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Largest Child Development Center in the Army Completed at Fort Wainwright

Mar 4, 2024 | Construction, Government, News

Seen from the building’s exterior, the newly constructed child development center at Fort Wainwright can accommodate up to 338 children ranging from 6 weeks to 5 years old.

Katy Doetsch | US Army Corps of Engineers–Alaska District

The US Army Corps of Engineers–Alaska District is wrapping up final details on a state-of-the-art child development center that will accommodate up to 338 children under 5 years old. The 43,000-square-foot construction is the largest such center in the Army.

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The facility’s record-setting size can be attributed to the 4,000-square-foot multipurpose gymnasium added to the standard design of child development centers across the Army. This versatile room is a centerpiece of the construction.

“This space is incredibly important to the building,” says Jessica Spittle, child and youth services coordinator at Fort Wainwright. “It will serve as a play area for children during cold weather or wildfire events and an emergency evacuation area, among other uses.”

The new child development center has radiant floor heating in all occupied areas. Children and employees will also enjoy the building’s arctic entries, which separate the building’s entrances from the harsh winter elements outside.

Harsh weather in summer and winter is all part of living in Interior Alaska. When creating an accommodating and efficient structure in this state, the climate is an integral element of the design and build phases for all projects.

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“We have experienced minus 50-degree temperatures on multiple occasions in the past few weeks,” Spittle says. “When severe weather comes our way, these features will ensure comfort and safety at our new facility.”

The building’s inviting color palette also involves unique design considerations that enhance its function and appearance.

The new center includes radiant floor heating and a bright color palette to improve the wellbeing of employees and children during the harsh Interior winters.

Katy Doetsch | US Army Corps of Engineers–Alaska District

“A brighter color scheme will be a positive feature during the darkest winter days,” Spittle says. “It’s a very modern look, and it works especially well with the wood on the ceilings and the herringbone-patterned floor to create an Alaskan feel.”

Katy Doetsch, project engineer in the Denali Area Office and member of the project development team for the new center, understands the pressing need to include these features in addition to the building’s standard design.

“There is currently no standard for arctic entries in the Army’s standard design for this facility, so there were unique challenges in designing and constructing those elements,” she says. “We modified the entries to include even more windows to provide additional safety for children.”

For Doetsch, the newly constructed facility also carries significant personal value. As a parent of a young child, she has felt the burden of the region’s childcare shortage and the difficulties which stem from the issue.

“I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for this project with my 8-month-old daughter in my arms because I could not find childcare,” she says. “There is a pressing need for increased childcare options in the Fairbanks area, and this facility will certainly help to ease that burden on the community.”

The child development center at Fort Wainwright is closely aligned with larger goals around USACE. Quality-of-life improvements for servicemembers and their families continue to be a priority around the Army, and USACE stands as an important agent in achieving that goal.

The 4,000-square-foot multipurpose gymnasium at Fort Wainwright’s new child development center serves as an assembly venue, emergency meeting point, harsh weather play area, and much more. This nonstandard feature makes this the largest child development center at any US Army facility.

Katy Doetsch | US Army Corps of Engineers–Alaska District

Aging infrastructure at the installation makes this objective more important than ever. The two existing childcare facilities at Fort Wainwright require significant renovations, and a modern construction will allow the installation to implement much-needed improvements at the older buildings.

“Fort Wainwright’s existing child development centers are aging rapidly and require significant upgrades due to their age and the impact of weather,” Spittle says. “The new center enables us to focus on providing high-quality childcare instead of repairing chipped paint and leaking windows.”

As the home of around 6,200 soldiers, Fort Wainwright is the Army’s largest installation in Alaska in both acreage and number of military personnel. Due to its unique location and climate, Fort Wainwright plays a key role in specialized subarctic training and research. The base also serves as an important force projection platform from which Army forces can rapidly deploy within the Pacific region and beyond.

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