In an effort to move forward quickly with stimulus funds, federal agencies targeted to receive construction funds for buildings will focus heavily on greening existing inventory and pushing projects with designs in place. While the specific definition of "shovel-ready" remains uncertain, it’s clear from the bill that speed is the order of the day.
The General Services Administration will see $5.55 billion in funds from the bill with a major emphasis placed on green building. As a result, projects that upgrade existing facilities will trump new construction. While $750 million would go to federal buildings, such as U.S. courthouses, and $300 million for border stations, $4.5 billion will be available for modernizing GSA facilities to meet its green buildings standards.
"We have several criteria, the two most important being how fast we can create jobs by getting shovels in the ground and how much added energy efficiency and sustainability we can gain from projects- ready-for-construction awards within two years," said Paul Prouty, acting administrator of the GSA, in a statement.
The plan matches up with GSA’s existing green initiatives. The agency is pressed to meet looming mandates under the Energy Efficiency Act of 2005 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that call for improved energy efficiency of its facilities.
The design and construction community won’t have to wait long to get a glimpse of GSA’s project list. The bill calls on the agency to submit a detailed plan, by project, no later than April 3.
To handle the massive influx of work, GSA is forming a Program Management Office to oversee efforts nationally and execute plans regionally. Beyond traditional design and construction, GSA also expects to hire contractors for program management, data tracking, reporting, scheduling, budgeting and energy performance reviews, according to Prouty.
Military:Dept. of Defense will get $6.57 billion, including $4.24 billion for facilities restoration and modernization
The Veterans Administration will get $1.25 billion for construction and upgrades
BuildingsGSA will get $5.55 billion, including $4.5 billion for energy-efficient upgrades.
An additional $10.17 billion will be spread among several agencies for building construction.
Housing and Urban Development will get $7.25 billion, including $4 billion for the Public Housing Capital Fund.
Modernization and stabilization also will be a priority for the Dept. of Defense, where $4.2 billion will go to projects involving energy-efficiency improvements as well as general repair and maintenance issues. However, many new projects will also be built with $2.33 billion established for housing, hospitals and several "quality-of-life" projects.
Patrick Burns, vice president at M.A. Mortenson Construction, says projects like barracks, child development centers or dining halls make sense because the designs and contracts have already been standardized and can be executed quickly by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "[The Corps] could quickly roll that out to dozens of bases nationwide and spread the workload across the country," he said.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates must submit DOD’s expenditure plan by March 19.
Green projects will also factor heavily into stimulus funds for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. The VA will receive $1 billion for "non- recurring maintenance, including energy projects."
In other federally funded building projects, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is eyeing more than $7 billion in funds. Of that, the Public Housing Capital Fund will receive $4 billion, while $2 billion will be allocated for redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes. Another $1 billion would be available for Community Development Block Grants. HUD will also follow the bill’s green theme with $250 million for energy retrofits at HUD-assisted housing projects.
While the emphasis of the economic stimulus bill is to create jobs quickly, funding for many federal projects is expected to flow for the next three to five years. Under the bill, GSA is required to obligate its funding toward projects by September 2010. However, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that most of GSA funding will be allocated between 2010 and 2013, with final funding in 2017.
"When you modernize buildings, you have to move existing tenants to swing space, and that requires a lot of logistics," says Joel Zingeser, director of corporate development at Grunley Construction, Washington, D.C. "This will take awhile."
The bill gives DOD a bit more time to obligate money for its projects, as funding for much of the new construction will remain available until Sept. 30, 2013. These projects will come just as much of DOD’s existing work under the Base Realignment and Closure Act is beginning to cool.
"This dovetails well," says John Tarpey, CEO of Balfour Beatty Construction’s Washington, D.C., division. "This is the last big year for contracts under BRAC," so contractors in this sector will be looking for new work. Federal work through the stimulus bill may create jobs and also prevent job cuts, he says.