The roar of heavy machinery, the clanging of hammers and the buzzing of saws is something commonly heard near the Jefferson dormitory. The noise starts before sunrise and continues after sunset. Workers assemble the buildings with speed, skill and steady hands in order to meet their deadline and provide Airmen a home away from home while they are stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
Construction for the three dorms began January 2017 and is expected to be completed January 2019, providing more than 140 additional new rooms for base Airmen.
“I think the Airmen are going to love these new dorms,” said David Klein, a 28th Civil Engineer Squadron architect. “They are conducive to Airmen being able to socialize with each other and will have a patio area outside, which will allow intramural games, cookouts and other activities.”
The Dorms-4-Airmen program is an addition to the Air Force’s unaccompanied housing program. It’s named after the four-bedroom, partitioned design. This regulation was put in place to improve the standard of living for Airmen who live in dorms on Air Force installations. The design and construction of the project are brand new to Ellsworth AFB.
“The dorms are being built to comply with the Dorms-4-Airmen program,” Klein said. “One of the initiatives in that program focuses on the biases of social interaction. There will be a pod coming off in a core area in four directions on the main floors. In each pod there will be a kitchen area, laundry area and four bedrooms. There will also be a common area on each floor.”
The project is being constructed by contractors, but some of the project was planned by Airmen on base. They introduced some improvements that would make the quality of life better in the dorms, such as individual climate control for each room.
“There were Airmen involved in the design early on,” Klein said. “They did surveys and we got their input on the blueprints. Their input had a lot of influence on the overall design of the buildings, including a request to have individual restrooms and decentralized laundry rooms.”
After listening to the Airmen and implementing a new layout for the dorms, the building designs were further enhanced.
“The walls and floors have soundproofing materials installed in them,” Brock Debaere, a contracted project manager, explained as he stamped on the floor. “You won’t be able to hear that, which is great for the people living on the lower floors. You don’t have to worry about those noisy neighbors anymore.”
On top of all the new improvements, the Air Force has taken a strong stance on energy efficiency. Not only is Ellsworth AFB interested in being a responsible steward of public resources, but by building the dorms to be energy efficient, they will also end up with eventual utility cost savings.
“The Air Force has been taking a greener approach to building these new dorms and they will be more efficient than the old dorms by a noticeable amount,” Klein said. “The three new buildings will be good for the environment and the public’s wallet.”
Since the beginning, the building process had to be environmentally friendly. From the demolition of the preexisting constructs to the materials that would be used in the projects conception, each phase was conducted with the environment in mind.
“A certain percentage of the material being used in these new dorms has to be recycled,” Debaere stated. “Even the parking lot [that] was demolished to begin the project had to follow the same guidelines.”
Due to the number jobs brought in with the building contract, the dorm project also serves as an economic boost for the local area.
“The whole project, in the end, will cost approximately $21.5 million and will help support local businesses,” Klein stated. “Besides the main contractor, there are approximately 20 other companies helping with the construction.”
Ellsworth AFB is a significant part of the Air Force mission, and the additions to the base demonstrate its value to the nation’s defense.
“The Airmen will be able to tell you how great these dorms will be,” Klein said. “We are very excited about them, and we are eager to see the completed project. Ellsworth is growing and I’m glad to see these new projects coming to the base.”