At street-level, it looks like any other large building – although distinctive, due to its design: Five concentric, pentagonal rings connected by 10 radial corridors. But, for millions of people flying into and out of the nation’s capital each year, the aerial view of the Pentagon is an unmistakable and impressive symbol of the history of our American armed forces.
Now, 58 years later and with an investment proposed to exceed $1 billion, the Pentagon is undergoing its first-ever renovation.
Built in 1943, the Pentagon is the command and control center for our nation’s military and headquarters to the senior military leadership, which includes the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the heads of each branch of the armed services: Army, Navy, and Air Force.
The Defense Authorization Act of FY1991 transferred ownership of the Pentagon from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to the Secretary of Defense. Under the same Act, Congress established the Pentagon Reservation Maintenance Revolving Fund for the expressed purpose of renovating the Pentagon. This Act also enabled the Secretary of Defense to establish rent rates to support the renovation.
The extent to which the Pentagon has deteriorated is no secret. Rats in the basement, falling ceiling tiles, power surges and outages, and much more had become the norm, rather than the exception. The good news is that the steps being taken to repair and improve the Pentagon (1990-2011) are both cost effective and innovative.
Contract awards, which were negotiated between the government and the contractor, are based on best value to the taxpayer and the government – not necessarily the lowest proposed cost. Best-value determination is based on an analysis of factors including past performance, management approach, technical approach, probable cost, and support of small and disadvantaged businesses. Oral proposals and page limits on proposals reduced the bid time and helped gain additional insight into each contractor’s specific capabilities.
“The primary goal of the renovation is to simply bring the building up to standard with current health, fire, and life-safety codes; provide reliable electrical/mechanical and heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems; improve security in and around the building; and make the building more accessible to persons with disabilities – all while preserving the building’s historical integrity,” says Tom Fontana, public affairs team leader for the Pentagon Renovation Program.
Phase I of the renovation (commencing in the early 1990s) began with the replacement of miles of electrical/mechanical, voice/data/cabling (VDC), and HVAC systems. This required the construction of a new heating and refrigeration plant located near the Pentagon. The complete removal of all mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems was necessary due to the widespread presence of asbestos throughout the building. At the same time, a center courtyard tunnel was constructed to house the new utility lines.
New engineered systems, a sprinkler system, vertical transportation, cable management systems, a flexible ceiling, and lighting, as well as improvements in fire and life-safety systems and state-of-the-art information management and telecommunications (IM&T) that support VDC and other types of communications, were also part of the considerations during this phase of the project.
Additionally, part of the renovation program included the commissioning – the process of verifying and documenting the performance of building systems according to the design and the owner’s functional and operational needs – of all electrical/mechanical and plumbing systems. Commissioning of these systems began in the design stage and will extend through the construction process and warranty period.