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F-35 Academic Training Center goes green, wins design award


One of the first challenges the design of the F-35 Academic Training Center on Luke AFB, Arizona, involved site constraints. The site already housed a squadron operations building, a large number of protected saguaro cactuses and multiple underground utilities. The design solution was to wrap the ATC around the existing building, which allowed shared parking to further reduce the overall environmental footprint and allowing preservation of all on-site saguaro cactuses. (U.S. Air Force photo)


The center supports F-35 pilot training elements, including instructor-led classroom activities, self-paced independent study and training in 12 full mission simulator pods. (U.S. Air Force photo)


The F-35 Academic Training Center on Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, is a 145,000-square-foot world-class facility that earned a 2015 Air Force Design Merit Award. (U.S. Air Force photo)


(U.S. Air Force graphic)

By Paula Shaw
AFCEC Facility Engineering Directorate

  LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Arizona - Design for construction of a unique project supporting the U.S. Air Force mission and six partner countries began in 2010. The Luke AFB, F-35 Academic Training Center is a 145,000-square-foot world-class facility that earned a 2015 Air Force Design Merit Award.

  The center supports F-35 pilot training elements, including instructor-led classroom activities, self-paced independent study and training in 12 full mission simulator pods. Additionally, space is allocated to support the administrative and operational functions necessary for successful execution of the Air Force mission.

  The underlying design themes were resource efficiency and conservation of the unique Sonoran natural environment.

  "Notable sustainable features leading to the F-35 ATC design award include stormwater infiltration chambers, reflective roofing and utilization of long-life materials," said David Duncan, Air Force design awards program manager.

  Faced with a technically challenging project on a tight schedule, the design team produced a complex, integrated design that exceeds the energy savings of an American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers 90.1-2007 baseline building by a remarkable 52 percent.

  The military construction project delivery team, a joint collaboration among the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and industry partners, recognized and embraced constraints early on and committed to delivering not only an energy- and water-efficient facility but one that provides a healthful and productive work environment.

   "This was a great project team to work with because we were given an opportunity to define a new architectural vocabulary for the base, built on a foundation of regional influences. Through energy efficiency, water conservation and use of regional building materials, the ATC provided the groundwork for developing the F-35 construction program," said Carrie Bradley, Burns & McDonnell sustainability specialist.

  One of the first challenges involved site constraints. The small, congested target site already housed a squadron operations building, a large number of protected saguaro cactuses and multiple underground utilities. The design solution was to wrap the ATC around the existing building. This also created an opportunity to share parking, further reducing the overall environmental footprint and allowing preservation of all on-site saguaro cactuses.

   The design team then focused on maximizing energy efficiency and water conservation in the extreme hot and arid environment of Phoenix.

   "Due to the dry and cool winter seasons for the Phoenix area, the ATC and many other facilities across Luke AFB utilize plate and frame heat exchangers in conjunction with the chiller cooling towers to create a water side economizer mode," said William Harrick, Luke AFB F-35 project manager. Additional architectural, energy and water elements that, in total, result in an estimated annual cost avoidance of $140,000 include:
  • Orienting the building and balancing deep overhangs and porticos to maximize passive solar opportunities
  • Using regional design influences, including light-colored masonry and insulated metal wall panels; dramatic white, standing-seam metal roof; and pre-weathered steel window shades and porticos
  • Integrating high-insulation R-values (R-22 walls, R-36 roof) in the building envelope, reducing solar heat gain and cooling loads
  • Incorporating high-tech occupancy and building management control systems and a high-efficiency chilled water system to maximize the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning efficiency
  • Installing second-floor daylighting with sunshades and light shelves to minimize glare and reduce solar heat gain. Sensors measure ambient conditions and cycle light fixtures as needed
  • Achieving low lighting power densities by incorporating energy efficient fixtures, maintaining low ambient levels, providing task lighting and installing occupancy sensors, result in an estimated 40 percent electricity consumption reduction
  • Using low-flow plumbing fixtures to reduce building potable water usage by an estimated 42 percent when compared to International Plumbing Code baseline building
  • Installing a rainwater storage cistern under the parking lot, which slowly releases water, assisting the natural recharging of the alluvial aquifer and preventing evaporation.
  The truly integrated approach of the project delivery team resulted in innovative strategies such as the white, flat and standing seam metal roof, which challenge long-standing architectural approaches.

"This project provided valuable lessons learned which will translate to efficiencies for future projects." said Robert Dixon, AFCEC project manager.

  The overall result is a building that is aesthetically fresh, energy- and water-efficient and a healthier workspace.

  Editor's note: Shaw is a licensed professional engineer who holds an LEED AP certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. She is the subject matter expert in Air Force sustainable design and development.