Established in 1849, Fort Bliss was relocated five times and deserted twice as military surplus before finding a permanent home in El Paso, Texas in 1893. Today, the installation occupies approximately 1.12 million acres of the Chihuahuan Desert in Texas and New Mexico – more land than the state of Rhode Island – and is the second largest Army installation after the White Sands Missile Range.
Dumor Site Furnishings provided bike racks, BBQ grills, benches and game tables in the central courtyards. Some game tables feature inset checkerboards for
The Department of Defense (DoD) decided in 2005 to redefine the base as a heavy armor training post, a sweeping transformation that included expansion to accommodate the return of the U.S. First Armored Division, stationed in Germany since the end of World War II. The DoD, with the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Fort Worth District, faced the daunting task of preparing a 160-year-old military installation for a twofold increase in soldiers and families (from 49,000 to 106,000) within a seven-year window.
Between 2006 and 2011, Fort Bliss received over $3.4 billion in new facilities and projects, including more than $100 million in landscape construction. An Urban Design Master Plan Document was created to unify the personality of the installation and establish the site’s urban design features. LEED sustainability principles were also included, to establish Fort Bliss as a model of best practices and lessons learned for future base redevelopment throughout the Army.
Hike and bike trails, shaded by architectural canopies, connect several groupings of barracks to provide comfortable, alternative transportation opportunities and tie the buildings together visually.
LEED Silver requirements were incorporated as a baseline by the USACE after the expansion began, requiring some project designs to be reconfigured in sustainable sectors like water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation. The Land Development Engineer overseeing the project created a sustainability validation team to hold design/build contractors and subcontractor organizations accountable for executing LEED criteria, documenting and accumulating LEED points, and coordinating the final LEED submission.
On Your Feet, Soldier
From the beginning, the USACE and Directorate of Public Works planned to include pedestrian trails and walkways for a friendly, walkable environment. The master plan dictated that troops would not have to walk more than one-quarter-mile from the barracks to their work places.
EED credits were documented with a new “mini-campus” approach, which maximized credits for the buildings in each section and minimized the need for duplicate reviews. For example, stormwater quality was improved by diverting drainage from each mini-campus into a regional stormwater retention pond.
The walking plan eventually led to approximately 17,000 linear feet of concrete pedestrian hike and bike trails, and an additional 10,000 linear feet of Physical Training (PT) trails. Due to the desert heat, trail and walkway designs also included canopies and sunshades to improve the sustainability, effectiveness and overall appearance of the walkways. A PT trail paved with compacted native gravels, with regular water and rest stations, completes the pedestrian circulation system. Site lighting, pedestrian lighting, accent lighting and native landscaping enhanced the trails.
The barracks are the residential center of the installation, and include central courtyards with amenities for active and passive recreation. Basketball courts, quiet areas and game tables under trellis shade structures, BBQ grills, planter seat walls, innovative landscapes and site lighting can all be found in the midst of the living space. Dumor provided the grills and game tables, as well as benches and bike racks, to furnish the courtyards.
The courtyards were designed for users to gather for work, recreation, social events and ceremonies. Desert plant materials, native aggregates, and crushed and decomposed stone were used extensively to reduce irrigation needs and lower maintenance requirements. The development uses native plants to accentuate facades, enhance open spaces and punctuate vertical character.
Traffic corridors were also added according to significance and use. Landscape development along the corridors used informal clusterings of desert, drought-resistant trees like the Palo Verde, Mesquite and Honey Locust. Groupings of native shrubs and flowering perennials were used for groundcover and further reduced irrigation needs.