Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s soon-to-open Child Development Center on Regatta Drive can only be described as a marvel of kid- and eco-friendly construction.
Work on the project began last October and officials anticipate being able to open its doors in November, a full two months ahead of schedule.
“We anticipate the building will be turned over to us in October,” said Linda Jury, Child and Youth Programs Administrator. Jury said there will be unpacking and finishing touches to be completed by the staff before the center can begin operating.
The new center will accommodate 218 children ranging in age from 6 weeks to 5 years, nearly twice as many as the current Child Development Center located a few blocks away on Clover Street. Because the Clover Street facility will remain open, child care capacity for active duty and qualifying personnel will nearly triple.
The new center features all the latest innovations child care workers could wish for, including child-sized bathroom facilities in each of the 17 child activity rooms, roll-out steps that lock in place so children can make their way (with assistance) up to the changing table instead of having to be lifted, built-in magnetic cabinet locks, pinch-proof doors, pint-sized furniture and windows — lots of windows — to better enable staff to see, no matter where they are in the building. A closed-circuit television system will allow the director to monitor activity in each room as well.
New outdoor play areas — which can only be accessed from inside the building — stand waiting to be used and abused, complete with artificial grass to help keep busy children clean and special rubberized material to cushion them if they fall.
Rooms in the new facility are flexible, and can change with the population.
“The number of children in a particular age group can fluctuate from year to year,” Jury said. “So they’ve made the rooms adjustable.”
Rooms can change to accommodate either infants or pre-toddlers, for instance, or be shifted from toddler to preschooler rooms. As the population changes, the center will have the ability to adjust to meet parents’ needs.
Some the most impressive parts of the new center are the parts you don’t really think about. Because the center is a military facility, it meets anti-terrorism safety criteria for the Department of Defense — the front entrance is set back from the parking lot and all the windows are blast-proof, for example.
But the new center isn’t just kid-friendly. It is designed to be eco-friendly as well. The building was originally meant to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s (LEED) Silver standard, but builders exceeded those standards and the center achieved LEED Gold.
“It’s not just what you see here,” said Jon James, supervisor and general engineer for the project. “It’s in the types of materials used. Everything is made from recycled or environmentally-friendly products. Where you get your materials from matters, too. We got most of the materials from within 500 miles.”
There is a central drainage system outside that drains all the water away from the building and play areas. Solar panels on the roof and four wind turbines in the parking lot will produce enough alternative energy to power all the lights in the building. Energy produced by the turbines and solar panels will essentially be sold back to the power company, meaning smaller utility bills.
A program already in place will help the lights run more efficiently as well.
“The lights are pre-programmed to be on during normal hours,” explained Lloyd Potter, engineering technician on the project. “All the lights are on motion sensors, so they’ll come on when someone enters a room and shut off after 20 minutes of inactivity.”
An in-floor heating system that circulates hot water will keep some of the rooms warm.
“Infants and pre-toddlers spend a lot of time on the floor,” said Potter, “so you want to keep them warm.”
“The heating systems all interface with one another,” said Michael Goode, with Veterans Northwest Construction. “In those rooms with in-floor heating, that will be the primary heat source, but it will be augmented by the main heating system for the building.”
For construction to finish ahead of schedule, it obviously took teamwork and good communication.
“Working with Veterans Northwest (Construction) has been the greatest,” said Jury. “The whole project has really been great.”
“It has been a true partnership,” Potter said.
“This has been the poster child for partnerships,” said Goode. “It’s been a great counter-balance. (Potter) knows his job is to see the government gets what it’s paid for. My job is to inspect every nut and bolt, to make sure every single thing that goes in here is what it’s supposed to be.”
Goode also praised the subcontractors used for different phases of the construction, many of whom were local.
“As far as subcontractors go, there’s usually one that stands out on every job,” he said. “On this project, there were five. Those guys were top notch. The community should be proud.”