The Land Development Engineer Approach
Efficient and innovative team delivery helped provide Fort Bliss with infrastructure needed to support the addition of 28,000 more soldiers and 35,000 family members.
By Craig Trimble, AIA, M.SAME, and Norma G. Edwards, P.E., PMP
In 2004, the U.S. Army set out to restructure its 10 active Divisions, transforming to 33 Maneuver Brigades and 43 Brigade Combat Teams. Referred to as “Army Transformation,” this initiative would increase the service’s forces by 75,000 soldiers to meet strategic demands and mitigate capability shortfalls. The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) influenced this restructuring by promoting the use of new ways to address Army Transformation opportunities.
Two Infantry Brigade Combat Team complexes were constructed at Fort Bliss to create a more efficient use of land that also reduces the roadways and utility infrastructure required. PHOTO BY BLUE SKY AERIALS.
Fort Bliss, located in El Paso, Texas, was ideal for BRAC expansion in part due to climate characteristics similar to potential theaters of operations and large expanses of available training land. The El Paso community fully embraced base expansion. They supported construction of highways and interchanges as well as a state-of-the-art desalinization facility to mitigate water supply concerns.
Even as peripheral factors fell into place, the Army still was faced with the challenge of preparing a 160-year-old military installation in the Chihuahuan Desert for a 250 percent increase in soldiers and their families. It still had to reconcile an expansion program that would eventually encompass 130 projects involving 300 buildings and 4,500-acres covering 11 million-ft² of work and living space. And all this had to happen within a sevenyear window.
As the leader of the Fort Bliss Expansion Program, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Fort Worth District used a Land Development Engineer (LDE)/Product-Line approach. It would be supported by USACE Little Rock, Tulsa, Galveston, Albuquerque and Sacramento Districts, with each procuring specialized “product line” facility types using uniform processes. To support this and serve as LDE, the agency selected a joint venture of Huitt Zollars and Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. to provide program management support, planning, site infrastructure development and design, and staff augmentation with more than 120 full-time personnel.
INTEGRATED TEAM APPROACH
Recognizing that the design and construction work would be part of a much larger effort to transform Fort Bliss into a modern Army post, the team elected to became a part of “TeamBliss,” the installation’s moniker for unifying and empowering its workforce.
The construction effort—which at its peak would add approximately 3,000 members to TeamBliss—included employees from six USACE districts and two divisions, six Centers of Standardization, the USACE Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL), U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center Huntsville (HNC), Installation Management Command and USACE HQ. The City of El Paso as well as designers, schedulers, estimators, project engineers, contract specialists, program and project managers, and quality assurance representatives all engaged in TeamBliss.
TeamBliss operated under a single Program Management Plan that followed a holistic approach throughout. The objectives of this mission-focused project delivery correlated directly with the goals and vision outlined in the Army Campaign Plan. That meant being solidly focused on sustaining Army soldiers and their families. A governance structure was established that aligned the program with defined functional areas to facilitate execution of the aggressive expansion. Programs and projects were delivered by integrated teams grouped under eight primary program areas. A program team represented the interests of USACE Fort Worth District as the executing organization and key stakeholder. It provided the overarching governance and quality assurance, as well as guidance and decisions regarding program direction.
As part of the Program Management Plan, TeamBliss established a communication strategy to ensure that information critical to project execution was disseminated throughout the life of the program. Vast amounts of data on projects under construction necessitated efficiency and cohesion. That prompted the use of many tools to facilitate information sharing with major stakeholders. These included an Integrated Master Schedule (IMS), a submittal tracker, task order accounting, and a virtual team site on the Engineering Knowledge Online (EKO®) portal to communicate lessons learned. Weekly meetings, monthly program reports, periodic informal meetings with local community stakeholders, workshops, charrettes and teleconferences were all used to promote collective situational awareness that informed timely decisions.
Building a city from the ground up— that essentially was the challenge at Fort Bliss. The largest area of greenfield in the expansion program, East Fort Bliss, includes three Heavy Brigade Combat Teams, two Infantry Brigade Combat Teams, a Combat Aviation Brigade, a Fires Brigade, Training Campus, 1st Armored Division Headquarters, and a Town Center where community support functions are located.
The new Town Center at Fort Bliss was planned with a walkable, human-scaled environment. 3D visualization tools were used extensively to optimize facility siting and design. IMAGE COURTESY JACOBS ENGINEERING GROUP
TeamBliss validated the Master Plan. It prepared Area Development Guides to define the unique development forms and patterns linking all of these together in a dynamic, functional environment. A diverse group of stakeholders created a sustainable development plan that complied with Army standards, but which also was compatible with the architectural character and style found in El Paso.
The Town Center development framework, for example, dictated a pedestrianfriendly setting, integrating roundabouts to facilitate traffic movement balanced with safety. A comprehensive trail system promotes connectivity while reinforcing a sense of community. Similarly, the plan for the Infantry Brigade Combat Teams complexes has brought about a sense of cohesion by arranging the headquarters, dining and troop support functions around a campus green.
The entire Fort Bliss Expansion Program made an immediate positive impact on the community and the environment through high-performance planning and design. TeamBliss consulted with the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) to use a “campus” approach for documenting Fort Bliss LEED achievements. Credits were documented pertaining to site/base related components, such as the overall Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, site selection, open space maximization, stormwater quality, heat island impacts, exterior light pollution reduction and water-efficient landscaping.
Subsequent building projects referred back to the original “campus” submission to claim all of the documented credits that applied within the building’s LEED boundary. This approach was developed in conjunction with GBCI specifically for use at Fort Bliss, one which had never previously been applied to a MILCON program. A LEED program manager was assigned to identify and hold accountable corresponding design-build contractors for specific LEED criteria, tracking documentation of points, along with coordinating the final certification submission.
Between 2006 and 2011, the Fort Bliss Expansion Program comprised more than $4.8 billion in projects, including 300 new facilities. TeamBliss delivered more than $20 million of in-place construction per week for 18 months. At peak construction, they were turning over an average of five buildings per week.
An innovative “Troop Ready” team was established that coordinated all activities necessary to take a facility from construction completion to ready for occupancy. The program manager was supported by a strategic scheduler, contract administration representatives, technical review personnel and real estate and project engineers from the field office. Facilities were turned over for occupation one battalion set at a time, versus a typical one-building- at-a-time delivery. A successful component of the Troop Ready effort was the implementation of Centralized Furniture Procurement for all administrative facilities using HNC’s furniture program. This ensured consistent furniture quality and realized a savings of 15 to 30 percent from General Services Administration pricing.
PERFECTING THE PROCESS
As the backbone of closing out assignments TeamBliss modified the USACE Enterprise Business Process and broke it down to a working level by applying refinements specifically applicable to the program. This led to a standardized, single-page, process flow chart and a checklist utilized by all.
The more than 3,000 members of Team- Bliss applied innovative approaches to answer the BRAC deadline of September 2011. The Fort Bliss Expansion Program delivered high-quality facilities, critical infrastructure and a development framework on time and on budget. At 160 years old, Fort Bliss is primed for the future.