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Huntsville Center architect earns top USACE honors

Huntsville Center
Published Sept. 24, 2021
Douglas Kohns, wearing a white shirt in the photo above, and his team conduct architectural assessments of the Guam Memorial Hospital. Kohns has been named the USACE Architect of the Year for 2021.

Douglas Kohns, wearing a white shirt in the photo above, and his team conduct architectural assessments of the Guam Memorial Hospital. Kohns has been named the USACE Architect of the Year for 2021.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The architect behind the COVID-19 alternate care sites and community vaccination centers has been named the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Architect of the Year.

The award recognizes Douglas Kohns, senior architect at the Medical Facilities Mandatory of Expertise and Standardization, for his architectural leadership and support of numerous Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs medical programs, but the award specifically highlights his more recent contributions to the COVID-19 relief efforts. Kohns developed the national architectural design standard for the alternate care sites and community vaccination centers that were quickly designed and constructed across the nation in a matter of months. 

In March 2020, his team—led by Anthony Travia, Medical Center of Expertise division chief—were tasked with determining how to convert different facility types such as hotels, convention centers, stadiums, and outdoor spaces, to treatment centers. As the lead architect, Kohns had to move quickly in order to provide the engineers with necessary parameters for mechanical, electrical, and communication systems.

“We had to come up with solutions that met all of the safety and health requirements and medical requirements,” said Kohns. “All of this was amplified by the need for speed because these facilities needed to be built in weeks, not months or years.”

Kohns said similar architectural work for a typical DOD clinic takes six months to a year, but the first ACS design plan was completed in less than a month.

Kohns has earned a reputation for rising to challenges like this ever since he began his career in construction and architecture more than three decades ago, and his interest in building and designing was apparent at a young age when he would tinker on machinery, build forts, sketch, draw and once even tried to build a motorized skate board with a chainsaw motor. However, he would have missed his calling entirely if it hadn’t been for his wife, Kristy.“I didn’t really even have plans to go to college, but I met my wife in high school, and she was planning to study nursing,” said Kohns. “She was my inspiration, and I launched my entire career from her. I ended up going to a community college only four or five miles from her college.”

After earning an associate’s degree in architecture, he joined the Army as a combat engineer and deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. He later earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from Lawrence Technology University, but his military service has provided a constant source of inspiration in his current position, said Kohns.

“As a former soldier and professional involved in medical facilities and construction, I wanted to make a bigger contribution to society by helping our nation’s veterans, to give back to those who served and those who are still serving,” he said.  “So I joined USACE in 2010. I have approximately 17 more years of service before retirement and cannot wait to see how not only USACE, but how this MX office and industry as a whole grows, develops and transitions.”