Sustainable Sanctuary Brings Hope and Healing to Wounded Warriors
They’ve survived firefights, falling mortar and minefields. Some made whole again after dozens of grueling surgeries, others learning to live with prostheses, post-traumatic stress and even paralysis. For many, even thousands of miles removed, the stench of sulfur stubbornly lingers, flashes of white, bright light and sounds of whistling shrapnel continue to haunt long after boot prints have disappeared beneath arid desert sand. Having served and sacrificed, they return home in need of a sanctuary.
These are the heroes and heroines that Balfour Beatty was proud to honor through an iconic federal project at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in Southern California. Known as the Wounded Warrior Headquarters Building and Hope & Care Facility, this 40,349-square-foot project was designed and constructed with the goal of providing holistic care for wounded, ill and injured Marines, sailors and their families. Thanks to Balfour Beatty Construction’s leadership, this design-build project transformed into that sanctuary and more, becoming a national model for wounded warrior care and receiving the first-ever LEED Platinum certification for a U.S. Navy and/or U.S. Marine Corps project worldwide. The facility, which is 100% ADA-compliant to remove any potential barriers from veterans’ healing, also serves as the West Coast headquarters for the Marine’s Wounded Warrior program.
At the 29,990-square-foot Hope & Care Facility lobby, the words “Mind,” “Body” and “Spirit” are emblazoned upon bold signage. On the other side of the lobby, the verbs “Overcome,” “Thrive” and “Focus” overlay a series of action photos that depict veterans accomplishing feats of athleticism among other inspiring images. Together, these affirmations form what could be described as the Hope & Care Facility’s unofficial philosophy—nurturing the whole warrior in a supportive, communal and highly-customized environment that prepares the veteran for return to active duty or a successful transition back to civilian life. The building’s state-of-the-art spaces for physical therapy, counseling, employment support, financial management, community orientation, training and outreach programs facilitate such effective rehabilitation that many residents have gone on to participate in triathlons and other competitive sporting events. The Hope & Care Facility also features exercise equipment specifically designed for the wounded, including an indoor therapy pool, wheelchair accessible outdoor lap pool heated by solar energy, climbing wall and a 1/8-mile track in close proximity to tranquil walkways and rest areas.
The adjoining, 9,400-square-foot Battalion Headquarters contains spaces for administration and operations as well as multipurpose space such as a visitor waiting area and conference rooms. Office spaces include flexible components for future modification to adapt to the evolving mission of the Wounded Warrior Battalion. The entire complex meets Antiterrorism Force Protection AT/FP requirements, including progressive collapse design, blast-resistant windows, stand-off distances, HVAC shutdown and infrastructure for mass notification.
Nearly every feature of both buildings—including orientation, design, community spaces, color palette, furnishings, textures and aesthetics—took into account the unique needs of the complex’s residents. Indoor air quality, daylighting and individualized control of lighting and temperature were prioritized as much as the incorporation of recycled and low-VOC materials. This “user-oriented” approach complemented the project’s sustainability goals so seamlessly that the design-build team was not only able to surpass the original LEED Gold objective but also far exceed the minimum amount of points required to achieve LEED Platinum.
Nate Kredich, vice president for residential development for the U.S. Green Building Council, observed the synergy between both principles on this project, “One of the most remarkable features about this project was the way the LEED rating system was utilized. The end result is a building that is more healthy, comfortable and peaceful…The project team put people at the center of its decisions, which is precisely the way LEED was intended to be used.”
In striving to construct a facility as sustainable as it would be salutary, the project team was keenly aware of their need to eliminate waste and rework. Building Information Modeling (BIM) was the primary tool Balfour Beatty utilized to achieve that efficiency and engaged all stakeholders in 3D modeling from the earliest stages of the project. This proactive coordination gave way to the preliminary design phases to reveal massing and analyze the buildings’ potential logistical and environmental impacts. The design team utilized the model to generate construction documents and to test the facility’s envelope in addition to structural and mechanical performance. By coordinating all of the buildings’ components using fabrication-level models, the project team was able to prefabricate the steel structure for both the Hope & Care Facility and Battalion Headquarters entirely offsite. This allowed for on-time deliveries and a “no-issue” installation process.
“Our primary focus was to create a holistic, integrated design process which provided the highest level of sustainable quality and a healing environment to the wounded warriors,” said Sean Hulen, vice president for Balfour Beatty. “Combined with a design-build delivery method, the use of BIM enhanced the LEED process by allowing the project team to quantify materials, minimize contingencies and reduce waste generated onsite.”
Though the project received a number of industry awards*, Balfour Beatty’s greatest accolade is not inscribed upon any trophy, nor can it be read in any headline. Our greatest pride stems from the fulfillment of a promise made by Gen. James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, to provide wounded warriors with a one-stop center that is equipped to facilitate their complete recovery. And it was with the understanding of the full magnitude of that promise that we approached every detail of this project, knowing that there is no greater privilege than the opportunity to give back to those who have given so much so freely.
*The project received an impressive five awards from the following institutions: Society of American Military Engineering, American Institute of Architects (AIA), Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) and the Associated General Contractors (AGC)