Wednesday, 23 November 2011


The poor old headquarters building where I work is a pretty solid structure, having been built to host another military force and having withstood several onslaughts, but is undergoing an eternal series of repairs and improvements that makes me wonder how much of the original construction is left, from flooring to re-wiring to support the paperless office of the future, to constant shuffling of workspaces, to vacillating (schwankend) on whether or not to gut the whole assembly over asbestos in the basement.

Now a crew of contractors is outfitting the exterior walls with insulation, and there are white shavings everywhere and wheel barrows (Schubkarren) of Styrofoam blocks being carted around, airy and insubstantial like theater props or the construction material of Doozers.  I can remember as a little kid having endless fun constructing elaborate bases of operation for GI*JOE and Star Wars Action figures out of the Styrofoam cases that household ceiling fans came in--and surely other appliances but fan boxes seemed to be the best with the most compartments.  The whole building is a nest of scaffolding, which is a more serious-looking undertaking than the usual maintenance and disruption, and having survived a few base-closures in Germany (RIFs, reductions in force, or de-basing as it is called OCONUS, outside the continental United States), major works make me a bit nervous, because such DiY improvements have been many times proven to be the procrastination of bad tenants to return their rental to the landlord in suitable condition. The US army in Europe is facing a new age of budget austerity too, but such contracts were awarded in the primordial past and even if the work is not the most fiscally responsible thing to do, the government (especially as a pseudopod of America overseas) could not renege on its promises. It is a noble effort, and homes and businesses alike should always strive to reduce their environmental footprint, however, those quartered and garrisoned are generally not treating where they work and live as gingerly as they would if they had to pay for the heating and electricity, even if the savings could be translated to something more immediately appreciable down the line. The process and intent is pretty neat but considering (and here the US Army may be living up to one of its many modus operandi--the house is on fire, we'll better take out the trash) that there has been a major electrical disruption, putting most of the base off the municipal grid, and the mundane and bureaucratic goings on have been powered by a monstrous diesel generator, the gesture may be just that.  Deferred rewards, of all types, have little appeal without consequences. I hope the next phase of refurbishments succeeds too in making us think about conservation in balance with preservation.