Your Stimulus Dollars at Work: Federal Center South

Federal Center South Rendering (Source: GSA)

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), signed by President Obama on February 13, 2009, called for major new construction and the energy-efficient modernization of federal office buildings, courthouses and land ports across the country. This is the third piece in a series in which we examine some of the projects funded by these stimulus dollars.

The almost completed 209,000-square-foot regional headquarters of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at Federal Center South, in Seattle, Wa., features the transformation of a nondescript old warehouse into a LEED-Gold certified modern office building with security enhancements and seismic upgrades (including repairing/replacing sections of the existing foundation as well as stabilizing liquefiable soils), plus a range of energy-saving features, including the following:

  • A high-performance facade;
  • The conversion of existing hardscape into low-impact sustainable green space;
  • Optimum orientation and dimensions for daylighting and passive solar heating;
  • High-efficiency lighting;
  • An overhead, water-based chilled-beam system of pipes for cooling;
  • A phase-change thermal storage tank coupled with a ground-loop heat exchanger to capture and reuse thermal energy; and
  • Innovative integrated mechanical systems.

While the project appears to be on track to exceed GSA’s aggressive high-performance goals, its most unusual feature may be a contractual one: the design-build team agreed to risk 0.5% of its original $66 million contract award if it does not meet or exceed those goals. If the new three-story building does not meet energy-use targets promised by the team before construction began, GSA will hold back $330,000. (The agency also is testing this type of fee-holdback contract at several other projects.)

The Federal Center South site is a wedge-shaped, nearly 46-acre property in the industrial area of South Seattle. In March 2009, GSA received authorization to demolish Building No. 1202—a nondescript single-story warehouse that was constructed by the U.S. Army during World War II and had been determined  to have no historic value—and build a high-performance office building on half of the warehouse footprint. (The structure is immediately to the west of the historic Albert Kahn–designed Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant, also known as Building No. 1201, which has been renovated and upgraded several times for use as a federal office building.) GSA’s original informational meeting in October 2009 attracted more than 100 interested parties. A dozen submitted proposals, and GSA shortlisted three of those to participate in a design-build competition. A team led by Seattle-based Sellen Construction Company and ZGF Architects was awarded the contract on March 26, 2010, and given only 18 weeks to develop its design far enough that it could guarantee a maximum price for delivery. The team also promised to deliver a structure that uses 30% less energy than the ASHRAE 90.1-2007 standard, which translates to 27,600 Btu per square foot per year.

The team began demolishing the existing structure in July 2010, and construction of the new structure started the following January. Although the project originally was scheduled to be completed this month (July 2012), the completion date has been pushed back to September because of unforeseen site conditions, tenant improvements, and additions to the scope of the project, including rainwater harvesting, a geothermal system, upgraded lighting, and other features. The total value of the contract has grown to $75.2 million, $59.3 million of which has been spent to date. If all goes as planned, the structure will be in the top 1% of energy-efficient buildings in the nation. The design-build team and GSA currently are working out specifics for the measurement, validation and fine-tuning period, which begins upon completion.

Want to learn more about GSA’s stimulus spending projects?  Click our “Stimulus” link in the column to the right or visit GSA’s interactive map showing all of the projects where it is spending its $5.5 billion in ARRA funds.