Uniting a District Headquarters

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New England District
Hanscom, AFB

SMMA was awarded an IDIQ for design and engineering services with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) North Atlantic Division, specifically the New England District. One of several task orders was to re-locate the existing New England District Headquarters offices from a leased building outside of Federal Government property to two existing buildings on Hanscom AFB, MA.

This project would ultimately increase collaboration both within and across departments, attract the next-generation workforce, provide a state-of-the-art office space for all employees, and save costs. In order to fulfill client goals, SMMA had to completely reinvent the Hanscom AFB buildings – which previously housed labs and a data center connected only by a narrowly enclosed walkway – into a unified office building experience suited to represent a regional headquarters.

SMMA was inspired by USACE's efforts to build and preserve both man-made infrastructure and natural elements. Thus, the design team wanted the new headquarters to reflect how man and nature work in harmony through visual elements and material selection.

Adapting the Program

USACE’s office and cubicle size standards, which included the requirement for 8x10 foot cubicles, presented challenges. The test-fit of the original program and space standards proved that a very large building addition, alongside a potential additional floor for one of the existing buildings, would be required. Needing to keep the project cost as low as possible, there was no option of building a large addition or adding another floor.

Thus, the team strove to create efficiencies through adapting USACE’s programming requirements. They were able to establish an open environment and reduce cubicle and office sizes by approximately 10-12%, proving a better fit for the existing buildings. Additionally, they implemented modern workplace amenities such as phone rooms, conference and collaboration areas of various sizes, and centralized copy areas.

Ensuring Efficiency

Both Hanscom AFB buildings were built prior to current energy standards and energy-saving technology, meaning that they needed significant building envelope and building systems upgrades to achieve a higher building performance. Due to the existing construction types, SMMA was able to improve the Building 1107 envelope by adding insulation to the interior and the Building 1109 envelope by recladding the building. The roofs of both buildings were also replaced.

Engineers at SMMA conducted a lifecycle cost analysis of various building systems in order to determine which would be the most lifecycle cost effective, resulting in the implementation of chilled beams within the office spaces. The chilled beams not only serve both buildings’ heating and cooling needs, but also help to dramatically save space by eliminating the requirement for duct work. The beams also prove beneficial from a maintenance perspective: maintenance cost is low due to the lack of fans and other moving parts that come with more conventional systems such as fan coil units or fan-powered boxes.

The new USACE NE Headquarters at Hanscom, AFB.

Bridging Buildings

Another result from the test-fits was the requirement for a small building addition. The design team studied which program would best suit the structure, determining that it should serve as the central core connecting both buildings. The new structure introduces vertical circulation in the form of two elevators and a communicating stair. It also features the visitor/main entrance, a separate employee entrance, break rooms, and locker rooms.

SMMA not only saw the new core as an opportunity to establish an environment that would encourage communication and camaraderie among previously separated departments, but also as a chance to expose the organization’s hidden, yet vibrant, culture through the installation of large-scale graphics and displays. Further enhancing USACE’s employee engagement, much of the space from the main corridor and along the first floor is designed to convert into gathering zones for annual holiday celebrations, summertime bake-offs, and other inclusive activities and events.

Negotiating Between Old and New

As an undertaking by the Federal Government, this project is subject to review by the Massachusetts State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). To comply with SHPO's requirements, SMMA solicited professional review and consultancy from Epsilon Associates’ Historic Preservation staff. Mitigating adverse impacts to the goals of the Programmatic Agreement, SMMA either realized Epsilon’s suggestions or provided an alternative that achieved or exceeded Epsilon’s recommendations.

Compromises included: retaining the roof-top penthouse on Building 1109 (despite the fact that it is not code-compliant and will not be used), leaving a visible memory of the former Building 1107 main entrance on the western side of the building after its demolition, matching the existing exterior building material color or texture of the existing buildings on the addition without mimicking them, and retaining the window pattern in the new addition also without mimicking the original buildings.

The success of design compliance with Programmatic Agreement goals can be largely attributed to the collaboration between SMMA, Epsilon, the client, and the Hanscom AFB Environmental Office representatives and their shared commitment to the USACE New England District Headquarters.