Championing Excellence: Stronghold Engineering, Inc. and the Naval Air Station Renovation

Stronghold Engineering, Inc. is a construction and design firm founded in 1991 by Beverly and Scott Bailey. Over the past nearly three decades, SEI has grown into a significant player in its industry and is one of the most successful general contractors in the Southern California area. The company has earned numerous accolades, including construction awards from AGC, DBIA, ABC and ENR.

Stronghold Engineering’s commitment to its work and the quality of its projects has allowed the company to collaborate on a wide variety of projects, including collaboration with the US government and government buildings. As a result, SEI continues to be one of the top choices for the restoration and renovation of historical buildings and government sites. One of these projects was the renovation of the Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, California. Here, we’ll take a closer look at this foundational SEI project.

About the Naval Air Station

Designed by Bertram G. Goodhue in a Spanish Revival style, the Naval Air Station was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. Many of the United States Navy’s aircraft carriers call the Naval Air Station North Island their home port. Located in the north of Coronado peninsula on the San Diego Bay, and built in 1917, the Naval Air Station is one of the biggest aerospace-industrial complexes in the United States. The complex is one of the most important places in the history of the US Navy, as it is also called the “Birthplace of Naval Aviation”. This title was granted to it by the House Armed Services Committee in 1963.

The Naval Air Station’s history goes further back than 1917. In 1911, North Island was host to the first seaplane flight. From 1912 to 1917, it was used by the Army and Navy as a flying school. In 1923, the first non-stop continental flight and the first mid-air refuelling was performed here. Then, in 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh took off from Rockwell Field on North Island and flew all the way to Paris, France. It was the world’s first solo nonstop flight from New York to Paris, for which Lindbergh won the Orteig Prize. 

The US Navy and Army continued to share these premises until 1937 when the Army left and the Navy was left in control of the area. Before the Navy took control of the area in 1912, the Naval Air Station was home to Glen Curtiss’ flying school. The flying school not only trained some of the most famous American aviators but also Japanese pilots, one of whom was Lieutenant Yamada, who went on to become head of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Naval Aviation arm in World War II. The Naval Air Station also played a key role in the US war efforts during World War II. It was a major US base that supported operations in the Pacific. The Naval Air Station is also part of film history as numerous movies have been filmed here, including The Flying Marine, Hell Drivers, and Flying Fleet. 

The Stronghold Engineering, Inc. Renovation

In July 2003, Stronghold Engineering was awarded a contract as the prime contractor to renovate the historic Naval Air Station North Island, in San Diego, California. The Naval Air Station covered an area of 845,000 square feet, and the total cost of the project exceeded $7 million. The project was completed in December 2004.

Stronghold Engineering was tasked with renovating and repairing four buildings in the Naval Air Station’s historic district. The buildings required aesthetic and structural modifications to conform with the Cultural Resources Requirements. Of the four buildings that SEI was the prime contractor for, one of them was the instantly recognisable nine-story concrete tower. Also on the list of buildings was the famous auditorium and 40,141 square foot administrative building. The auditorium is famous for hosting the likes of Bob Hope and the Marx Brothers, who regularly appeared in USO shows hosted at the auditorium. 

Through the dedicated efforts of SEI, this historic building has been brought into the future while retaining its historic charm. SEI is known for industry-leading sustainability initiatives and construction techniques. The renovations carried out at the Naval Station included a brand new energy-efficient HVAC, electrical and plumbing works, and a new fire safety system. SEI also installed new cabinetry, flooring and new ceramic tile wall covering. 

The project required a professional firm with years of experience as it involved working directly with AIRPAC headquarters, a part of the U.S. Department of the Navy. Stronghold Engineering stood out as the obvious choice. During the length of the project, Stronghold was sensitive to the occupants of the administrative buildings, maintained open and detailed lines of communication with the authorities, and exercised due diligence in maintaining housekeeping. 

SEI was able to complete the project in a relatively short period of time, which is a feat of its own. This was possible because the company implemented a fast-track schedule, which included designing and constructing the project simultaneously. SEI went above and beyond what was expected of them. To ensure that the needs of all stakeholders were met a formal partnering effort was launched. This also allowed SEI to maintain scope integrity and guarantee effective teamwork. Throughout the project, adherence to the highest quality standards was ensured by a Contractor Quality Control Manager that remained on site. 

Upon Completion of the Renovation

SEI completed the project in an outstanding fashion, evidenced by the Outstanding Performance Evaluation that they received. The project also got Stronghold Engineering to win the ABC San Diego: Excellence in Construction Award. SEI’s partnering efforts were recognized by the Design Build Institute of America, which awarded them the “Excellence in Partnering” Award. The Associated General Contractors also presented SEI with the “Build San Diego” Award.

Upon successful completion of the project, Ashley Blakely of the ROICC Coronado, U.S. Department of the Navy had to say, “The product was outstanding…the flexibility and generosity of Stronghold was impressive…. Stronghold’s management went above and beyond our expectations to provide the government with a fine product…. The government looks forward to partnering with Stronghold on future projects.” 

Steve Hassett, the Supervisory General Engineer at NAVFAC SW complimented SEI’s partnering initiative, and said, “The project team partnered well with the Navy throughout the project’s design and construction phases. Safety was demonstrated by zero lost time incidents. The contractor had a good coordination with base facilities and utilities when it comes to securing the work site properly.” 

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