One look at the new Connecticut Army National Guard Readiness Center in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, and it’s clear that this is more than just a basic, utilitarian military building.
The two-story, 10,200-square-meter (110,000-square-foot) center consolidates three Army aviation units previously dispersed throughout the state. It also includes an 870-square-meter (9,345-square-foot) storage building and a 28-square-meter (300-square-foot) entry control facility. All facilities are within the Connecticut Army National Guard cantonment area at Bradley International Airport and support more than 300 soldiers.
The USD $30 million center demonstrates that practical design can incorporate aesthetic elements and create an inviting atmosphere, serve a functional purpose, add value, and still stay within the client’s budget.
“The Readiness Center creates a quality professional environment, and by bringing everybody together in one location, it is much more efficient than how the Guard was previously operating,” says Brian Eichenlaub, Architect of Record and Deputy Project Manager.
The new building includes office and administration space, conference and training space, an assembly hall, medical clinic, learning center, mobility & unit equipment storage, full-service kitchen, fitness center, a weapons training simulator, and locker and shower facilities.
The center will primarily be used for National Guard support services, such as training for pilots, physicals and medical certifications, and office space for support personnel.
“With this facility, we’ll be able to respond faster and increase the readiness of our aircraft in our unit by having this facility here,” says Maj. Raymond Chicoski, Connecticut Army National Guard.
As the architect and engineer, Parsons Brinckerhoff’s responsibilities included management, architecture, interiors and landscape design, structural and civil engineering, as well as specialist services in aviation, acoustics, and sustainable design.
Parsons Brinckerhoff worked with the contractor, Walsh Company, on behalf of the clients, the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office, Connecticut National Guard, and the U.S. Department of Defense.
Construction started in April 2012, and culminated with a ribbon cutting celebration on Nov. 17, 2013.
Tried-and-true practices used in creative ways not only added function and aesthetic value to the project, but helped the Readiness Center obtain enough LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points to achieve a Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
For example, the use of raised access flooring and demountable partitions for the office space not only minimized cost, but also maximized building efficiency by enabling simple configuration changes as the needs of the National Guard change. “This flexibility ensures the building will be able to respond to and support mission changes long into the future,” Eichenlaub says.
To provide sufficient lighting and meet energy conservation goals, the project team used LED lighting throughout the building, but designed it to reflect upward off the ceiling to provide a more pleasant and consistent distribution of light.
To introduce natural daylight into the space, a curved roof over the second floor administration area was raised and used to introduce a series of clerestory windows. “Natural light is very important to people’s well being,” Eichenlaub says. “It was the goal of our design to make natural light a part of the entire lighting system.”
The lighting can be controlled based on the natural light from the outside, allowing the center to use significantly less energy for lighting during daylight hours.
The center also incorporates a hydronic radiant flooring system, which not only modulates the building temperature but provides a snow melt system for the exterior walkways to increase safety and reduce long-term maintenance cost. “It also eliminates the need to use corrosive salts, which are incompatible with aviation activities,” he says.
As a support facility for the aviation battalion, compliance with noise control regulations due to aircraft operations was critical.
“Since the building was in such close proximity to the active runway, jet noise from arriving and departing aircraft would have been injurious to the administrative functions of the building,” Eichenlaub says. To address these issues, Parsons Brinckerhoff technical experts Jim Falvey, Aviation Design Manager; and Eric Thalheimer, Principal Noise & Vibration Engineer, assisted to ensure the project was in compliance with the noise control regulations.
“The acoustics team provided us with engineering and design support to help us mitigate the adverse impacts of the noise,” Eichenlaub says. “The acoustics team also conducted studies and made recommendations for the building interior so that indoor speech intelligibility and communication effectiveness goals were met. Fortunately, Parsons Brinckerhoff can reach out to our internal resources any time an unexpected situation arises, and in a short amount of time, find a proven solution.”
The use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) techniques and conflict resolution software helped the client visualize what it could achieve with the building.
“We used BIM to build a 3D model and show the client exactly how the building would look in real life,” Eichenlaub says. “With BIM, we could look at any aspect of the building for conflicts and errors while the work was being done.”
Interference conflict software helped show where conflicts in the plan might be occurring, and each week all of the stakeholders met for a webinar to look at those conflicts, and then collaborated to find a solution before construction began.
Maj. Benjamin Neumon, Project Manager/Engineer for the Connecticut National Guard, was generous in his praise of the new building, and the team that created it.
“This is the best Assembly Hall the Connecticut Army National Guard has or ever will have,” Neumon says.