Photo by AP Wideworld
New land ports of entry, such as Mariposa Station in Arizona, are a GSA priority.

As the General Services Administration waits to see how much construction funding congressional appropriators will provide for FY2015, the reality of a more austere overall budget environment is reshaping the way GSA works with the architecture-engineering-construction industry, says Michael Gelber, deputy commissioner of GSA's Public Buildings Service.

Gelber told a joint Design-Build Institute of America-Society of American Military Engineers symposium in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 19 that GSA is striving to modernize its approach to project delivery and design. It is using more energy-saving performance contracts to help finance projects. It also is looking to the private sector to find ways to trim federal buildings' overall footprint. Moreover, GSA is seeking novel ideas to design space for a more mobile, transient workforce, he said.

President Obama's 2015 budget proposed $745 million for GSA's new construction, mostly for land ports of entry. "We can't underestimate the importance of these border stations," Gelber said.

But GSA's actual 2015 construction plans likely will hinge on a yet-to-be- introduced stopgap spending bill to fund the agency—and the rest of the government—for at least part of the new fiscal year, which starts on Oct. 1. The House passed, on July 16, a bill to appropriate $420.5 million for GSA new construction in 2015. All of that will go for three border facilities: $98.1 million for a Calexico, Calif., project; $216.8 million for San Ysidro in San Diego; and $105.6 million for Alexandria Bay, N.Y.

In the Senate, an appropriations subcommittee cleared a bill on July 24 that provides $508.5 million for GSA construction, including $199.2 million for San Ysidro, but it has nothing for Calexico or Alexandria Bay. The full Senate committee had not voted on that measure before the August recess.

GSA has had difficulty launching major new projects due to budget cuts, Gelber said. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act gave GSA's construction program a boost in 2009-10. However, he noted that, between 2011 and 2013, "we had almost no money at all."

As a result, GSA has a hefty backlog, particularly in upgrades to existing buildings, Gelber said. Obama's 2015 budget calls for $1.25 billion for renovations, down from the $1.65 billion enacted for 2014. The House approved $966 million for 2015; the Senate appropriations subcommittee recommended $1.1 billion.