Active year ahead for federal construction

Courthouses represent nearly one-third of GSA's active projects

December 01, 2000 |

Federal government agencies expect to conduct a healthy volume of building construction in the 2001 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, according to presentations made by agency spokesmen at FedCon, the recent 2001 federal construction forecast sponsored by CMD Group and the National Institute of Building Sciences.

Courthouses continue to highlight the General Service Administration's (GSA) building program (see related story, page 16). Of GSA's 92 current projects, valued at $5.1 billion, 31 are new courthouses or courthouse annexes. GSA expects a new construction volume this fiscal year of $780 million, up from $75 million in the preceding fiscal year. It expects to spend $721 million for repairs and alterations, an increase from $598 million. At press time, funding for four courthouse projects was included in a bill awaiting Congressional approval. The bill calls for authorizing $179 million for construction in Seattle, $36 million for site acquisition and design in Los Angeles, $19 million for site acquisition and design in Richmond, Va., and $44 million for construction in Gulfport, Miss. Since 1993, 31 courthouses have been constructed, and another 31 are either in design or under construction.

The courthouse program became a target of Congressional criticism in the early 1990s for its high costs. Cost-control guidelines now keep the price at less than $200 per square foot for a fully furnished building. GSA created the seven-member Courthouse Management Group (CMG) to manage the program. CMG uses a benchmarking process that evaluates proposed projects by adapting cost-per-square-foot industry standards to the special needs of courthouse design and construction. Another cost control measure has been the adoption of a 10-year, rather than 30-year, time horizon for developing plans to meet courthouse requirements.

Postal facilities

Elsewhere, construction activity at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) continues at a steady pace. USPS annually repairs 1,500 of its 40,000 buildings, substantially expands 70 and creates 700 new buildings (about 25 of these are processing facilities with an area of about 250,000 square feet). Standard plans for retail outlets range from 1,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet. USPS writes hundreds of indefinite-quantity contracts with A/Es that typically run for three to five years.

USPS completed its first "sustainable design" facility, a 25,000-sq.-ft. post office in Fort Worth. It cost about 10 percent more than a comparable project, and the agency is evaluating its long-term cost factors.

Military housing requirements

With its major base realignment and closure programs nearly completed, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) anticipates steady budgets for construction, housing and environmental programs along with greater partnership with the private sector. Expenditures for family housing projects will remain at about $700 million per year.

The Air Force has 65,000 family housing units that require total renovation. It plans to build 14,000 dormitory rooms and to replace 5,500 others in order to provide private rooms for all personnel by 2009.

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