GSA honors cutting-edge federal buildings

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

The General Services Administration recently awarded its 2010 Design Awards. Sixteen awards were presented for eleven projects on the cutting-edge of architectural design.

GSA’s Chief Architect told Federal News Radio that because of their quality and innovation, they are all “great workplaces for federal workers to be.”

Les Shepherd said the projects had two common strengths: sustainability and energy efficiency.

U.S. Land Port of Entry, Warroad, Minn. – Architecture and Interior Design Honors; Construction, Engineering, Landscape Architecture Citations. (GSA photo)

For example, when asked for his comments about the big winner this year, Shepherd described the U.S. Land Port of Entry in Warroad, Minnesota as a “great project. Just real clean, fully integrated, also had energy saving features – had ground source heat pumps so the building not only operates great, looks great and also energy efficiency. It’s going to, for the long run, be cheaper to operate.”

And that, he said, is the direction federal buildings are headed.

“I think that it’s representative that federal buildings are going to be more sustainable, more energy efficient. A big part of the recovery program was putting energy efficiency and sustainability into the existing inventory GSA has, and also with the new buildings we’re commissioning for them to be energy efficient. LEED-Gold certified is standard for GSA now.”

Fortunately for the federal employees who work in the buildings, “worker comfort and satisfaction is a large part of what drives sustainability.”

Shepherd said he sees the future of all architecture in this year’s award winners.

Sustainability and the energy requirements of a building are starting to effect the architecture sort of in the same way as when you had elevators were invented and you started having high-rises. Now that sustainability is such an important factor in a building, you’re seeing buildings designed differently so that there’s more natural daylight, the distance to a window is tighter, the envelope is designed better. We had two design award winners this year that have double skins. It’s starting to shape the exterior expression of the building, which is completely appropriate.

Adding a bit more pressure, said Shepherd, is knowing that federal buildings are expected to last. For example, he called federal courthouses “100-year buildings” so “building quality into that building becomes really important,” because “it’s got to live past us and it’s a big responsibility.”

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