Making the Best
More than triple the size of its predecessor, the new Navy Exchange in Bethesda, Md., fits snugly into the tiny parcel allotted for its presence at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, located eight miles outside of Washington D.C.
It’s a centralized shopping location where Navy personnel, rehabilitating veterans, military families and retired soldiers can pick up prescriptions, get their hair done, dine and buy stamps in one outing. It’s a place where employees and shoppers can feel good about spending their time, with its green concepts and eco-friendly design. Its setting lends a sense of tranquilly amid the bustle of an otherwise congested installation. And it’s the first Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) building constructed to meet LEED® Gold certification. To accomplish all this, the project team made the best of space, situations and surroundings.
Partners On and Off the Field
Responsiveness is Good.
Walbridge, from Detroit, and Brasfield & Gorrie, headquartered in Alabama, teamed up with CMH Architects to design and build the new Bethesda Navy Exchange (NEX) under a 26-month design-build contract. For the project, the Walbridge Brasfield & Gorrie Joint Venture (WBG) built a temporary 12,000-square-foot shopping center on a set of abandoned tennis courts inside the installation; demolished a 20-year-old, 40,000-square-foot facility; and constructed the new 151,450-square-foot NEX and adjoining 196,400-square-foot parking structure. Unlike at the former Bethesda Exchange, management, administration and sales operations now function under one roof.
Completed in the fall of 2012, the $44.4 million NEX replaces a smaller, aging facility that was lacking in space and variety. Carved into existing topography, the new structure fits comfortably into the same confined space that held the former Exchange while offering better accommodations and greater efficiency. The new facility and adjacent 500-space parking structure are each two stories high yet low enough to clear a flight path leading to the medical center’s adjacent helipad. Building vertically allowed the project team to optimize land usage, and it’s one of several attributes that make the new Exchange a contender for LEED® Gold certification through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
Inside are a variety of vendors, personal services, dry cleaning, a pharmacy, spa, credit union, florist, food court, an optical center and more. The building’s eco-friendly attributes include a state-of-the-art storm-water management system and a 53,000-square-foot green roof, which covers 66 percent of the NEX; as well as energy-efficient plumbing fixtures, abundant natural light and much more.
Challenges and Solutions
WBG’s primary challenge was building a large facility within a confined jobsite. In addition to working with limited lay-down space, various other construction projects were simultaneously underway throughout the installation, requiring widespread collaboration.
Just-in-time delivery for large, fabricated steel members and 10-foot-by-35-foot pre-cast panels had to be scheduled during the busy hours of the day, as there was virtually no lay-down area for their storage at the site. The panels were literally erected from truck beds.
To optimize real estate, the new NEX was built into an existing hillside. Its construction required WBG to excavate a two-level basement without the lateral distance typically needed to support such efforts. To prevent soil from collapsing during construction, the team incorporated “slope stabilization” with a spray-on concrete to stabilize the steep slopes.
Coupled with being built into the hillside, the new facility’s massive vegetative roof makes the building appear as if it’s integrated into the land surrounding it. This design concept helped alleviate concern from residents of a nearby subdivision about how the new NEX would fit in aesthetically.
Located right at the entrance of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the new NEX provides convenience to the area’s military population while showing off NAVFAC’s ongoing efforts to renew valuable land assets. In addition to providing convenience to our troops, the new facility saves the client money. Energy required to cool the structure’s interior is reduced by 32 percent because of the massive vegetative roof; and the site as a whole performs as if 50 percent of its impervious area has been removed and as if the new development is part of the natural environment.
Constructing new, eco-friendly buildings is a fine example of how the NAVFAC can give back to service men and women and simultaneously support sustainability. WBG is proud to support their efforts.