While many government organizations and multinational corporations oversee wide-ranging real estate portfolios, few are responsible for such extensive property holdings as the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). In addition to its role as the primary procurement arm of the U.S. federal government, supplying equipment, supplies, telecommunications and information technology to other federal agencies, GSA also serves as “the government’s landlord.” In this capacity, it meets the office and other space requirements of 1.1 million federal government employees at over 400 civilian agencies.
GSA’s Public Building Service (PBS), the largest public real estate organization in the United States, oversees an inventory of over 354 million square feet of workspace, comprising more than 8,600 government-owned and leased facilities. PBS manages a wide range of property types, including office buildings, courthouses, post offices and border stations. It maintains more than 400 historic properties, and 100 child care centers. Among some of the better known facilities managed by GSA are the Ronald Reagan Building and the International Trade Center, the largest U.S. federal building after The Pentagon.
Given the size and range of its building portfolio, maintaining accurate, up-to-
date information about the conditions of all of the facilities and building systems under its management was a significant challenge for GSA. In order to meet the inspection and documentation expectations of Congress, GSA previously completed full Building Engineering Reports on its facilities every five years, and maintained a repository of information in its Inventory Reporting Information System (IRIS). However, this evaluation process was time-consuming, costly, and resulted in data that was out-of-date almost as soon as reports were completed.
GSA’s initial solution to this challenge was the implementation of a set of
web-based surveys, used to collect a range of information about all of its facilities in a central database. Working with VFA, Inc., GSA first began deploying the web-based Physical Condition Surveys (PCS) in 1998.The data gathered using ePCS enabled GSA to calculate an overall Facility Condition Index for each surveyed facility – the ratio of the cost of current facility deficiencies to its replacement value – capturing the total liability for every building. It also allowed the agency to pinpoint facilities most in need of detailed evaluation, and develop a schedule for professional facility audits. During the initial roll-out of the survey tool, GSA field staff captured information about 182 million square feet of facilities in two months.
In fiscal year 2006, GSA demonstrated significant results in rightsizing its
portfolio. GSA improved utilisation by increasing occupancy by 3.2 percent. It met or exceeded Federal Real Property Council standards for facility conditions in over 75 percent of its inventory, while maintaining operating costs at approximately 4.2 percent below market and reducing energy consumption 4.4 percent below the 2005 baseline. Vacant space was reduced from 9.2 percent to 7 percent, significantly below the 2006 industry average rate of 11.6 percent. By eliminating underutilized facilities, including the demolition of 52 facilities totaling over 15 million square feet, GSA avoided approximately $588 million in reinvestment liabilities, providing additional reinvestment dollars for core facilities to support its long-term customer requirements.
GSA was also the first agency recognized by the Administration for achieving and maintaining “Green” status on the President’s Management Agenda scorecard, a mechanism for rating the progress of agencies in implementing government policies promoting greater efficient use of federal resources.
With the growing needs of a challenging and dynamic work environment, GSA eventually needed an enhanced version of PCS that would offer greater functionality. In 2008, a customized version of VFA.auditor®, ePCS, was rolled out to replace the original PCS solution. VFA.auditor is a web-based facility self-assessment survey platform that is designed to quickly capture facility condition data. The software is based on best-practice assessment methodologies used to gather both system lifecycle and deficiency data. Users are guided to enter specific information and are assisted with built-in expert support. It is designed to be used by both expert and non-expert resources.
Today, GSA is a leader among both public and private sector organizations in ensuring real property assets are maintained in the appropriate condition, at the appropriate cost to help its tenant agencies carry out their missions and that unneeded properties are disposed of in an efficient manner. It has the processes and systems in place to advance its long-term goal of achieving a viable, self-sustaining inventory of government-owned facilities.
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