Sue Ousterhout

Article Written By: Sue Ousterhout, AIA
JRC- Strategic Defense & International Operations Division

Now is an exciting time for DoD Facilities and there is a serious need for expertise in building repair, renovation and new construction. 

Due to the abundance of DoD structures built in the 1900s requiring repair or nearing end of life, commands are faced with an immediate need to renovate or replace these facilities. In addition, many functioning facilities require upgrades to keep pace with technological advances and evolving mission scope.  In response to these issues and rising construction costs, the government recently raised dollar thresholds for Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation (RDT&E) and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) facility projects. This allows funding to programs for much larger projects without the lengthy major military construction (MILCON) appropriation process.

Also, due to the same new technologies and evolving threats, major MILCON projects are becoming significantly larger and more complex. Projects with multiple phases and multiple construction packages with unprecedented systems performance are funded in the hundreds of millions of dollars and take years to complete. Not surprisingly, MILCON is under the watchful eye of law makers in Washington. Recent congressional initiatives require agencies to include energy efficiency, sustainability and climate change analysis in their proposals. And with the growth of funding and project complexity comes magnified scrutiny of costs and schedule.

Whether the need is for repair, renovations or major MILCON, facility engineers (mechanical, civil, electrical), architects, planners, interior designers and facilities analysts are in high demand for DoD facility support, from project initiation through construction. Following construction, these professionals are needed for real property accountability, building maintenance and facility sustainment roles.

In all phases of the life-cycle facility experts balance complex issues and competing priorities. Constant information gathering and analysis is required to make timely recommendations to the integrated team. Although each one presents unique challenges all projects follow a similar linear development, and it is those standard processes that often need improvement. JRC’s facility teams recently supported projects that exposed two areas ripe for process re-evaluation and facility expertise:

  1. During project design and development phases: Evaluate alternatives to traditional construction materials and methods when there is compelling reason (e.g., cost savings, energy efficiency, sustainability). Industry is constantly exploring new products and technologies for labor efficiencies and functional improvements; once tried and tested, and if they meet standards, these new components or systems should be considered.

  2. During the post-occupancy phase: Hold construction contractors accountable through warranty periods. Multiple-year warranties are common for many items such as roofs, windows, furnishings and installed equipment. If these warranties are not tracked and used, early failures may initiate unnecessary repair or replacement costs; and worse, may affect occupancy health or critical mission performance.

At JRC our facilities experts specifically look for opportunities like these to provide customers recommendations to expedite processes and eliminate inefficiencies. We understand DoD project success is defined as “mission delivered on time within budget”. After all, along with government, we are stewards of the tax-payer dollar and the onus is on us to help find the best use for existing facilities and the most efficient way to design and build new facilities. It is indeed an exciting time for DoD facilities and JRC is honored to support the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Sue Ousterhout Bio:

Sue Ousterhout is a senior facilities analyst at JRC Integrated Systems. She holds a professional architecture degree from the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas. After interning in St Petersburg, FL, Washington, DC and Chicago she received her professional license from the State of Florida and shortly afterwards moved back to the National Capitol Region. Sue has worked on a wide range of project types: exclusive residences on Tampa Bay, multi-use commercial projects in downtown DC and Chicago, affordable housing in Maryland, and public transportation facilities for Washington Metro Transit Authority. In the last twenty-five years she has devoted her career to supporting facility design and sustainment for the Department of Defense.

Sue is mother to two wonderful daughters whom she raised with architect extraordinaire Lou Balodemas. She likes road trips, and takes photographs of small towns, back alleys and prairie landscapes. She is an artist in her spare time.