Remaking the Navys Bootcamp

Mark L. Johnson

February 2005

The United States Navy is building new barracks at its only boot camp—Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill. Not only are the barracks unique in design, but they also are enormous in size. The base of each three-story building is 45,000 square feet, large enough to house the living quarters and training needs of 1,000 Navy recruits.

Who has the contract for the walls and ceilings on this project? Era Valdivia Contractors Inc., Chicago, is installing 700,000 lineal feet of suspended drywall ceilings and 1.5 million square feet of gypsum wallboard.

"There are seven barracks, and we have completed the fourth one,” said Bud Geers, project manager for Era Valdivia Contractors. "We started two barracks in June, and the seventh will begin in the first quarter of 2005.”

The barracks being erected at Recruit Training Command are part of the Navy’s new training-centric vision for basic training, which calls for centralizing facilities and reducing time-wasting steps. The new barracks combine living quarters with classrooms and galleys. Consequently, recruits will train, eat and sleep largely under one roof, rather than having to move between separate barracks, drill grounds and mess halls. The old arrangement saw recruit divisions marching away much precious time.

Thus, from both operations and facilities standpoints, the Navy’s Great Lakes barracks project is monumental. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi said the new facilities "will save money, improve training and efficiency and send a better sailor to the fleet.” Naval Training Center Rear Admiral Ann E. Rondeau called the project a "mammoth endeavor” that will enhance "the efficiency of the training our sailors receive.”

The new barracks and training facilities replace buildings constructed from the mid-1940s through the 1960s. They have a projected useful life of nearly 100 years.

Efficient Ceiling System Used

Like the Navy, Era Valdivia Contractors, a walls-and-ceilings and industrial painting firm, also is focused on efficiency. That’s why they used the USG Drywall Suspension System. Being pre-engineered, the system dramatically reduces the time spent measuring, bending, cutting and connecting components. Main tees snap together, and cross tees fit into the main tees’ pre-notched slots, eliminating the need to tie hat channel and black iron together. Furthermore, the system utilizes 12-gauge hanger wire rather than 9-gauge wire, which speeds up installation.

"It’s better than the old system—a lot faster than channel and black iron,” said Rafael Hernandez, job foreman for Era Valdivia Contractors. "We have been able to complete our work in less time.”

How much faster is it? Hernandez assigned four to six installers to each work 42 separate 350- by 60-foot flat suspension ceilings. Two ceilings exist per floor on each of three floors of the barracks. Geers said the crews hung each 350- by 60-foot ceiling in three days.

Impressive Results

"You can’t beat this system,” said Hernandez. "Everything is coming out perfect … and we haven’t had any callbacks.”

Clearly, today’s innovative ceiling products set apart the quality walls-and-ceilings contractor from the average firm. Achieving perfectly flat ceilings the old-fashioned way is time-consuming and expensive—and now completely unnecessary. Pre-engineered drywall suspension systems enable contractors to achieve dramatic ceilings—both curved and flat runs—in significantly less time.

For Era Valdivia Contractors, using a drywall suspension system has proved to be a good business choice, bringing profit to the bottom line, along with a quality solution.

"This is a great project,” Geers said. "The Navy is happy with the look. The general contractor is happy with the quality. We’re happy to be involved with such an important project.”

About the Author
Mark Johnson is a free-lance writer based in Shenandoah, Iowa. He writes frequently about ceilings installations.