Ross Group is proud to have the Department of Defense (DoD) as one of our leading clients. We have built dozens of facilities for the DoD at military installations across the country, ranging from historic renovations and barracks to advanced training academies, aircraft hangars, and even childcare centers. One of the requirements common to all of these projects is something unique to DoD work – a collection of standards dubbed Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection (AT/FP). To learn a little bit more about these distinctive criteria, we spoke with two of Ross Group’s finest: Estimating Manager Scott Skidmore and Estimator Vince Adamek.
First – the obvious question. What is AT/FP?
The term AT/FP is used to describe a set of building requirements developed by the DoD to unify the technical standards for planning, designing, constructing, operating, and maintaining DoD facilities. In the 1990s and early 2000s, a series of bombings both at home and internationally revealed a gap in the military’s armor. In particular, the tragic bombing of the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia spurred the DoD to act. Despite the quick response of troops and security police, this terrorist attack killed 19 service members, injured hundreds more – including civilians – and damaged or destroyed a significant amount of property. This was the second bombing killing American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia in less than a year.
The DoD charged officials to conduct a comprehensive vulnerability assessment in the aftermath, which found – alarmingly – that there were no overarching standards for force protection in fixed DoD facilities. Hastening to correct the issue, the DoD developed and published a series of Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) that unites and streamlines requirements for facilities owned by the DoD.
“UFC 4-010-01, Minimum Antiterrorism Standards for Buildings, is the benchmark that establishes minimum criteria for virtually every DoD facility,” Scott said. “The general idea is that protective measures can be provided for all DoD personnel at a reasonable cost, even if it’s too expensive to provide comprehensive protection for every single occupied facility. Before I started at Ross Group, I didn’t have Federal Government experience, so AT/FP was a whole new ball game for me.”
What are some of the most common AT/FP measures?
AT/FP standards are intended to provide protection against a wide range of threats, thus reducing the number of injuries and fatalities in a catastrophe. The main strategies try to prevent building collapse, minimize hazardous flying debris, offer an effective facility layout for easy exits, limit airborne contamination, and provide mass notification to deliver timely warnings to building occupants.
According to Vince, this translates to a variety of common practices in construction, such as minimum standoff distances, progressive collapse mitigation, and vertical and horizontal reinforcement of exterior masonry walls (commonly referred to as “building hardening”). The term “standoff distance” means there must be a specific amount of unobstructed space around a building, minimizing the places where someone could conceal a bomb. Progressive collapse mitigation is so complex the DoD devoted an entire UFC to the concept.
“Progressive collapse mitigation is so complex the DoD devoted an entire UFC to the concept,” Scott said. “It generally involves reinforcing certain portions of a multi-story building so localized damage to one area won’t cause the whole building to collapse in on itself,” Scott said. “Think about how the towers collapsed on 9/11, with each floor coming down on the one below it. Progressive collapse mitigation measures try to prevent that in other buildings, hopefully offering spots where people can hole up until help arrives.”
That’s a lot to consider! How difficult is it to implement these measures?
Per Vince, it really depends on the project and the delivery method. Design-bid-build projects are fairly straightforward, but design-build projects add a layer of complexity. Similarly, new construction projects are less convoluted than renovations – particularly historic renovations. "For new construction projects when the construction plans and specifications have already been approved, we just follow the documents. However, for design-build projects, Ross Group works closely with the Designer of Record to ensure the design follows UFC 4-010-01, then follows through on construction to make sure the facility is as safe as possible," said Vince. Window openings illustrate the contrast well. AT/FP measures typically limit the number of windows in a building and require structural reinforcement and special glazing to minimize the amount of flying glass in the event of an attack.
“What makes renovation projects more challenging is that you never know how much of the existing structure you’ll have to replace to bring the facility into compliance with the UFC,” Vince added. “For example, we’ve taken apart the entire façade of facilities to structurally reinforce the window openings from the floor to the ceiling, then replaced the windows with special laminated glass that doesn’t shatter easily.”
What’s more, new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment is more difficult to install in renovation projects because the facility may have been built before the current technology was available. AT/FP measures require even more attention to detail in this area, because air intakes have to be far enough off the ground that they’re not easily accessible, and new HVAC equipment must have an emergency shutoff switch to stop air circulation in case an assailant uses an airborne agent in an attack.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Scott said. “You also have to consider the possibility of redoing the driveway and parking lot depending on the required standoff distance, reworking the roof or underbuilding access, and installing a mass notification system.”
Wow, that sounds complicated. Have the standards become more complex over the years?
“Actually, the opposite is true,” Vince mentioned. “In 2018, the DoD eased some of the requirements for facilities on military bases. They realized that buildings located in a secured perimeter already had a high level of protection and modified UFC 4-010-01 accordingly. This changed the requirements significantly, but the underlying intent of the standard still holds – providing cost-effective protections against a wide range of threats to reduce fatalities, injuries, and collateral damage from a terrorist attack.”
Based on our conversation with Vince and Scott, the introduction above barely scratched the surface of AT/FP. Stay tuned for future blogs exploring some of these topics in more detail.
In the meantime, check out https://www.wbdg.org/ffc/dod/unified-facilities-criteria-ufc/ufc-4-010-01 for more information on AT/FP.