By Capt. Michael N. Meyer
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - One of the world’s premier language training schools belongs to the Department of Defense: the Defense Language Institute’s Foreign Language Center at the Presidio of Monterey. But as the military’s need for highly trained linguists increased in recent years, the center quickly outgrew its existing space, calling for new and modern facilities.
The approximately $177 million upgrade plan includes the building of three new school buildings, a new dining facility and student barracks; renovating the cultural center for the institute; and a series of solar energy projects to help the Presidio in its goal to sustainably produce all of its own energy by 2030. Construction of all of these projects is being managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District.
“In 2003 the Department of Defense said that they needed higher foreign language proficiency from our students,” said Steven Collins, DLIFLC chief of staff. “One way to achieve this was to increase the teacher to student ratio by making the class sizes smaller, which we did. In addition to that, the number of students attending DLI increased by 20 percent. We went from 323 classrooms in 2004 to more than 800 classrooms that we have today.”
Until new facilities to accommodate the growth could be completed, DLIFLC leased space off the installation. Keeping all students on the Presidio is expected to save $1.5 million a year, Collins said.
The Corps is currently working to finish the last of three new school buildings for DLIFLC. Together, the new facilities add 205 modern classrooms and increases capacity by 25 percent. The final building is scheduled for completion in August 2014.
The school buildings will leverage the latest energy and water conservation technologies to operate efficiently and sustainably. A courtyard in the center of the building illuminates all interior-facing rooms with sunlight, saving electricity. The courtyard also features skylights that provide natural lighting to the assembly hall below. All rainwater that lands on the facility is collected in large underground cisterns and will provide non-potable water for toilet flushing and irrigation needs.
“There are a lot of things driving energy and water conservation on Presidio,” said Jay Tulley, energy manager for the Presidio’s Directorate of Public Works. “On a local level, there is a pressing need for water conservation for cost savings and because freshwater is a precious resource in the region.There are also federal requirements enacted over the past several years to reduce water consumption by 26 percent on military installations by the year 2020.”
Most recently, on March 17, the Corps broke ground on a new 26,000-square-foot dining facility designed to feed up to 1,300 people in 90 minutes, three times a day. The dining facility, like all the new facilities on Presidio, will have water reclamation cisterns and energy efficiency features.
The interior of the cultural center at Presidio of Monterey is undergoing renovation to serve as a conference center and cultural culinary center for the students. Every class will learn to prepare meals associated with the language and culture they are studying. Students will also use the ballroom to perform ethnic dances to encourage cultural understanding of the rich variety of ethnic folk traditions and customs found around the world.
“This was a 1904 building that needed to be preserved as well as renovated,” said Debbie Owen, the Sacramento District's interior designer for the project. “A lot of what we needed to change was related to a need to accommodate new technology so we updated the electrical wiring, and we remodeled the kitchen for new kitchen appliances. We also installed a new roof, interior finishes, and a new acoustical ceiling to provide better sound absorption in the ballroom,” said Owen.
Existing facilities are also getting sustainable energy upgrades. In 2012, the Corps installed solar panels on the roof of the Presidio’s fitness center.
“The $1.7 million grid-tied system sends excess energy back to the grid and can draw power even during cloudy or winter months,” said Tulley. “The fitness center is the first facility at the Presidio to have a solar photovoltaic system , generating 600 megawatt-hours of electricity per year and reducing energy costs by nearly $70,000 annually. The Presidio has a goal to acheive net zero energy by 2030, which means that the entire installation will produce as much energy over the course of a year that it consumes,” said Tulley.
Later this year, the Corps is set to begin construction on a new barracks building, and complete renovation of another antiquated barracks. Both buildings will have state-of-the-art energy systems that will dramatically reduce energy use and are schedule to be completed in 2016.
Scheduled for completion in 2015 are two additional sustainability upgrades. A planned 1-megawatt solar array will provide shade for Presidio vehicles and reduce energy costs for the installation by approximately $200,000 annually. The Corps will also replace over five acres of turf with drought resistant landscaping, and construct a passive irrigation system to serve an athletic field.