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Fed's focus is on construction

June 1, 2000
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WASHINGTON, DC — The mission of the federal government’s General Services Administration (GSA) for fiscal year 2000 is to bring its construction program in alignment with its design program.

In 1999, the GSA formed the Office of the Chief Architect to consolidate construction and design. Its purpose is to further improve the construction program, which Assistant Chief Architect Leslie Shepherd says has been a “struggle” up until now.

Shepherd spoke at the CMD Group and National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) cosponsored annual “Fedcon 2000” construction forecast conference, held here at the National Press Club.

Construction initiatives

GSA’s focus on “construction excellence” will encompass several coordinated initiatives.

One significant initiative is to bring the construction contractor into the design phase from the beginning of a project. This move won’t be used to dictate the procurement method, such as design-build or source selection; however, GSA has virtually eliminated lump-sum, low-bid contract awards.

Recognizing that personnel cutbacks have left gaps in certain areas of expertise, Shepherd said that GSA can now supplement any technical gaps with outside contractors. In fact, 90% of GSA’s $5 billion budget is spent on contracts with private-sector contractors.

Innovations in contracting being used by GSA include use of project websites, increasing use of indefinite-quantity architect/engineering service contracts, and a real effort to curtail occupant-generated changes while work is underway.

Shepherd singled out this last practice as being responsible for more than 40% of all cost overruns for past GSA projects.

Mostly repairs and alterations

Shepherd said that for the first time in recent years, GSA does not have any new courthouses in the offing and that the bulk of the projects are repair and alterations ($250 million), with some new construction.

There are seven new construction projects, the largest being a Food and Drug Administration consolidation in White Oak, MD, and the construction of several border stations, which are joint projects of both the United States and Canadian governments.

Currently, Shepherd says GSA has 54 active projects worth $4 billion underway. Despite the current lull in Federal Courthouse construction, he stated that there are more than 120 courthouse-related projects for consideration in future years.

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