Behind the Curtain: Designing for the ANG

As a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) report, key elements of the Air National Guard (ANG) Readiness Center were relocated to a new facility at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Among those responsible for creating the new design of the ANG workspace was Irena Savakova, LEED at AECOM DESIGN.

In this interview, Irena shares her anecdotes to illustrate how the workspace design of the new ANG was created.

Photo By Maxwell MacKenzie

What were the workspace challenges you were trying to overcome with the ANG project’s design?

The biggest challenge was the complex nature of the BRAC consolidation process itself. The program within this new ANG facility underwent multiple modifications leading to layout revisions — some were completed only a few months before the facility actually opened.

For our work with their team, we learned that the key design concept on this project was to create multi-use areas for the total office environment that easily reconfigure. Another was to generate a raised under-floor air distribution system in order to support future flexibility.

We addressed both of these aspects with cable management and air distribution integrated within the floor plenum. This meant that the under-floor air HVAC system could better contribute to a high-performing workplace with a flexible infrastructure to accommodate organizational changes.

What were the opportunities you took advantage of to create more flexible or collaborative workspaces?

As a model project, the challenge to the Air National Guard and the design team — including AECOM, Gensler, and CH2M HILL — was to rethink how facilities support missions and incorporate sustainable concepts for building performance.

From the onset, the team recognized the need to design not only for current needs but to anticipate future needs, recognizing that change is constant.

Photo By Maxwell MacKenzie

It was with this fundamental understanding of the workspace realities that we decided to address circulation, congregation, and open-space office areas by reserving space for the window walls — thereby maximizing infiltration of natural light. Smaller, efficient work stations and extensive applications of reusable materials reflect this planning philosophy, too.

Photo By Maxwell MacKenzie

We centralized the core features (such as plumbing and common-use areas), we dramatically reduced private offices, and we eliminated hard-wall construction. By incorporating flexible, demountable partitions and raised floors throughout the majority of the floor plates, we created the potential for cost-effective reconfigurations with minimal disruption. Plus, within this accessible floor system, the HVAC, data, and power sources are easily reconfigured to support future change.

What creative elements were important to the culture that you incorporated to promote a modern work environment?

The challenge to the AECOM, Gensler, and CH2M HILL team was to create a campus and facility that set the standard for ANG facilities at bases nationwide.

Photo By Maxwell MacKenzie

So rather than mimic the existing building, we made a conscious decision to make the addition contemporary in nature in both form and materials, thereby representing the ANG of the future.

Because it’s anchored to the existing building, which is symbolic of a proud ANG history, the new addition reflects the transformational ANG of the future driven by responsiveness, flexibility, and maximum efficiency.

Photo By Maxwell MacKenzie

The design offers a seamlessly integrated campus where existing, new, and future facilities will form an integrated fabric that evolves with mission changes. The single most prominent feature — the spine of the existing lobby, glass bridge, and three-story atrium — provides a unique architectural solution to make this campus a reality.

The result is a model facility exemplifying a thoughtful balance and integration of functionality, flexibility, sustainability, resource conservation, and responsible architecture — all delivered on budget and on schedule.

How have you seen the federal workforce in DC evolve over the last decade(s) — and, related, how do you see the office environment evolving to accommodate?

The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) has had a dramatic impact on the federal workforce. This new facility is part of the BRAC efforts to consolidate Department of Defense (DoD) personnel in secure facilities, rather than in leased commercial space.

At the same time, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have called for new flexibility and changing missions for DoD personnel. Facilities need to accommodate these changes with the least possible disruption to missions. The new ANG Readiness Center expansion reflects this more agile approach to warfare.

What technologies or design elements did you incorporate to promote new ways of working?

On a larger building scale, this ANG facility is using the Readiness Center expansion as a demonstration project. It’s re-addressing engineering technical letters (ETLs), embracing current technologies and best practices, and showing the flexibility to adapt individual facilities to their climates.

This reevaluation, which is truly a pioneering effort by ANG, embraces new developmental criteria in facilities construction by improving delivery of sustainable building types. Adopting sustainable practices and policies will lead to increased return on investment dollars — through better materials and lower operations and maintenance costs — for ANG’s large building inventory in all 50 states.

Plus, meeting federal conservation requirements and LEED-NC Silver requirements (merged into a larger sustainable approach) is a method that integrates operations, workflow, people, attitudes, site, and then building. This kind of solution emerged from sustainability charrettes that all the ANG stakeholders attended; it resulted in solutions to reduce energy, water consumption, and maintenance costs for the life of the overall ANG Readiness Center.

Some key features that illustrate the success of this commitment to create a high-performance facility include:

  • A vegetative green roof (the first on an ANG facility) that reduces thermal impact and retains significant rainwater, thereby helping to increase water reduction targets from 20% to 40%.
  • Conditioned air from high-efficiency boilers and air-cooled chillers that is delivered to under-floor supply air plenums.
  • An under-floor air distribution system that has limited ductwork, thereby allowing lower floor-to-floor heights and reduction of HVAC fan energy.
  • Indoor lighting controls that lessens overall lighting loads — with task lighting at work stations.
  • An automated window shade system that maximizes natural light while managing heat gain and loss.
  • Use of building envelope materials and assemblies to lessen both heating and cooling loads.

Finally, how has the design and layout of this new workplace affected the workers?

As stated by Benjamin W. Lawless, P.E., Chief, Operations Division, at the National Guard Bureau A70:

“The new Air National Guard Readiness Center expansion has promoted a more collaborative work environment.

The lack of physical boundaries provided by the open plan has helped us see there is more at work than just an individual in an office or cubicle. The floor circulation encourages us to move around more and consult with colleagues.It’s a very comfortable building as there is abundant natural light and an efficient and comfortable under-floor HVAC system.

We are all struck by how quiet a well-designed open floor plan can be.”

Photo By Maxwell MacKenzie
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