AFCEE, AAFES join forces to construct new facilities

  • Published
  • By Marti D. Ribeiro
  • Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence
The Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence here and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service are joining forces to design and build new facilities across the Air Force. 

AAFES, which has its headquarters in Dallas, maintains more than 12,000 main exchanges, military clothing stores, movie theaters and other facilities worldwide -- wherever American forces are stationed. 

Previously, AAFES would seek out potential design and construction companies through the internal contracting process. Now it has the ability to tap into AFCEE's large library of contractors to obtain the best contracting bid for proposed facilities. 

"We use our experience with a multitude of contractors and act like a search engine for AAFES, finding the best fit for a project," said Capt. Eric Dawson, the AFCEE lead project manager. 

The first AFCEE-AAFES joint project was a new $3.83 million shoppette and gas station that broke ground in November 2005 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. 

"We usually don't work with retail or gas station construction projects like this, so it's been a learning process," Captain Dawson said. 

AFCEE specializes in environmental cleanup, housing and construction worldwide, including such places as Iraq and Afghanistan. The center, however, had not previously been involved with building retail facilities. 

"We work with AAFES to get the contract awarded quickly and cheaply to meet unique specifications," said Kent Rohlof, also an AFCEE project manager. 

According to Captain Dawson, AFCEE has had to overcome several challenges with this new territory, including making changes in the building process. 

"In retail, we construct the building back to front, so the retailer can begin stocking items in back storerooms while we continue to build the front," he said. 

Another construction challenge new to AFCEE was the inclusion of food vendors in the building progression.

"It was strange to have soda machine installers, designers and food court vendors in and out of the building throughout the construction process," Captain Dawson said. 

Other challenges include the consideration of return on investment. 

Normally AFCEE constructs facilities based on need and monetary resources available. With AAFES, it has to find the "sweet spot" for the correct amount of square footage to get the best return on investment for the property. 

Incorporating this experience, the center has begun to take on additional projects for AAFES. 

The next joint venture project under construction is a new shoppette at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., which had some interesting specifications in the contract. 

"While our construction project isn't a result of Hurricane Katrina, one of the specifications in the contract was that materials used in the construction be hurricane-proof," said George Garcia, the AFCEE project manager. "This made it difficult during the contract-award phase, since not many contractors use those types of materials." 

"Working with AAFES definitely gives AFCEE the ability to step outside (its) comfort zone and try something new and exciting," Captain Dawson said. 

According to the captain, the 24-pump gas station built on Vandenberg AFB and opened in January is the largest in-ground gas station fuel system in Santa Barbara County. It also features the most state-of-the-art fuel monitoring system for AAFES. The captain said he hopes this new design will set a precedent for the way gas stations are built in the future. 

Besides the Keesler AFB project, AFCEE has contracts to build new exchange shopping centers for Andersen Air Force Base, Guam; Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.; and Fort Drum, N.Y. 

"Working with AAFES has been a learning process," Mr. Rohlof said. "We look forward to other joint projects in the future." 

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