energy efficient, Phillips said.
Units will be LEED Silver Certified upon completion, in keeping with the Defense Department’s directives, as well as Fort Knox’s goal to be at net zero energy levels by 2025. Barracks and office space will have skylights to allow more natural lighting, while the barracks will use a gas-fired assist system to heat water.
“Recycled materials are being used whenever possible throughout the construction,” added Carl Lindsay, formerly a first sergeant with the 19th Engineers.
“We took crushed concrete from the demolition of the previous motor pool (St. John’s) and used it to fill foundations,” said Phillips. “We didn’t pay for any crushed concrete; we reused all we needed from other demolition jobs on post.”
The contractors didn’t just divert that crushed concrete from the landfill but went a step further.
“In fact, we used all (the crushed concrete) that was here and then went back and pulled more out of the landfill,” Phillips said.
While the construction is in the early stages, Root said the work force is about 100 per day. However, once a roof is on a building, the work force could explode to 400.
Those numbers translate to significant economic impact for the local area.
“B. L. Harbert International is a company based in Alabama, but the work force is primarily local and most of the subcontractors are local,” said Root.
The complex should be ready for the engineers to move in by the fall of 2014.