Transatlantic Division assists USCENTCOM with updating design, construction standards

Published March 15, 2019

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division provides direct support to U.S. Central Command, functioning as the primary provider of engineering services to the combatant command and numerous U.S. and foreign customers throughout the more than 4 million-square-mile area of operations. Exemplifying the USACE vision to provide engineering solutions for the nation’s toughest challenges, the Transatlantic Division is helping USCENTCOM with a major rewrite of its Sand Book, a manual outlining construction guidelines, while concurrently updating the Contingency Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) design standards and processes.

“As an engineering organization, our mandate is to build safe facilities for our Soldiers, partners, and allies,” said Gregory Taylor, chief, Engineering and Technical Division. “In delivering safe facilities, we have to determine what building codes and whose rules we follow within this area of operations. U.S. codes and host nation building codes often conflict. We must also factor in where the construction will take place.”

It’s not a one-size-fits-all adaptation. Take, for instance, electrical code.

“When we are building a facility for use by a U.S. customer, there is a tendency to assume we should automatically apply the U.S. standard of 120 volts and 60 hertz,” Taylor said. “If the facility is being built in the Middle East, where most countries use 220 volts and 50 hertz, the facility should be built to that standard.

“An electrical system has to be compatible with the local system,” he continued. “When the United States is no longer using that facility and it is turned over to the host nation, it must be usable because retrofitting for the local standard is expensive and, in some cases, may cost as much as the original construction.”

Engineers must weigh many factors when considering a new or modified facility, according to Taylor. “What’s the capability of the local labor force? What materials are needed? What’s available locally? Who will use the facility? How long will the facility be used? If we are performing an engineering assessment on an existing facility and it’s not built to code, what mitigation actions can be taken?”

The engineering standards are rolled up into the USCENTCOM-published Sand Book and in the Contingency UFC in the Defense Department’s Criteria Management System. These documents capture engineering experiences from the past 30 years and are aimed at removing confusion in design and construction and promoting life, health and safety for the occupants. The Sand Book has had numerous updates since its original publication; the Contingency UFC documents are being updated as well.

The Sand Book mandates the USCENTCOM policy and standards for facility design, development, security, sustainment, survivability, and safety, according to Daniel J. Lyons, lead architect, Engineering and Technical Division.

“The Sand Book contains the engineering standards for planning and development of permanent and nonpermanent facilities,” Lyons said. “It defines what regulations and codes to apply for design and construction, allowing users to better understand planning, real estate acquisition, construction types, project durations, and general standards for each mission in the USCENTCOM area of operations.”

Lyons said that USCENTCOM component commands – USACE (representing the Army), the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Special Operations – all participated, providing almost 300 comments and recommendations to the Sand Book update team. “The entire document is being coordinated and rewritten to consolidate and reorganize the applicable requirements for design and construction and to designate the responsible authorities,” Lyons said.

Likewise, the Contingency UFCs are tri-service design and construction documents maintained by USACE, the Navy and the Air Force, with numerous joint working groups having with one or more technical experts from each participating organization developing the technical documents. Lyons is the technical lead for USACE.

The Department of Defense initiated the UFC program to unify all technical criteria and standards pertaining to planning, design, construction, and operations and maintenance of real property facilities. “The program streamlines the military criteria system by eliminating duplication of information, increasing reliance on private sector (worldwide) standards, and creating a more efficient criteria development and publishing process,” Lyons said.

The resulting UFC products are technical publications and guide specifications, Lyons said. “Contingency UFCs provide architects, engineers, planners, and construction surveillance personnel with the requirements for the life safety and habitability aspects for facilities construction for U.S. or host nation use associated with military operations,” Lyons said.

The Sand Book is expected to be published this spring and the Contingency UFC, later this year.

Taylor said that Lyons was selected to lead this effort for USACE because he is a code expert. “Architecture involves all disciplines,” Taylor said. “With his 27 years in private sector architectural and engineering firms and eight years with USACE, Dan knows how to apply building codes and meet them. He brings both private sector and government experience, serving a wide range of customers, to the table.  He’s the right person to lead this labor intensive job for us.”


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division serves as USACE’s tip of the spear in one of the most dynamic construction environments in the world, STRENGTHENING PARTNERSHIPS, BUILDING CAPACITY, and ENHANCING SECURITY for our nation, allies, and partners. 

We SAFELY deliver agile, responsive, and innovative, design, construction, engineering and contingency solutions in support of U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command and other global partners to advance national security interests.

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