“The brave men and women who have served – and those who continue to serve – our armed forces have selflessly sacrificed for our nation, and we owe it to them to provide the best services and protections available when they’re overseas and after they return home.” – Kirstin Gillibrand, U.S. Senator

One weekend a month, over 300 men and women convene at the Great Falls Armed Forces Reserve Center (Montana) to perform training exercises.  Army Reserve Soldiers and units use the Reserve Center for missions in peacetime and in wartime, during training and when mobilized, for planning and operations.  The other three weeks out of the month, the building has entire sections unoccupied.

This building type can be incredibly challenging for any mechanical engineer. For a recent renovation to the HVAC system, MKK evaluated the existing mechanical heating and cooling plant and established that the segregated systems were creating issues to the building.  The design team replaced the existing ground source heat pumps with ground source heat recovery chillers.  The new mechanical system allowed for simultaneous heating and cooling which was not possible with the previous system and saved an estimated 11% in utility costs annually.  It also allows the systems to be turned down during low operation times. This creates a more energy efficient building for the Guard, which lowers maintenance costs throughout the year.

Project Mechanical Engineer, Chris Drake, PE, considers military facilities his passion projects.  “There is a mission and a reason behind these facilities.  You are affecting people’s lives.  What I love about this is that I get to see it from conception to completion.”  Mr. Drake has completed over 25 military projects in a little over 10 years.

In addition to the Great Falls Armed Forces Reserve Center, Mr. Drake was also instrumental on the first LEED Platinum Army National Guard Readiness Center in the country, Windsor Readiness Center (Colorado). This Readiness Center houses the 1157th FSC (Forward Support Company) of the Colorado Army National Guard.


To achieve LEED Platinum status, the team brought in a ground source heat pump system, and included a ground loop system for electricity.  The challenge occurred when the Owner realized they wanted gas powered kitchen equipment, but the nearest gas line was a half-mile away.  The design team ensured that the site could be provided with a gas line in order to meet their specific needs.

The building was modeled to utilize 70% less energy compared to ASHRAE 90.1 standards with a 50% reduction in landscape watering and a 43% water use reduction, which was achieved through low/ultra-low flow plumbing fixtures and metered lavatories.

Overall, both facilities had specific HVAC needs due to their unusual low occupancy weekly and high occupancy one week a month, two weeks a year for training.  Meeting these specific demands and challenges are what Mechanical Engineer Chris Drake enjoys the most.  “Working on military projects is an honor and our pleasure.  They allow us to work with and for the men and women who devote part of their lives to serving our country.”