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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — A half-million and counting.

That’s the number of square footage in base buildings that have been closed in the past year at Misawa as part of an Air Force global initiative to save millions on utility and maintenance costs.

And another million or more square feet will be closed before the project is finished, said Merlin Miller, with the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron.

Miller, who serves as the deputy base civil engineer, said Misawa must go from more than 9 million square feet of work space to about 7.25 million to do its part in the Air Force Infrastructure Energy Strategic Plan. The goal is to slash 20 percent of "our physical size" by 2020, he said of both Misawa’s and the Air Force goal.

For squadron planners, the task is like trying to put a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle into an 8,000-piece frame.

The end result will be more people in fewer buildings, and some personnel have already moved. The first buildings targeted, Miller said, were those that "exceeded their economic life" — older buildings that suck up precious maintenance and energy funds.

The tough part is the "domino effect," he said. That means that people in one building can’t move until the space is ready in the next building, and that can include ensuring the building is up to new force protection and fire standards. The goal is to provide "an overall vision of the completion of the moves and try to simplify it so the customers can understand the results," he said.

Miller said there should not be any "big peaks or big valleys" in the flow of moves.

And tearing down the old buildings, like the shoppette that closed earlier this year, will open up space that planners must think about how to best use to deal with issues such as inadequate parking.

"We look at the spaces and the faces that have to go into the places," he said, and try to "match the right organizations" to the buildings.

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