As rice paddies turned into the largest overseas U.S. military installation, housing to support service members and their families popped up along the skyline. Since 2009, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) – Far East District (FED) has been overseeing construction of more than $500 million in projects for family housing at U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys.
“Working on the construction side to deliver family housing to our service members and their families has been a rewarding experience,” said Steve Fowler, contracting officer’s representative at FED. “It was gratifying to see firsthand how an area, which was previously rice fields, transformed into safe, comfortable, and modern U.S.-style apartment housing, complete with extra amenities including underground parking structures, playgrounds, recreational trails, and outdoor fitness equipment.”
Part of the $10.4 billion Yongsan Relocation Program (YRP) and Land Partnership Plan (LPP), these projects ensure that service members and their families have the conveniences of home while stationed overseas as the military works to relocate U.S. forces from numerous small Army garrisons to one consolidated location south of the Han River.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to provide a little sense of familiarity and home to our service members and their families while being stationed in Korea,” Yun Hak Yi, deputy resident engineer for Family Housing at FED.
Yi also served as a project engineer for two of the four projects, watching as the team constructed 12 towers on the installation. This created 858 units for service members and their families to live in. They range from three to five bedrooms to accommodate various family sizes coming to the installation.
So far, more than 8 million hours have been put into the effort to create housing towers at Camp Humphreys. Of all those hours worked, contractors have not reported a single safety incident.
“The perfect safety record on all these projects is a testament to everyone who has worked on these sites,” said Aaron Schuff, FED resident engineer for Army Family Housing.
To prepare the land for half of the towers, nearly 300,000 cubic meters of unsuitable soil were removed from the site, totaling approximately 20,000 dump trucks worth of material. In turn, contractors trucked in another 4-5,000 dump loads of satisfactory soil.
However, FED’s involvement did not start with the groundbreaking of the projects, but the district also designed the towers. Members of FED saw the projects through from initiation to the transference of the completed housing to the garrison. Then, they got to watch families move in to brand new facilities that were once just discussions in conference rooms.
“It was a great opportunity to work with some amazing project managers and designers to deliver these projects,” said Sunhee Lee, contracting officer’s representative at FED.
The new towers not only support families, but the environment too. So far, three of the towers achieved LEED Silver Certification through the U.S. Green Building Council by meeting various aspects of including optimized energy performance, enhanced building commissioning, and the use of low-emitting materials.
Creating the 12 towers uncovered lessons learned for the everyone involved on the projects.
“Turning over projects is challenging because it is exactly then that most of the previously unknown problems begin to appear,” Schuff said. “Unlike assembling a car, or something else with a manufacturing process tested and refined through repetition, construction produces a new product each time.”
At the third set of towers, units below a mechanical room encountered unexpected noise and vibration. The contractor partnered with the district to determine the issue, isolate the equipment, and resolve it.
“We incorporated this into the next project’s lessons learned before it was scheduled to install similar features of work to minimize the cost and time impact,” said Myles Esmele III, another contracting officer’s representative at FED. “And […] to prevent families moving into the new towers to have the same issues.”
FED plans to finish the remaining three towers by the end of 2023, marking the conclusion of more than 14 years of construction that supports service members and their families overseas.