Army Corps of Engineers to Ramp Up Facility Remodeling for Pandemic Response

Published: March 25, 2020

Federal Market AnalysisUSACEBudgetCoronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

The USACE works with FEMA to remodel facilities.

Key Takeaways

  • The Army Corps of Engineers is working with states across the country to identify facilities good for remodeling into health care units.
  • FEMA controls funding for this effort. The USACE is working under FEMA direction.
  • A total of $1M for assessment and initial conversion work has been budgeted so far. Officials anticipate this number will grow.
  • Contracted support will be essential to meeting an aggressive timeline for remodeling facilities prior to an anticipated exponential rise in the number of cases.
  • Contract requirements will include medical supplies, furniture, computer equipment, medical equipment, light construction work, and miscellaneous industrial items like exhaust fans, and plastic door covers, etc.

Readers may have heard of the announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Friday, March 20, 2020 that the Corps plans to work with states on remodeling facilities like hotels and college dormitories to accommodate an anticipated flood of COVID-19 patients. In remarks made by Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, the commanding officer of the USACE stated that work on this critical initiative will be undertaken by the Corps of Engineers under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Semonite described the Corps’ approach as follows:

One Design: USACE personnel are taking a design approach that they want to replicate across the nation. Think one design, many uses. General Semonite commented that he and the Corps understand this may not work in some locations based on the availability of facilities.

Hotels and College Dormitories Get Priority: General Semonite made clear that while the Corps can and will prepare large facilities like convention centers for COVID-19 patients, the preferred approach is to remodel hotels and college dormitories. These facilities offer small, enclosed units in which air pressure can be regulated, which is why they are being targeted. The Corps is currently looking at converting 10,000 rooms, but it anticipates this number will grow.

Get States Involved: Corps leaders want states to get involved by designating facilities in advance that  can be remodeled. Corps personnel will help states if the support is requested, but due to the magnitude of the challenge General Semonite requested that states do the initial leg work and bring in the Corps afterward.

Basic Requirements: Outfitted facilities will require plastic door covers with zippers to seal off rooms containing COVID-19 patients, as well as ventilation fans that can be fitted to exhaust fans in bathrooms in order to create negative air pressure of minus 2 psi in patient rooms. Nursing stations will be built in corridors, requiring furniture, medical equipment, and computer equipment.

Funding and Contractor Support: FEMA initially funded Corps efforts with $1M to carry out remodeling projects in New York and a handful of other locations. General Semonite made it clear, however, that funding is not an object, suggesting that as the program grows with the crisis more funding will be coming from FEMA. The U.S. Army is not funding this initiative. The Corps expects to continue issuing support contracts for remodeling efforts. Industry partners should be prepared to respond rapidly to Corps requirements.

Timeline: Corps personnel are working with states to determine the best available data showing when COVID-19 cases are intended to rise exponentially in affected areas. General Semonite commented that to the best of his knowledge the outfitting and conversion of new facilities will need to be done in weeks, not months, making this a very aggressive initiative.