Deciding Between Soft or Rigid-Wall Military Structures: A Case Study

By May 19, 2017Expeditionary

The U.S. Military has a need for rapidly deployable structures that are not only durable and lightweight, but also energy efficient when tactical operations require the use of Forward Operating Bases (FOB).

For short missions, defined as six months or less, soft-wall camps are often the best option, from a cost perspective. But because of tent replacement and wood platform requirements, missions of a year or more render rigid-wall solutions the more fiscally conservative option.

While some things—like comfortable living spaces for deployed soldiers—aren’t as easily quantifiable, this study compares a traditional 250-man soft-walled camp in Latvia with a rigid-walled solution, focusing on fuel cost, timelines, safety, and carbon footprint with the goal of providing data decision makers can look to when determining which solution makes the most sense for their mission.

For additional support and to weigh the pros and cons of several solutions, contact an ADS representative today. To read the study in its entirety, visit adsinc.com/Latvia-Study

Study: 250-Person Camp in Latvia

Soft-Wall Solution
  • 42 billeting shelters (252 occupants total)
    • 6 occupants each
  • Required 110 sq. ft. per occupant (per requirement)
  • Ten 120kW generators
Rigid-Wall Solution
  • 21 billeting shelters (252 occupants total)
    • 17 double occupancy units, serving 12 occupants each (204 occupants)
    • Four single occupancy unites with 12 occupants each (48 occupants)
  • Required 110 sq. ft. per occupant (per requirement)
  • Services building (Latrines, Laundry, Showers)
  • Water Treatment System + Sewage Treatment System
  • Four 120kW generators paired with four hybrid power systems (generators operate to charge batteries and are then silent)
  • One 200kW generator for Services Building and Water/Sewage Treatment Systems

Energy Consumption

To provide mid-range data for the energy costs of both solutions, Latvia was chosen. The location has a moderate climate where cooling isn’t always necessary but heat may be required off and on throughout the year.

As one would expect, the rigid-wall structure used less energy thanks to the Solar Array for providing 38 percent of camp energy needs. Overall, the soft-wall structures use 76 percent more energy when operating on generators in Latvia climate conditions.

TOTAL DAILY ENERGY USAGE*
 JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember
Rigid Walled3389393336893534324630913047305473246342436233822
Soft Walled937196598075706751964188390039005196634776438939

*Baseline daily load of 2890kW-hr added to daily heating requirement for both camps

Fuel Cost

For shorter deployments, soft-wall structures are more fiscally responsible when it comes to fuel usage, as shown in the following chart. Year five is the tipping point for soft-wall and rigid-wall structures.

Over a 15-year period, rigid-wall solutions can save between $27M – $49M in fuel savings, calculated at the standard fuel price range of $15 to $20 per gallon.

“The military has spent millions of dollars on fuel costs over the past 20 years. This data is significant because it demonstrates real opportunity for the Department of Defense to reduce the logistical burden and fuel costs while meeting its goal to minimize its carbon footprint, all the while increasing base camp security,” said Ron Ben-Zeev, CEO of World Housing Solution, a manufacturer of expeditionary insulated composite structures for the U.S. Military.

Timelines

The soft-wall solutions appear to have a lower up-front cost—which is one of the reasons for their extended popularity as technology improved—but the platforms need to be replaced every two years, the shelters themselves need to be replaced every 2.5 years and even more often in certain harsh environments, and this solution requires flat terrain for setup, which can be difficult to track down or requires significant resources to level and increases the danger and exposure to the troops during certain missions..

The rapidly deployable rigid-wall solution in this study, manufactured by World Housing Solution, has a higher up-front cost, but boasts a 15-year lifespan and does not require leveling prior to installation because of its adjustable leg system. 

The rigid-wall structures are panel-based and can be assembled, disassembled and reconfigured with standard hand tools, allowing for flexibility as the mission changes and even more importantly does not require heavy equipment to handle.

The Difficult-to-Quantify Data

In addition to providing more energy efficient structures, the rigid-wall buildings dramatically reduce the dependence on the logistical supply chain or, when applicable, the local commercial grid, resulting in fewer resources needed to support the camp and less time soldiers are managing the supply chain.

That equates to less risk to soldiers transporting fuel and other resources. According to an OEF Report, from 2001-2010, 55 percent of combat casualties were related to logistics and of those, 80 percent were related to transport. 

World Housing Solution structures revolutionize how soldiers operate in the field by providing superior housing units and protected buildings to store computers and critical equipment. But the reduced time spent by soldiers outside the camp dramatically limits the risk of injuries and fatalities by minimizing the dependence on external resources.”
– Colonel Mike Sweeney, USMC (ret.).

About World Housing Solution

Established in 2010, World Housing Solution is a U.S. manufacturing company based in Orlando, Florida that creates composite structures for the U.S. Military using rapidly deployable panel solutions (RDPs). The company provides environmentally friendly structures that are long-lasting, easy to assemble, and affordable.