DeCA recently completed its first, joint construction project with an exchange - and it's an award winner. The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Acquisition and Technology is honoring DeCA's Facilities Design and Construction Division with a Value Engineering (VE) award for the Port Hueneme Commissary/Exchange. According to DOD VE Program Manager Larry Paulson, the VE award, DeCA's second, recognizes improvement in quality, process or products. DeCA saved $2.2 million on the $17 million project.
The new building, housing the commissary and Navy exchange, opened to rave reviews. "There wasn't a parking place to be had at the grand opening," says DeCA's Southwest Region Public Affairs Officer John Ryan. "And customers are the big winners. Now they can park in one place and buy everything from groceries to blue jeans."
"We feel the project was a smashing success," says NEXCOM Director of Facilities, Capt. Wayne Tomiak, "and we're looking at doing more projects with DeCA. The co-location is very important as customers look for one-stop shopping." Rear Admiral P.O. Soderberg, Supply Corps, U.S. Navy Commander, said he was "extremely impressed by the cost effectiveness, quality and speed of construction" at Port Hueneme. Soderberg also said he wanted to "further explore opportunities which take advantage of design and construction acquisition resources at DeCA."
The inaugural joint construction project came about after NEXCOM officials had seen an example of DeCA's design/build program at the new Patuxent River Commissary in Maryland. "They approached us about managing a joint project at Port Hueneme," said Marvin Beck, DeCA's Director of Facilities. "And although this is the first joint DeCA-exchange project to open, we're also working on joint projects at Elmendorf, Fort Buchanan, and Fort Bragg." The Army Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) has the lead at Elmendorf and Buchanan. DeCA has the lead at Fort Bragg.
Although some installations have exchanges and commissaries that are joined by canopies or food courts, those were generally two separate building projects, according to Al Smith, DeCA's Chief Architect. "This was really the first attempt to integrate an exchange and commissary into a single construction project." said Smith. "NEXCOM supported the project very well all the way through. We simply took their information and did all the planning up front."
Walt Winters, DeCA's Chief of Design and Construction, feels joint projects are ideal for saving money and time. "It generally takes the same amount of time to build," said Winters. And some of the costs of construction, such as on-site inspectors, can be shared. "We have to hire an inspector for the duration of the project anyway," he said. "So the Navy paid half of the cost at Port Hueneme." The costs of parking lots and utility lines can also be shared. And larger projects also mean bigger contractors, offering bigger discounts, are interested in bidding.
"It's pretty exciting because it hasn't been done before," said DeCA Project Manager Scott Sisson. Requests for proposals were sent out in March of 1995, the project was awarded to Hensel Phelps Construction Company, and the building was finished December 20, 1996 - two weeks ahead of schedule and $2.2 million under budget.
Air Force Contracting Officer of the Year Albert Berlanga is with the Air Education and Training Command specializing in construction, design and maintenance support for DeCA. He was on the Port Hueneme project from start to finish and attributes most of the savings to use of innovative construction techniques by Hensel Phelps and DeCA. That includes a cost-saving "tensar grid" support system that prevents soil liquefaction under a building during an earthquake. Berlanga was excited at how well the joint project went. "There was a little extra administrative work for me because of funding separation - but it was worth it!"
Hensel Phelps project manager Cuyler McGinley said the project went like "clockwork." McGinley also attributes part of the smooth going to DeCA's use of the design/build program. "DeCA is ahead of the curve when it comes to public agencies," he said. "Most of them are just now starting to do what DeCA did five years ago!" Hensel Phelps also shares in DeCA's VE award recognition.
DeCA's Directorate of Facilities was recognized with a VE award two years ago for its top to bottom review of its construction program. In 1996 the directorate received a Hammer Award, Vice President Al Gore's award to those who "reinvent" government and cut costs, for its innovative design/build program.
In the past, the accepted method of bidding out construction projects was two-fold: First the design and then the building. Instead, DeCA implemented a design/build process concentrating on what the "facility must be able to do," emphasizing function and practicality, and contractors bid on the entire project. "The design/build process is not new," said Marvin Beck. "What we did is streamline that process for the desired outcome - the best value."
Design/build also drastically cuts the number of contracts DeCA has to manage. And it makes for smoother operation and problem solving. "If the contractor makes a design mistake, they have to fix it," said DeCA's Walt Winters.
According to McGinley, the process helps eliminate the adversarial architect/contractor relationship that often occurs under traditional contracting."It also facilitates fast-tracking," he said, and can cut construction time by a third. "The ultimate purpose is to get a functioning facility for the owner. In this case, the owners wanted to get shoppers in the stores ASAP!"