Keesler demolitions reduce costs, save energy

  • Published
  • By Susan Griggs
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Going ... going ... gone!

Large open areas where buildings used to be are part of Keesler's evolving landscape. 

Old and outdated structures with failing mechanical systems and environmental issues are being leveled to save energy, reduce aircraft movement hazards, and cut maintenance and operating costs.

With current budgetary constraints, the Air Force must focus limited resources only on the infrastructure needed to perform Air Force missions and divert valuable resources away from excess, obsolete and underutilized infrastructure capacity.  New construction isn't considered unless existing assets can't be effectively used or modified to meet current mission needs.

"The face of Keesler has changed dramatically over the years," said Don Kinman, civil engineering manager, who arrived at Keesler in 1986.  His civil engineering career has spanned 36 years as an active-duty member, civilian and contractor. 

According to Kinman, Keesler is leading the way in Air Education and Training Command with the Air Force's "20/20 by 2020" initiative that aims to right-size building inventories through a 20 percent net reduction of real property space. 

AETC's reduction target is about 11 million square feet, about 14 percent of the Air Force's goal of 80 million square feet.

In this effort, Keesler is required to reduce its overall footprint by more than 1.5 million square feet over the fiscal year 2007 baseline of over 6.5 million square feet.  That's actually a 23 percent space reduction; larger AETC bases are tasked with a slightly larger percentage than smaller installations.

From FY07 to the end of FY14, 1,317,303 square feet of the base's surplus facilities have been eliminated - slightly more than a 20 percent space reduction.  Upcoming demolition projects should put Keesler over the 23 percent target by FY16.

"It wouldn't surprise me if we hit 30 percent by 2020," Kinman pointed out.

The demolition process involves a lot more than a ceremonial bulldozer crashing into the side of a building.  It includes planning, site preparation, hazardous material elimination, relocating building occupants to new accommodations and removing debris, furnishings and utility components.  Afterwards, landscaping or sodding is done to convert the area into green space.

Some renovation has to be done to consolidate the occupants of vacated buildings into other spaces but Kinman remarked, "My gut feeling is that what we've accomplished to date has been very cost-effective.  We do everything as economically as possible."
"If anything can be salvaged and reused, we do it," Kinman explained.  "I'd estimate that we've been able to save at least $500,000 in costs to the government since this program began in FY07 - we've saved everything from chillers to light bulbs, doors and locks."

Facility managers are extremely important in the space consolidation process, said Michelle Bain, Keesler's facility space manager.

"Facility managers let us know when there are vacancies and keep us informed of use changes so we can better serve our customers with their space requests," she added.

Garrard Hall, which was leveled earlier this year, coupled with the demolition of Hewes Hall, set to begin before year's end, will remove the remaining occupied facilities within the "clear zone" at the south end of Keesler's runway.

"We've secured the funding to take down Hewes Hall, and the fence should go up in December so asbestos abatement can begin," Kinman reported.  "The building should come down in January or February."

Demolition work continues on the former visitor quarters just south of L Street near the closed Judge Sekul Avenue Gate.  Other projects on the horizon are Locker House, Hangar 4 and the dental clinic.

"Demolishing surplus structures and consolidating operations into right-sized facilities have been cooperative efforts across the 81st Training Wing, and we're really proud with how things are progressing," Kinman stated.