The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is hosting four regional forums to poll the industry on a plan to develop template designs for 41 building facility types for the six major areas across the country as defined under BRAQ. Don Basham, chief engineer of the Corps, says the outreach is to gain feedback and build a list of interested contractors. "We want to know if we were to structure contracts like this and put them out, would contractors be interested? If not, what would it take to get them interested?"

The Corps is modifying its procurement strategy to meet demands of supporting the Army's ongoing transformation to a more modular, quick-response organization. Standard modules will be designed that can be replicated across the country, with adjustments to accommodate climate variations. Procurement will be doled out by eight "centers of standardization" (CoS) in Corps district headquarters across the country. "Each center will manage several of these facility types and will award design build contracts," Basham says.

Fort Worth, for instance, will handle all the barracks and warehouse jobs, while Norfolk will handle four types of facilities, including education and dining. The Huntsville CoS will oversee administration of eight different types of design build contracts, including fitness centers and child care. Louisville CoS will manage six different types of facilities, while Mobile will oversee only two: hangars and avionics, and four-star headquarters. "We understand the geographic differences in different regions in the country," Basham says. "Part of the center's obligation will be oversight of each of the regions, including lessons learned about energy efficiency and project delivery methods."

The first of the four regional meetings was held July 31, near Washington, D.C., and drew 200 industry attendees. Some of the attendees voiced concerns that unstamped, standard designs will be distributed by the Corps with project awards, but engineering responsibility will remain with the industry. They were also concerned that the design build contracts for the more lucrative projects may be let through CoS not close to home.

However, the Corps utilized an internet-based market research questionnaire at the forums and recommended attendance at only one event, which underscored its attempts to streamline and universalize the process.

Once the initial design build project is completed (either by the Corps or the private sector), projects can move to "adapt built," Basham says, changing exterior cladding, foundation and HVAC to meet architectural motifs and climatic requirements. "The idea is not to re-design that entire barracks or dining hall facility 100%, but once the architect or engineer puts his stamp on it, the contractor ought to be able to replicate it as many times as necessary," he says. "Clearly one of the outcomes will be reduced design, so projects can go onto the ground quicker, and be delivered at reduced cost."

Tom Anglim, a principal with the design firm Ellerbe Becket of Minneapolis, Minn., attended the July 31 forum and agreed that the concept should require less design and provide more streamlined delivery. "Contractors will probably get some efficiencies in building more than one of these around the country and, site adapting, from the design standpoint, means less design work involved."

Currently, the Corps handles 25-30% of its design in-house, and 100% of construction is handled by the private sector, Basham says. The Corps will likely continue to handle some design build, in an effort to maintain skill levels, but by no means is the intention to mass-produce lesser quality designs.

"People are always saying the DOD ought to use industry standards, and they are asking the industry what those standards would be," Anglim says. "I found it very informative in terms of the building type because it helps firms look ahead and see where centers will be in the next few years."

These forums aren�t "the last word" on the CoS, Basham says. "We�re inviting their comments and using the information to fine tune it. We've developed some model RFPs, and we want to have another dialogue with the industry."