Friday, May 1, 2009
Presented by: Andrew Goldberg, Assoc. AIA, director of federal relations at the AIA, Charles Matta, FAIA, Director of federal buildings and modernizations at the General Services Administration (GSA), Larry Speck, FAIA, principal of Page Southerland Page, and David Daileda, FAIA, AIA DC president.
What people want to learn: “I do a lot of public sector work, and I’m looking for reinforcement as to how we do it.” Joel Davidson,
It looks like architects have gotten the message about design opportunities presented by the federal government and the public sector. The crowd at this session had more people than chairs. The benefits of federal work are clear: a huge, reliable client that always pays and offers unparalleled public visibility. The disadvantages: It’s a complex process to work with federal agencies, and it’s become much more competitive. In terms of understanding GSA’s budgeting process, Matta urged the audience to think of the agency as a real estate corporation. They act as landlords to the individual agencies they build for. Repairs and building alternations will likely continue to outpace new construction commissioned by the GSA, especially considering the $5.5 billion worth of federal stimulus package money awarded to the agency.
The panel’s 10 keys to successful public sector work:
1. Research different local, regional, and national agencies, and decide who you want to work for.
2. Look for small businesses opportunities. GSA work isn’t just for large firms. By law 35 percent of their contracts go to small businesses.
3. Persistence matters. Go to open forums to learn about projects, and network with the people you meet there.
4. Find a personal contact to set up personal meetings with.
5. Service and quality are paramount.
6. Build and maintain your public sector client relationships and project team relationships.
7. Team management--You’re responsible for all team members.
8. Understand new programs like design-build and contemporary sustainability standards. The government is always changing the way it does business.
9. Team with different size firms.
10. Pick qualified team members with more experience than you have.
What people thought: “It demystifies working with the government and it doesn’t feel like it’s an impersonal agency the way you might think it is. It’s basically the same way you might build relationships with any client.” John Filkins, AIA, of gr8architecture4u in Laguna Beach, Calif.
Best Practice Tips: To work with the GSA, your firm must know how to design sustainably. They will require carbon neutral buildings by 2030. Design and construction funds from the stimulus package will emphasize the design-build process, so make sure your firm has expertise in this as well. Because of the intense competition and large number of design firms vying for federal work, brevity in submission briefs is valued at a premium. Check out the Whole Building Design Guide Web site for information on federal government design and construction standards (www.wbdg.org), and always keep an eye on FedBizOpps (www.fbo.gov). Additionally, check out The AIA’s Rebuild and Renew (www.aia.org/rebuildandrenew) Web site for more information on how to get work with public agencies.