The Austin Company Creates Northrop Grumman Center of Excellence
Aiming to improve its strategic alignment with customers’ need for increasingly innovative and affordable products and services, Northrop Grumman in Falls Church, Virginia, has created five Centers of Excellence nationally, including two in Florida. The Austin Company in Atlanta, Georgia, recently completed two projects at the Melbourne center and is nearing completion on a new production home for the U.S. Navy’s E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Aircraft at the St. Augustine Center of Excellence – Building 100.
“The new facility is a ‘hybrid’ between an aircraft hangar and manufacturing building,” says Ken Stone, Vice President and Project Executive of Austin. It was designed with flexibility to accommodate for future uses if Northrop Grumman’s needs change over the building’s anticipated 50-plus year life.
The Navy uses the Hawkeye as an all-weather, carrier-capable, tactical airborne early warning aircraft. In 2014, Northrop Grumman received a contract to deliver 25 new planes to the Navy.
Austin provided planning, architectural design, engineering and construction services for the new production center. The company completed the first and largest phase of the project in May 2015, two months ahead of the original 18-month schedule.
The structural-steel frame building features high bay; office and support space; a large auditorium and cafeteria; and an initial-phase mechanical and electrical support space, all air-conditioned with a high-efficiency, chilled water system.
The center is located immediately adjacent to the Northeast Florida Regional Airport and U.S. 1. After operations moved into the new building, Austin began construction on an additional support shop attached to the main building, with a scheduled completion date of mid-2016.
Austin also designed and constructed two new buildings in Melbourne, Florida, one of which accommodates engineering and labs to support the Hawkeye aircraft. It completed a three-story, structural-steel frame structure in June 2014, just 10 months from ground-breaking and 13 months after beginning conceptual design.
Constructing the Facility
At St. Augustine, existing operations required relocation to temporary facilities while Austin demolished the old assembly building. At the foundation level, the new building is supported on reinforced concrete spread footings, which in turn are underlain by vibro-replacement stone columns. The stone columns are in excess of 20 feet in length and allow for the large building column loads to be transferred to competent soil at deeper strata.
Designers selected steel due to the requirement for clear spans and the speed at which it could be fabricated and erected.
“We created a large open space to manufacture the aircraft thorough its various assembly stations,” Stone says. “We also purposely designed the clear spans to accommodate manufacturing of different aircraft in the building’s future, if needed.”
The project site is subject to potentially strong hurricane winds; therefore, the design of the building incorporates the latest wind analysis methodologies. The building envelope, which consists of insulated metal panels, metal roof deck and wall girts, among other components, is the skin of the structure, and transfers hurricane wind loads to the robust steel truss moment frames. All elements of the building load path were designed for an ultimate wind speed of 130 mph.
Large lateral telescoping “hangar” doors on the east face of the building create a clear opening for aircraft movement and can withstand hurricane wind loading while in the closed position. The design of typical large doors relies on an exterior soffit that cantilevers from the structure. Given the potential for extreme wind uplift loads, however, the doors for the project necessitated a door soffit that was integral with the interior steel frame.
To accommodate a truly clear space for aircraft assembly operations, the large HVAC units and associated ductwork, along with equipment platforms, utilities and maintenance catwalks, were situated in the high interstitial space of the deep roof trusses.
Northrop Grumman has set a corporate goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent, which it succeeded in doing two years ahead of schedule. This new building will help to lower emissions even further.
Austin designed Building 100 to meet LEED Gold standards. Features include insulation beyond code requirements; the high-efficiency, chilled water HVAC system; a high-albedo roof; natural lighting; LED lighting; water conserving fixtures; bike racks; showers and changing rooms; and electric vehicle charging stations.
Architects sited the building to protect adjacent wetlands and trees. A retention pond captures rainwater for later use as landscape irrigation. Native plants, requiring minimal watering, decorate the grounds. Concrete parking lots reflect the light. Rooftop photovoltaic thin film solar panels produce approximately 560 kWDC/504 kWAC of power.
Austin recycled 90 percent of the construction waste and sourced new materials from within 500 miles, when possible. Austin’s design team used low-emitting materials for finishes, floors and adhesives.
Nearly all of the subcontractors came from the Southeast, most from Florida.
“It’s important to Northrop Grumman to support the local business community,” Stone says.