The Restored Garden Pools Will Illuminate the Heart of the Academy for Decades to Come
February 28, 2022 – Colorado Springs, CO — Encore Electric recently completed the widely anticipated Air Garden Restoration project at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Located in the center of campus, the Air Gardens serve as a peaceful escape amidst a buzzing campus for both cadets and world leaders alike.
A group of US Air Force Academy alumni privately funded the restoration as the classes’ gift to the institution. Inspiration for the restoration stemmed from the original architecture of the garden pools designed in the ‘60s.
Members of the Encore Electric team met with alumni and Academy officials throughout the project to plan and execute the desired design. Standards were high from the start and the Encore Electric team was up for the challenge.
“The brainpower that went into this project to make everything work was amazing,” said Tyler Mitchell, preconstruction manager. “We had a great team of high-caliber players who understood the Academy’s vision and made it happen. I think this team worked up about 10 different concepts and renderings of how this would all layout and look before we were all satisfied with the results and built it.”
Restoration work began by digging down to uncover the original pool structures which had been buried in the 1970s. Once uncovered, the teams got to work installing new underground electrical wiring, plumbing, and concrete.
Encore Electric installed custom LED lighting in the pools that will illuminate the garden year-round. In addition to the new lighting, Encore Electric Technology Solutions installed new wireless internet routers throughout the Air Garden for cadets to access online learning materials in the garden and their new outdoor classrooms.
“It was a relatively simple fiber optic installation at first,” said Mark Jackson, technology services systems specialist II. “When we got started, we realized we had to go underground through three manholes that were built in the 1950s. The conduits between the vaults were full of sludge which prevented an easy cable pull. We ended up having to clear the pipes and use special pulling techniques in order to get the fiber pull through a quarter of a mile of underground conduit through the vaults. We used a cable tugging machine and five technicians at each pull point to get the fiber in. At that point, the terminations and installations of the bollards was relatively simple.”
Working on the USAFA campus made the project unique in the fact that the team was working among the cadets and other Academy personnel, allowing the customer to watch the project as it was built.
“It was an honor to be there working so closely to the cadets and generals,” said Andy Sizemore, senior project manager and an Air Force Veteran himself.
“Being able to see their excitement build as the project progressed was pretty cool,” said Stuart Johnson, project foreman.
Located in the center of campus, the gardens are in a high-traffic, logistically challenging area to access, presenting difficulties moving around the project and bringing in materials without disrupting the flow of the campus.
Encore Electric collaborated with general contractor partner GE Johnson, USAFA officials, and other partners closely throughout the project to overcome these hurdles. This collaborative approach helped everyone to navigate through the project and overcome its challenges successfully.
To overcome to the challenges that project location and COVID-19 presented, Encore Electric relied on a small team of only three electricians throughout the project. While working with a smaller team extended the timeline of the electrical work done on restoration, it allowed the field team to navigate the project site more easily, as well as to continue to work under COVID-19 guidelines.
There was a great deal of pride within Encore Electric on this project. As the centerpiece of the Academy, the gardens will serve as a monument to unite past and future classes of cadets.
“This was a fun one,” Sizemore said. “There is another level of pride in doing this type of work. Knowing that this is something that current, future cadets and world leaders will use makes me proud to have been part of such a project.”