Joint Strike Fighter Project on Target

NAVFAC Washington building test facility at NAS Pax River

Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD - They not only have the pressure of designing and constructing a $20 million building complex with unique design requirements, but those partnering with the Joint Strike Fighter project need it all done at supersonic speed. And they're right on target.

"It should be completed later this summer," said Lt. Ross Campbell, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Washington assistant resident officer in charge of construction, "thanks to innovative partnering and design-build techniques."

NAVFAC Washington selected Gaithersburg, MD-based Coakley and Williams Construction Incorporated (CWCI) to design and build the Joint Strike Fighter Test and Support Facility complex at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in St. Mary's County, MD. The contract, which was awarded in December 2003, includes the construction of two new buildings and renovations to an existing hangar that will be used to support the fleet of nine F-35 test airplanes coming to Patuxent River.

"Long before we will see and hear the exciting new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the infrastructure needed to fully support the development, testing and evaluation of this aircraft will have taken [this] team some two plus years to fully take from concept to livable real estate," said Mike Merwin, facility coordinator from the JSF Support Office. According to Campbell, a project of this magnitude would normally take up to five years from contract conception to finished product.

Along with the challenging scheduling requirements were other unique challenges, such as designing for the specific needs of the buildings' users, meeting special security concerns and environmental concerns. "One of the biggest challenges has been to completely gather, effectively evaluate and clearly convey all of the customer's facility requirements," said Merwin. "These requirement have ultimately been the driving factor that has determined what the size shape, design and function of all the spaces that are being built will look like."

During initial meetings with key contributors including Lockheed Martin, Rolls Royce and Pratt Whitney, design challenges were identified for communications capabilities and air conditioning needs of the new complex. Due to the sensitive nature of the project, additional floor plan modifications were required to insure that secure spaces were provided.

"They had to relocate a wind tunnel that was built in 1967 because the exhaust wind from the wind tunnel was in the path of the new building location," said Campbell. "Relocation options were limited by the surrounding wetlands as well as parking and other buildings. It was decided that they would shift the tunnel east by approximately 100 feet." By utilizing a Maryland Department of the Environment-approved expediter and their immediate revision and resubmission of design documents resulted in the early receipt of required permits. According to Kevin O'Donnell, CWCI design project manager, use of the expediter shortened the review period from three weeks to three days.

"There were design challenges in this process as well," said O'Donnell. "The project originally called for the storm-water-quality-management system to utilize a series of infiltration trenches. However, it was determined … that the existing soil conditions would not support infiltration and the storm water system was redesigned utilizing pocket-sand filters."

Working closely with NAVFAC Washington and the NAS Patuxent River technical staff, the design team has been able to keep things on schedule.

CWCI hired Hayes, Saey, Mattern and Mattern, Inc. (HSMM) to design the facilities and find ways to meet the demanding schedule. They piecemealed the design submissions into more manageable portions aligning with construction activities and reducing the design review periods. "The foundation and steel skeleton of the buildings were prepared on separate fast-track schedules to allow site work to begin and allow structural steel to be bought," said HSMM's lead designer Bob Priest.

"Since the first activity was to commence with site construction," O'Donnell said, "the first package to obtain approvals was the below-grade package that incorporated site and utility and foundation construction activities and required approval from MDE." This package was approved in April 2004.

The second package to receive approval in May 2004 incorporated the structural steel components of the two buildings and allowed the steel milling process to take place at the same time the site work commenced.

"The balance of the project received approval in June 2004 thus providing a seamless transition from site/foundations, steel to the balance of construction," O'Donnell said.

The construction portion of the project is fully underway," said Campbell. "Both of the new buildings are fully framed with various levels of finishes currently being installed. The 'lean-to' portion of the hangar will be completed first, with the testing and evaluation buildings being completed later this year."

The Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) manages the planning, design, construction, contingency engineering, real estate, environmental, and public works support for U. S. Navy shore facilities around the world. They provide the Navy's forces with the operating, expeditionary, support and training bases they need. NAVFAC is a global organization with an annual volume of business in excess of $7.6 billion. As a major Navy Systems Command and an integral member of the Navy and Marine Corps team, NAVFAC delivers timely and effective facilities engineering solutions worldwide.

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