Marine Reserve Campus Marches In Gulf Coast’s Largest Tilt-Up Job

On schedule and on budget was the message of a recent progress report on the 411,000-sq.-ft., $150 million Federal City Marine Forces Reserve complex

Steven Prokopy

On schedule and on budget was the message of a recent progress report on the 411,000-sq.-ft., $150 million Federal City Marine Forces Reserve complex (MarForRes) building in Algiers, near New Orleans. Spread across three buildings Û the four-story main office, an attached two-story annex for the Marine Forces Reserve Band, and a stand-alone warehouse Û the project will use 196 tilt-up panels, representing the largest such project in the Gulf Coast region and the largest ever for military end use.

MarForRes is part of the $1 billion Federal City complex taking shape on a 29-acre compound, where Marines are required to take up residence by Sept. 15, 2011. The transformation of the Naval Support Activity in Algiers into a federal city campus for military, government and private agencies has been in the planning and negotiating stage since 2005. Due to its accelerated construction window, the project is helping to advance tilt-up as a time-saving technique.

The tilt-up construction technique is expected to shave about three months off the building schedule and about 10 percent off the costs, according to the New Orleans Federal Alliance, the organization overseeing project operations. I think they’re going to beat the [June 2011] construction deadline, says Bradley Harger, onsite project superintendent for tilt-up subcontractor Sunshine Structures of Lehigh Acres, Fla. We poured the first foundation on July 14, 2009, began panel erection Nov. 18, and were substantially completed with that before Christmas. We were running 400 yd. per night at peak.

Using ready mixed from a primary Lafarge plant about 12 miles away and occasionally a nearby backup plant about six miles away, the tilt-up panels were cast on site or adjacent to where they were eventually lifted by crane into place. Each 10-in.-thick, 10-ft.-wide panel is held in place by at least four 52-ft. braces as temporary supports, with the typical panel size of 65 ft. and the tallest measuring 72 ft. All totalled, the panels contain more than 11 million lb. of concrete with more than 1 million lb. of reinforcing rebar, according to an Algiers Economic Development District official.

The main building stands on more than 2,600 wooden pilings driven under its 3-ft. foundation, which required about 3,000 yd. of concrete, with an additional 2,900 yd. of material being used for the elevated slabs and composite decks of the second, third and fourth floors. In the band annex’s foundation, a conductor’s baton and two Marine Corps coins were embedded in the foundation.

A total of 118,600 half-inch thin bricks from Denver-based Scott System was cast directly into the panels on site so that the veneer would match surrounding buildings constructed of conventional brick and mortar.

Woodward Design+Build of New Orleans, working with architect Mathes Brierre, is contractor for the MarForRes design-build project, which must be constructed to progressive collapse standards implemented after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. According to Harger, Woodward was a proponent of tilt-up from the outset. They may have considered steel framing with a masonry veneer, he explains. But, tilt-up is the most economical delivery method for a job like this.

According to Ed Sauter, executive director of the Iowa-based Tilt-Up Concrete Association, about 700 million sq. ft. of tilt-up wall now exists in the United States, approximately double the amount in 1997, when the association began tracking.

In May 2005, the Navy and Defense Department announced it wanted to close the Naval Support Activity and move its military to either the Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse or somewhere else. The Base Realignment and Closure recommendation called for the Marine Forces Reserve to move to the air station, but state and local officials convinced a federal panel that the federal city concept was the way to go. The Navy signed a 75-year lease with the Algiers Development District board in September 2008, one day prior to a federal deadline to break ground or else the base would close.

When construction is complete, Marines will move out of their offices at Naval Support Activity’s east bank campus, where they work in facilities built in 1918 as an Army supply depot.

Master developers of the Federal City complex, HRI/ECC, LLC, a joint venture created for this project between privately held HRI Properties and Environmental Chemical Corp., envision that over the next 15 years, the property will draw government agencies and private businesses, hopefully bringing as many as 10,000 jobs to Algiers.