Kansas City District continues legacy of dedicated work on the Lewis and Clark Center at Fort Leavenworth

Published Sept. 27, 2023
A building is seen at dusk with an American flag and a grey sky in the background.

The Lewis and Clark Center from the front of the building at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Mechanical equipment is seen with a ladder to the right.

New boilers are installed for the Eisenhower and Marshall Auditoriums in the Lewis and Clark Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Photo by Abigail Voegeli.

The Lewis and Clark Center at Fort Leavenworth is a state-of-the-art building, boasting three floors full of custom stained-glass windows and military artifacts from many different countries and centuries. The building houses the Command and General Staff College, a joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational college and the U.S. military’s premier school of tactics. It is also one of the Kansas City District’s many projects at Fort Leavenworth from over the years. 

The district has a long and proud history of partnership with Fort Leavenworth. The Lewis and Clark Center is one of the largest projects the district has done for the installation. Completed in 2007, the building has since required repairs on the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. Now, the Kansas City District is continuing its commitment to this building and taking the lead on the repairs.

“Essentially, the problem with [the building] is that it has heating and cooling problems,” said Dustin Anaya, a quality assurance representative for the Kansas City District. “The HVAC system couldn’t keep up with the supply and demand for the building … there are also humidity and dehumidification problems.”

This may seem like a simple project, but it is incredibly important because of the purpose of the building. Not only is this the U.S. military’s premier school of tactics, but it houses a significant presence of international students from partner nations as well.

“All the warfighters, any of the NATO powers, anyone who has a military that serves with the U.S. military [sends] their people here,” said Mark Martinez, an office engineer for the Kansas City District at the Fort Leavenworth resident office, a veteran and former military graduate of the Command and General Staff College.

Having worked with the construction of the original building, the Kansas City District understands the importance of the college. According to Martinez, there was plenty of enthusiasm among the students when the design for the school began. 

“Not only was [the U.S. Army] getting a new building here, but it was going to be state-of-the-art,” he said. “They built the classroom of the future, and USACE designed it.”

One benefit to having designed the Lewis and Clark Center is a thorough understanding of the layout of the building, which impacts the design of the HVAC system. The Lewis and Clark Center itself is a challenge for an HVAC system—it is a large building with several large auditoriums, which strains the heating and cooling systems.

“If you look at the lay of the land, how do you zone a building like this to be efficient? You have huge open areas and auditoriums; how do you get the humidity out of that much air?” said Martinez.

To face this challenge, the project team is removing the existing HVAC equipment from the building and replacing it with boilers and chillers, a more traditional form of heating and cooling. They also changed the design and the size of the heating and cooling units and the orientation of some of the equipment.

This means this project is more than just a standard repair — it is a complete change of the way the system works. The return to a more standard operating system for the HVAC will increase the use of outside air in the building, ensuring a healthy environment in the facility, according to Mark Little, a mechanical engineer with the Kansas City District.

“The new system is sized properly to keep the spaces at the right temperature, control the humidity in the building and provide fresh air for occupant comfort and safety,” said Little.

Addressing the efficiency of the HVAC system is challenging enough, but add the fact that the building is occupied and in use, and the project becomes even more challenging. Construction on an active building is difficult, and the importance of the work the students are doing in the Lewis and Clark Center means that classes inside cannot be paused.

“Because this is an active building, we consistently have to negotiate with the college to say ‘hey, we’re going to work here or there,’ so we’re not completely shutting them down,” said Anaya. “If [something comes up] while we’re working, we’ve got to adjust and make it happen and maintain that same schedule.”

The project team cannot allow their work to block hallways, student traffic or exit routes for fire safety. The team is also conscious of the fact that if they shut down an area of the school to work there, they are cutting off the heating or cooling in that area. Although the unique situation at this construction site makes the work challenging at times, Anaya says the most crucial part of the project is the value of what is done in the building. 

“That’s the importance of this project … what they do here, who comes here, how they do it,” said Anaya. “That helps bring to light what we’re doing in trying to make this a more comfortable place for our soldiers to learn and be effective.”