Space optimization has quickly become a key phrase and a way of operating not only in the Air Force but more specifically at Edwards when it comes to cost savings for both sustainment and utility expenses under the current economic setting.
As part of this space optimization initiative, the 412th Civil Engineer Directorate held “Operation Grand Slam” Oct. 22, which was a ceremonial swinging of sledge hammers by base leadership to officially begin the demolition of Building 2650A, the former home of the Edwards AFB Environmental Management Branch.
“Building 2650A has been a ‘temporary facility’ that was constructed in September 1988. Over the years it has supported a myriad of test programs. As a temporary facility, its life expectancy has long passed and its energy and maintenance costs have sky-rocketed,” said Pablo Publico, 412th CE Space Utilization and Consolidation program manager. “As we consolidate units into more efficient facilities and out of antiquated buildings, it gives us the leverage to demolish aging facilities. This way we don’t have the maintenance and utility costs that our base once had. With the savings incurred, we can further improve existing facilities.”
According to Publico, this move is a part of Edwards’ path towards accomplishing Presidential Executive Orders 13327 and 13514, which outline how the Air Force should reduce operating costs by improving the way each base optimizes and utilizes space within its facilities.
“When this first started, the initial team identified underutilized facilities, and generated a consolidation plan and sought local funding. The space consolidation and surveying of facilities really started in 2009. The first phase was funded by the base in 2010 to move people around and to increase the percentage of use in buildings. Our goal is to get buildings at or above a 90 percent occupancy rate.” Susan Haseltine said, 412th CE Installation Encroachment program manager with the Environmental Management Branch. “By doing this, it makes spaces available for other test programs to come in and work at Edwards.”
In 2011, the Air Force established a primary point of contact for consolidation and demolition for different installations. According to Publico, after multiple discussions, guidance began to be provided from higher headquarters and the Air Force.
“Last year, the criteria and guidance raised during the previous years was finally codified in the new Air Force Manual 32-1084, Facility Requirements, giving Edwards guidance on how and what the base is supposed to do as far as space utilization is concerned,” said Publico.
“Normally, when consolidation efforts occur, we have the team members from the EM Branch, 412th CE, the 412th Communications Squadron and 412th Maintenance Group, but during the planning phase of any kind of consolidation, the users or clients from units involved become part of the working group,” Publico said. “Their input and feedback on what is required to carry out their mission is taken into account, as well as the manning document on how many people they are assigned; so all those factors come into play. From there, we establish what facilities are available to accommodate what their mission requirements are.”
During the first phase of consolidation, the space optimization team said they learned that there was an added benefit that had come to light as a result of the optimization efforts.
“As we asked people and units for input at a variety of forums, we discovered, when we collectively looked at all the units, it gave us a roadmap of what organizations could work well together,” Haseltine said. “By measuring what percentage of occupancy each building had, not only were we being efficient in the maintenance and energy aspects, we also gained some benefit by collocating certain programs that worked really well together, so there was a benefit in terms of mission execution and synergies.”
On a much broader perspective, Publico said the square footprint reduction goal for space optimization isn’t based by installation but more at the command level.
“Reduction in mission actually equates into dollars. The amount of space utilized by people costs the taxpayer utility and maintenance costs to maintain facilities. Every demolition that we complete represents a cost savings. Now as far as budgetary constraints, future budgets have already been cut, so what we’re trying to do now is consolidate units, so they’re able to function within future financial constraints and carry-out their assigned missions with the reduced available resources,” said Publico.
“In the end, there is also a direct correlation between space optimization and job positions. In the past, as a mission would near completion and units would move out of facilities, the remaining unit tends to spread out to the vacated space, resulting in people having larger workspaces over their authorized space, thereby keeping facility operating costs at the same level. This directly impacts how that unit will have to restructure or cut its workforce in future economic times. By optimizing and removing unused or antiquated buildings, we improve our energy and infrastructure footprint, while improving the collaboration and mission accomplishments of organizations,” added Publico.
Environmental Management is now temporarily located in Buildings 4231 and 4287 at North Base until their final destination facilities, which include Buildings 3735, 4900 and 4904, are ready for occupancy.