As Robert A. Peck returns to the headquarters of the General Services Administration as Public Buildings Service commissioner, he may have some déjà vu moments. Peck, whose new appointment as PBS chief was announced on Aug. 10, held that job from 1995 to 2001. Once again, he will be in charge of design, construction and management for the 354 million sq ft of offices, courthouses and other facilities Uncle Sam owns or leases. He says it’s “the best job in real estate.”
But the situation is very different from that of a decade ago. The recession has hit construction hard, and GSA has a big role in trying to engineer a rebound. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act gave the agency $5.55 billion to spend on buildings, including $4.3 billion for energy-efficiency upgrades. For PBS, Peck says, “The first, second and third priorities, going down the list to 10,” will be “to carry out the recovery-act projects...as fast as possible in order to create jobs and also in as effective a way as possible.” He says that means “turning the money into energy-conservation outcomes in public buildings” and leaving “a long-term legacy” for the country.
Ed Feiner, whom Peck named GSA’s chief architect in 1996, says it’s important for the agency to boost the economy. But Feiner, now a managing principal with Perkins+Will, also notes GSA has “a huge inventory of mid-century modern buildings that really require a great deal of attention....This is just a remarkable opportunity to really improve the quality of the built inventory.”
GSA so far has awarded nearly $1.1 billion in ARRA contracts, thanks to a big push in July. Executing the stimulus program is “a huge task,” says Mike Householder, senior vice president with J.E. Dunn Construction Co., Kansas City. He thinks Peck is a good choice for the job. “If anybody can do it, he’s probably the right guy, given his past experience and his knowledge and working relationships with those in the industry.”
Peck, 61, is well known in design and construction circles. He rejoins GSA from real estate company Jones Lang LaSalle, where he has been a managing director. He had been with The Staubach Co., which Jones Lang LaSalle acquired last year. Earlier, Peck was president of the Greater Washington [D.C.] Board of Trade, an attorney specializing in real estate and land use and the American Institute of Architects’ vice president for public affairs. In government, he was chief of staff to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and held posts at the Office of Management and Budget and National Endowment for the Arts.
As Peck starts—or resumes—work at GSA, he plans to continue its design excellence program, which, since its 1994 launch, has drawn top architects to federal projects. “I’m still for it,” says Peck. “I think it’s one of the best things GSA has done in the past few decades.”