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New Life for Historic Buildings

The adaptive reuse of Buildings 74 and 76 at Fort Benning converted two soldier barracks into administrative and training support spaces for the Non-Commissioned Officers Academy and the Officer Candidate School.

By Sara Wing, LEED Green Associate, M.SAME

   


Building 74 at Fort Benning, Ga., looking west from the interior Cuartel courtyard.

Building 74 at Fort Benning, Ga., looking west from the interior Cuartel courtyard. PHOTOS BY DAVID ROBINSON PHOTOGRAPHY


 

Established in 1918, Fort Benning, Ga., was initially built to provide basic training during World War I. The base’s designer, Maj. George Gibbs Jr., elected for an axial plan to enable easy accessibility and serviceability throughout the cantonment.

In the 1920s, Fort Benning was officially named a permanent military post. Shortly thereafter, Gen. Bryant Wells undertook an initiative to supplement Maj. Gibbs’ plans with housing on the base. A series of three quadrangles of “Cuartels” were constructed on the western part of the fort to house soldiers. The Cuartels (Spanish for barracks) consisted of seven buildings: 17, 73, 74, 75, 76, 83, and 399.

The first Cuartel, completed in 1929, and the subsequent buildings completed in 1934, housed the 24th and 29th Infantry Regiments. The architectural style and the arrangement of the historic quadrangles along an east-west axis define a visual focal point in the Main Post Historic District and distinguish them from the other historic buildings on the base.

NEED FOR RENOVATION

By the early 2000s, Buildings 74 and 76 had become antiquated, having endured wear from many decades of extensive use. In 2011, the Directorate of Public Works and the Savannah District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) contracted exp Federal (formerly Teng & Associates Inc.) for architecture-engineering design services for an $8 million renovation to Buildings 74 and 76. The adaptive reuse would readily convert the barracks into administrative and training support spaces for the 100-person staff headquarters of the Non-Commissioned Officers Academy and the Officer Candidate School.

Directorate of Public Works personnel worked in close collaboration with exp Federal to devise cost-effective renovation plans that would maintain the integrity of the historical facades, upgrade the buildings to modern occupancy standards, and accommodate new programming requirements, while also enabling operability and compliance with the Fort Benning Installation Design Guide and applicable code requirements.

Renovations included upgrades to air conditioning, water, sewer and gas systems; the electrical distribution service; fire protection, fire alarm and communication systems; paving walks, curbs and gutters; security fencing and lighting, storm drainage; information technology systems; and provisions for accessibility and Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection measures. The design was developed in late 2011. Construction was completed in 2012.

 

PRESERVING UNIQUE FEATURES

Buildings 74 and 76 each consist of three main floor levels above grade, as well as a functional attic level and basement, totaling 37,196-ft². Three levels of covered balcony wrap along the inside of the Cuartels, overlooking courtyards that host the majority of training installations and rehearsals.

The Cuartels are distinctive for these long stretches of balcony, in addition to their monumental scale and Spanish Colonial Revival style. The historical integrity of the style was preserved by restoring the brick wainscot base, upper stucco walls, and clay tile roof. Interior finishes were selected for durability, lifecycle costs, minimal maintenance, and attractiveness. Patterned modular carpets, porcelain floor tiles, a neutral palette of paint colors and stone-patterned vinyl flooring were provided.

The renovations followed accessibility guidelines and provide access for individuals with disabilities. In conjunction with this, existing latrines were upgraded and reconfigured, and a new elevator was constructed in each building. Exterior work included the addition of a sidewalk to connect accessible curb ramps at a juncture at the entry to each building. A minor reconfiguration of the parking lot provides an accessible route to the building.

Per Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection requirements, upgrades dictated that collapsible bollards be placed at the entrances of the parking areas to simultaneously provide both security and versatility, should the drive lane occasionally be used as part of a parade route.

The original reinforced concrete superstructure was deemed a sound structure and retained in-place. This offered immediate cost savings. Both Building 74 and Building 76 consist of reinforced concrete beams and slabs that are supported by reinforced concrete columns and spread footings. A full concrete basement, dedicated to storage, exists underneath each building. New interior partitions are comprised of steel stud framing and gypsum board, with insulation for sound attenuation. Window size, frame profile, and fenestration details of the existing building were preserved to maintain the historical integrity of the façade. Custom blast resistant doors and windows were incorporated; they are distinguished by thermally broken light-gage steel framing, insulated glazing, low-emissivity coating, and laminated inner lights. The window attachments to the existing building were reinforced in accordance with the blast design requirements.

Looking out from the interior portico entry at ground level of Building 76, Fort Benning, Ga.

Looking out from the interior portico entry at ground level of Building 76, Fort Benning, Ga.


 

EFFICIENT AND FUNCTIONAL

Mechanical systems for the renovated facilities were specifically chosen for efficiency and functionality. Building ventilation is serviced by a modular air handling unit in each basement. Outdoor air intake is fitted with an air flow monitoring station to ensure compliance with ASHRAE Standard 62.1 - Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality. Building supply air is delivered to a variable air volume system based on demand control ventilation. Cooling efficiencies are achieved by an outdoor, grade-mounted, air-cooled chiller. Heat control is achieved by gas-fired condensing boilers with a direct air intake duct that exhausts via the existing chimney. Outdoor air is drawn in by new louvers mounted on the exterior to replace former attic dormer windows. The building automation system is a single direct digital control system that is integrated to a base-wide supervisory monitoring and control system. Communications upgrades included wall-mounted notification devices that combine audio and visual alarm notifications.

New plumbing fixtures are vitreous china low-flow models with electric sensors to reduce water consumption and wastewater in all restrooms, showers, break areas and janitor closets. A new automatic fire protection sprinkler system is facilitated by a fire water service with a post indicator valve, fire department connection, pump test header, and interior backflow preventer. A transformer was added along with two underground 4-in utility lines connecting exterior equipment and existing electrical lines to interior mechanical systems.

Both a lighting system and fire alarm system were added to better accommodate the needs of the administrative and training tasks. Electrical upgrades were made to the power distribution system, non-compliant lighting fixtures and controls, and to lighting control equipment to more effectively control usage. Interior lighting is controlled with an on-switch and vacancy sensors. Open office and latrine lighting is ceiling-mounted occupancy censored. Corridor lighting, shower and mechanical room lighting is regulated with timer switches. Exterior areas are lit by surface-mounted historic fixtures near each street-side entry door and from underneath canopies.

 

MODERN AND HISTORICAL

The renovations to Buildings 74 and 76 were designed, although not registered, to meet LEED Gold criteria.

To address sustainable alternatives, bicycle racks were provided for 5 percent of the buildings’ occupants. Showering facilities were provided to accommodate 0.5 percent of occupants. While no new parking was added, preferred parking stalls were designated for low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles. Credit also was calculated for diverting over 50 percent of the construction, demolition and land clearing waste from landfill disposal; for furniture selection; for using building materials containing recycled content and a low volatile organic compound content; and for using at least 50 percent wood-based materials that had been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

The renovation of Buildings 74 and 76 at Fort Benning, driven by the design solution executed by exp Federal in coordination with USACE Savannah District and the Directorate of Public Works, has given the facilities new purpose and brought their functional capacities up to modern standards while successfully maintaining the integrity of their historical exteriors.

 


 

Sara Wing, LEED Green Associate, M.SAME, is Architectural Project Coordinator, exp Federal; 616-312-5078, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..