Featured in IQ: 2011 Volume 3 Issue 1
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe is emphatic that to stay competitive in the world's economy, Arkansas must invest its resources in higher education. In that vein, Beebe recently praised the Little Rock Air Force Base and the City of Jacksonville for constructing a unique joint-university center for airmen and civilians.
"What you will see is the opportunity for people who put their lives on the line for us—men and women who wear a uniform and go in harm's way—to have a state-of-the-art facility and quality instruction," Beebe said.
Through a cooperative effort, the air base and city constructed a center that provides 30 classrooms for 800 college-level students. It is recognized as the first education facility built through a community and U.S. Air Force partnership.
"Combining five million Jacksonville taxpayer dollars with nearly 10 million Air Force dollars has resulted in what's believed to be a first-of-its-kind facility anywhere in the Air Force," said Senior Master Sgt. Mark Evans, 19th Airlift Wing student financial services operations superintendent.
Garver and Cromwell Architects Engineers teamed together to design the 46,000-square-foot center. The facility incorporates energy-efficient aspects and consists of two pre-engineered metal building wings connected by a central lobby. The building serves as a satellite campus for six colleges and universities, providing computer labs, distance learning broadcasts, and classrooms for specialized and general studies.
"The services provided by the Garver/Cromwell design team were very instrumental in targeting and meeting the needs of the Air Force and the City of Jacksonville," said Project Manager Leon Iveson with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Little Rock District. "The team was very responsive and met all schedules and milestones, despite many difficulties and schedule revisions."
The air base had originally converted an old dormitory into its education center, but after 9/11, new security measures were enforced and civilians couldn't attend classes inside the gates. To create a solution that provides citizens with unrestricted access, the new university center is located just outside the base's gates.
"It is fitting that this location sits on top of a hill, making it a reminder to all who drive along the interstate and highway that education is a top priority for our city—so important that we were willing to tax ourselves $5 million to push a dream into reality," said Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher.
In 2003, Garver began providing project management and civil and structural design. Due to construction cost increases and budget constraints, Garver guided the air base through several design charrettes. These planning sessions and redesigns helped determine the most economical site plan, floor plan and building elevations.
"We designed the project with several options that could be removed from the project if construction bids remained high," said Garver Project Manager John Watkins, PE, SE. "However, when the bids were opened, the project came in about $2 million under available funding. This allowed all the options to be awarded with funds left over for upgrades and building additions, including an access road from the parking lot to Vandenberg Boulevard."
Early in the planning and design phases, Garver worked to solve the site's issues with expansive clay soils. "The base has a history with building problems due to expansive soils, and they were determined not to repeat these structural issues on the education center," Watkins said. "We spent a great deal of time with the Air Force Base to determine the best, most sound foundation system, which was a drilled pier, grade beam and structural slab option with the grade beams and slab on void forms."
The property drops approximately 40 feet across the site, which required extensive grading to install proper drainage. And to better accommodate the site's contours, the building's two pre-engineered metal building wings are slightly rotated. The angular layout and intersecting roof lines provide a unique and aesthetically pleasing appearance.
The main entry features a steep gable roof resting on structural steel pipe trusses and tall circular concrete columns, which draw visitors inside. Large skylights provide natural lighting, and the building's facade is accented by glass, split-faced concrete masonry block and brick veneer. The building also complies with anti-terrorism and force protection requirements.
The center is designed with numerous energy saving and environmental considerations. Conservation features include louvered sun shades to protect classrooms from southern exposure, and the combination of multi-technology occupancy and daylight harvesting sensors control interior lighting when daylight is sufficient or rooms are not occupied.
"The Garver/Cromwell design team went out of their way to make the university center design a success," said Design Coordinator Patrick Byrns with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Little Rock District. "Communication with the Corps and the Little Rock Air Force Base was excellent, and the design team demonstrated their ability to be flexible and get the job done when unforeseen changes were needed to meet customer needs."