Construction is underway on an auxiliary to the Pentagon, a behemoth that will be one of Northern Virginia's largest buildings. Despite the size of the Pentagon, which holds 29,000 workers, many Department of Defense (DoD) employees have had to serve at a series of temporary locations over the years. With the structural steel frame now going up, the mini-Pentagon, the future home of 6,400 DoD personnel, is on track for completion in September 2011.
The 1.7 million s.f. building will sit on 16 acres of land and will include two office towers, 15 and 17 stories, two parking garages, one below, one adjacent, and a public transportation center for employees and the surrounding community, all a mere 7 miles down I-395 at Mark Center. To round it out, Duke Realty, the developer and seller of the land, is hoping to exceed expectations and go for LEED Gold certification, which would make it the first LEED Gold government facility anywhere.
The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) recommendation for the U.S. Army's Fort Belvoir provided the impetus for the move and construction of a new facility. The BRAC called for the DoD to move 6,400 personnel from their leased space in Northern VA. After an extensive search the Army bought the property at Mark Center from Duke and will incorporate it into Fort Belvoir. Peter Sholz, Senior VP of DC Operations for Duke Realty, said Duke secured the project at Mark Center because the location met the stringent requirements needed to house the DoD, and that they offered an appealing "pricing and economics." The Mark Center location provides enough land to allow for a security perimeter (the space was previously an empty lot) and offers proximity to an amenity base, I-395 and, of course, the Pentagon.
The design process included input from the developers, project architects HKS and WBA, the Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Alexandria; Clark Construction is the general contractor. Mike Nicolaus, Managing Director of the DC office of HKS, said the City of Alexandria wanted a landmark building for the high-visibility location and the Army Corp of Engineers wanted a structure that was both a high performance work place and somewhere workers could "be proud of." The new DoD home will be fenced with secured access points, meeting setback requirements. The two towers, which will connect on their first 10 floors, will have exteriors of precast concrete and glass, materials that meet federally mandated security standards including blast-resistant glass and preventative measures against "progressive collapse." Asked about design challenges, Nicolaus said "making architecture out of that is a challenge," but added that the building will still have a "higher level of architectural design" than most government buildings.
Over 24 different user groups will occupy the space. Currently the floor plans are entirely open, but through the space planning process groups will determine head counts and special needs. The interior of the building will likely use a modular SmartWall system like that of the Pentagon, which allows for flexibility in arranging personnel.
Sholz indicated he expects that both Metro and Dash buses will adjust their routes to include a new stop, but a shuttle will run to at least one metro station, as well as to the Pentagon. While the details are still being hammered out, Sholz estimated that employee use of public transit could total $10 million per year in transit subsidies.