Building 125, one of Robins Air Force Base’s most historic buildings, is currently undergoing a complete facelift, courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District.
As one of the bases’ original structures, Building 125 was Robins’ first hangar, which was opened and dedicated in 1943. Since that time, the facility has been vital to the maintenance and repair of a variety of aircraft including one of the military’s largest cargo planes – the C-5 Galaxy.
“This project is important because of the C-5 mission, and because Robins works on multiple aircraft. To my knowledge it is the largest facility available in the Air Force with the ability to work on the C-5s,” said David Trescott, 78th Civil Engineer Group project engineer, Robins Air Force Base.
Trescott said the project will also support the increased workload at Robins, that earlier this year, made the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex the primary location for depot maintenance of C-130s throughout the Department of Defense.
Despite the facility’s age, it has stood the test of time.
“Structurally it is well built, but as with any building you have to do the maintenance and periodic major renovations,” said Richard Thomas, Corps Resident Engineer, Robins Air Force Base. “This is the first time we’ve done a full renovation on this facility since it was built.”
The project was awarded in December 2013 to New South Construction of Atlanta, Georgia. It includes the repair/replacement of the existing fire suppression system, installation of a new fire alarm, mass notification system, sprinklers, roof and internal gutter replacement. The total cost of the renovation will be nearly $75 million, not including interior renovations that will push the value over $100 million.
At 595,000 square feet, the facility is so large that it provides the capability to work simultaneously on four C-5 Galaxies.
“People underestimate the sheer scale of the facility. It is huge,” said Thomas. “Logistically we’ve never done anything this large.”
As one can imagine, there are challenges to renovating a building of this age and size.
One of the biggest challenges is continuing aircraft maintenance operations during construction.
Due to the size of the project and the importance of the C-5 mission, Thomas said that work is being completed in sections to ensure that portions the facility remain operational throughout construction.
“This is an occupied facility,” said Thomas. “As we complete each dock, they are moving back in because there is no other facility that can handle the planes they have. As we are working in dock three there are planes in docks one, two, and four. We have workers with ear plugs doing their normal day to day stuff and we are blasting right beside them.”
Also because of the age of the facility and its historical significance, approval was needed from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to renovate or remove certain historical preservation features, such as the skylights.
“Although they have never been used, we had to get a waiver to take the skylights out,” said Thomas.
Removing the skylights and removing paint (blasting) from the High Bay is a $7 million modification, which extended the project’s completion two years.
Throughout the years the facility has accumulated a lot of garbage, like abandoned pipes, heavy metal and conduit, which was left behind when new work had to be installed for new missions. This project has allowed us to clean a lot of that stuff out of there,” said Trescott, making building maintenance much easier in the future.
“We’ve had some challenges, we have been pretty successful in accomplishing what we need to through team work and a great relationship with the contractor and the base, “said Thomas.
Thomas said the contrast between the old and the new facility is like night and day.
“The older facility was like walking into a cave, with no insulation,” said Thomas. “In the winter it was cold and in the summer it was hot. Now when you walk in, there’s bright white walls, floors, and steel. Everything just pops.”
Additionally, translucent wall panels now replace the old rusted metal, allowing in more natural light which provides a better working environment.
“Once we got the first dock completed, people were like ‘I can’t wait to work in here’, because they could actually see what they were doing,” said Thomas.
To date, about 60 percent of the work has been completed, with the remainder of the project slated for completion in 2021.