Concrete Masonry Designs: Whole Barracks Renewal Project

The award-winning Whole Barracks Renewal project in Fort Lewis, Washington has always had lofty goals. WJA Design Collaborative took on the challenge to design a new barracks that could provide energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing, functional living areas for 300 Army soldiers while also complying with safety requirements, such as anti-terrorism force and fire protection.

Whole Barracks Renewal Project - Fort Lewis, WA

At the time of the proposed design, “the lead time on structural steel was about nine months, and the construction schedule just didn’t allow that type of delay,” says Steve Borman, president, Keystone Masonry Inc., the masonry contractor. “Rather than use steel, we proposed they use loadbearing CMU with hollow-core concrete plank floors.” The Army Corps of Engineers agreed to use concrete masonry as the structural building material. The base of the building uses burgundy, split-face block, which continues up to the first floor window sills. From these sills on up, burgundy half-high, smooth-face CMU were used while the upper floor uses cream-colored units.

“Using CMU definitely expedited the schedule,” states Borman. “I believe we put that building up faster with CMU than it could be done framed.” “Budget and schedule are critical elements to the Army,” says Dan Callan, principal, WJA Design Collaborative. “We were able to stretch the budget by using a structural concrete block masonry wall system that emulates the look and color of adjacent brick veneer structures.”

Another big advantage of using CMU on this type of project is that “it helps meet the progressive collapse and force protection requirements that can be pretty stringent for military projects,” says Mike Steinthal, Absher Construction Company. “If you use wood-frame construction, you have to go back and beef up the structure quite a bit to meet those same requirements. By using concrete masonry units and placing a little extra reinforcement and solid-grout, it allowed us to easily comply.”

This structure has been a huge success and is the first at North Fort Lewis to attain LEED Silver certification for its energy savings and sustainable features. The project was awarded a 2007 National Design Build Award. Regarding the success of using CMU on the structure, Ted Lewis, project engineer, Army Corps of Engineers says, “It met all of our needs and gave us adequate force protection. It blends in well with other structures at North Fort Lewis. It turned out really nice.”