ALL PHOTOS BY STEPHEN BAACK, U.S. ARMY ENGINEERING AND SUPPORT CENTER, HUNTSVILLE
global enterprise covering five main lines of effort: energy, operational technology, environmental, medical, and base operations and facilities. “Through partnership with Department of Defense agencies, private industry, and global stakeholders, we deliver leading-edge engineering solutions in support of national interests around the globe,” he said. Included within these lines of effort are nine mandatory centers of expertise, five technical centers of expertise, and 17 centers of standardization. “In light of the pandemic,” Marin added, “it’s particularly noteworthy that the Huntsville Center is a medical support team that includes USACE’s Medical Facilities Mandatory Center of Expertise and Standardization (MX), and owns the technical experts who determine whether or not new construction designs meet code requirements for medical facilities.” It’s an expertise that drew the attention of federal, state, and local officials who anticipated the rapid spread of COVID-19 and expected a massive shortage of hospital bed space to treat those affected by the virus. According to Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, former chief of engineers and commanding general of USACE, the urgency of this response was largely driven by the rapid spread of COVID-19. The race against the virus is “an unbelievably complicated problem” that needs a simple solution, Semonite said.
Mobilized under the National Response Framework and Stafford Act, USACE was given mission assignments from FEMA to execute planning for expanding hospital capacity, first in New York and then elsewhere if called upon. Semonite had already acknowledged that “you can’t build hospitals in a couple of weeks,” and reached out to Huntsville Center to look into adapting existing facilities to address that challenge. “We received a request from the chief directly because we had the Medical Center of Expertise, and we leveraged the whole enterprise and pulled in the medical support teams from the Corps’ Little Rock and Mobile districts,” said Wade Doss, Huntsville Center engineering director. Doss said experts from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center were a growing part of the team, too. As USACE’s “go-to” enterprise for innovative solutions, the Huntsville Center brought in its subject-matter experts and technical engineering professionals to quickly develop strategies and concepts to help USACE’s geographic districts and divisions rapidly convert hotels, dorms, convention centers, and large, arena-type facilities into ICU-capable, or, as they’ve come to be known, alternate care facilities (ACFs). “Our mission was to come up with some conceptual site-adaptable designs, engineering and construction deliverables and artifacts that would help our districts and divisions execute faster when they get to these facilities,” Doss said. “The idea is to help FEMA and the state and local governments get ahead of the hospital bed shortage.” He added that his team of about 30-40 engineers and architects worked around the clock putting these concepts, sketches, and designs together, and drafting equipment lists, schedules, and performance work statements – all the things that engineers and constructors need to hit the ground running. “Time is of the essence,” he said. The Medical Facilities MX has the capability and experience in medical facilities design and outfitting needed to support USACE in its efforts to establish ACFs, and works closely with its stakeholders and partners to ensure that projects executed meet mission requirements. “Most of what we do is cutting-edge technology,” Marin said. “We are creating solutions for challenges that may not have existed before.” To develop these deliverables, Doss put together a team of construction experts and medical design, architect, and code-criteria experts and fleshed out the concepts, including sketches, functional layouts, performance work statements, equipment lists, etc. “We worked closely with FEMA, HHS, the NFPA [National Fire Protection Association] as well as the Corps’ geographic districts and divisions to support ACF projects across the country,” he said. And like the rest of the USACE enterprise, most of the work was done virtually through Skype, teleconferences, WebEx, and everything else. Doss said this entailed working every day, seven days a week, until all the districts and divisions got the deliverables they needed to turn concepts into reality. “Our goal was to get ahead of it and try to get these concepts laid out for hotels, dorms, and arenas – facilities we thought could be good fits and that would already have a lot of the infrastructure,” he said. “But our main goal was to help the districts’ assessment teams.” 1 37