The federal government's Office of Architecture has come a long way from the 1960s when its designers 'studied the many ways to build a box,' joked Edward Feiner, chief architect of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). Feiner was a speaker at CMD's 6th annual North American Construction Forecast conference held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 16.
Today, the government considers itself a reflection of the nation: its projects are designed to be aesthetically pleasing, but also environmentally friendly, to protect its occupants against today's dangers, and to last for centuries. 'Whatever we build today will be around in 100 years and it will reflect what we as a society thought was of value,' Feiner said.
This new way of thinking was helped along in the 1980s when a major federal court expansion created the need for an overall strategic building plan. As part of that plan, GSA launched an awards program -- a major effort to bring the private sector into the picture to form partnerships with the government. Now most of its projects consist of public/private partnerships.
Today, the federal government builds all over the country with the goal of enhancing the community. For example, a new city hall park in Jacksonville, Fla., features not just the new courthouse and city hall, but also a three-acre park. Moreover, a large percentage of the government's projects involve historical buildings, Feiner said. Of 150 million square feet of leased facilities the government operates, 40 percent are eligible for listing in the National Historical Register.
Many of the current federal buildings also are receiving a facelift. Feiner said more than 100 million square feet of buildings completed in the 1960s and 1970s are being retrofitted for increased seismic and public safety, as well as to make the buildings more aesthetically pleasing.
Feiner stressed that despite the nation's nervousness following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, 'we will not be frightened out of downtowns.' He said many federal buildings are integrating new security enhancements, and border stations will be a major part of that effort. Federal government is also following its own mandate to make buildings more 'green.' By 2002, all new federal buildings built must achieve at least a silver ranking in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.