Award Winner - May 2009
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A Northern Light

Eielson Air Force Base Fitness Center
Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

USKH Inc. in Anchorage, Alaska

Size: 79,000 square feet

Project Cost: $14.1 million

Quick Tour:

  • Running track
  • Indoor football/soccer field
  • Health and wellness center
  • Teaching kitchen
  • Classrooms
  • Administrative offices
  • Storage
  • New connection ramp

About 25 miles southeast of Fairbanks in the rugged Alaskan interior, Eielson Air Force Base is home to several thousand personnel, whose duties require physical fitness as part of the job. But until July 2008, they were lacking space. Often 200 to 300 people would squeeze onto an existing basketball court for calisthenics. So because of the unique location and climate of the base—where winter is a seven-month season featuring long hours of darkness and temperatures of -40 degrees Fahrenheit—the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allowed funding for a 79,000-square-foot design/build remodel and addition to the existing facility.

The objective was to increase the size and usable space of the fitness center, and the end result includes a health and wellness center, an artificial turf exercise field, offices, a weight room and an elevated 1/8-mile running track. In addition to room for more cardio and strength training machines to help personnel maintain their fitness, the new addition includes space for health and wellness, where personnel can take part in healthy cooking or smoking cessation classes, get a massage for a small fee or take part in a rehabilitation program.

The fast-track project maximized usable space with a plan and layout that allowed the team to trim square footage without sacrificing building performance. In addition to cost-effective design and construction, the team paid close attention to the long-term cost of running the facility. In the Alaskan interior with its extreme temperatures, it can be costly to heat high-volume buildings. To solve this problem, high ceilings appear only where necessary. In the weight room, wellness center, entry and storage areas, low ceilings allow for heat conservation. Other energy-saving features were employed throughout the facility as well.

The elevated track is the most prominent architectural feature of the building, flowing in and out of the main form to create a distinct identity. The super-insulated translucent panels provide diffused daylight to the track and indoor field below, and clear glazing occasionally provides a view to the outside. During the dark Alaskan winter, light shines through the panels, creating an inviting beacon to lure personnel inside for a workout. The track's structure includes curved steel beams spanning approximately 60 feet. The structural loads are then transferred back to the main building columns at the exterior, allowing the field below the track to remain column-free.

Impressive for its geographical location, where cold temperatures and long nights naturally lead to higher energy costs, the facility was designed to meet LEED Silver guidelines, incorporating energy-efficient daylighting and controls along with the translucent panels. Efficient fluorescent lighting above the track and connector link are controlled by daylight sensors. Variable frequency drives on pumps and fans, as well as other creative mechanical solutions like a heat-recovery system, help keep the cost of heating the facility down. And the steel frame and siding of the building are completely recyclable and produced with recycled content.

Ultimately, it was a cooperative team working closely together that allowed this sustainable and attractive facility to come together quickly, improving quality of life for the Eielson AFB community.


W H A T   T H E   J U D G E S   S A I D

Use of natural light and views for the track users will appeal to most users on the installation. The track's exterior banding unifies the design concept.

Michael Pratl

The track flowing in and out of the building is a nice feature.

Colleen McKenna

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

General Contractor:

Alcan General Inc.

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