When you’re the nation’s leading research agency, tackling complex projects is all in a day’s work – even when it comes to the planning, design, and construction of a new, build-to-suit headquarters. The combination of the agency’s strict security requirements, urban location, and desire for increased collaboration and innovation among employees resulted in a unique challenge, and a complex teaming and approvals structure.
We were engaged as owner’s representatives and advocates to navigate the entire process. Coordinating among the numerous government agencies, and ensuring the design and construction teams understood, responded to, and executed on the client’s specific and stringent security and space needs, we made the impossible possible – delivering the first ever leased facility compliant with DOD facility security standards.
Initially engaged as owner’s representatives and project managers to help navigate complex relationships within the team, our role grew as the project evolved. We managed the relationship between our client and developer, which included addressing extensive base building requirements for security, slab loading, blast protection, interior up-fit, broadcast, and technology. We oversaw the Level 5 commissioning of all building systems, and ultimately, managed the procurement and installation of multiple client systems, including IT, security, audiovisual, furniture and specialty systems. And once the space was ready, our move management team led the transition of 800 employees from old to new in a seamless around-the-clock effort over two consecutive weekends.
The complicated nature of the project team – and extensive layers of communication – created many challenges throughout the development process. Due to the indirect relationship between our client, the contractor, and invested government agencies, we documented more than 190 items that did not meet project requirements. Working closely with the GSA, Washington Headquarters Services (WHS), the developer, and contractor, we resolved the issues.
While the agency’s previous headquarters was dark and compartmentalized, the new one is modern with an all-glass façade that both facilitates and symbolizes increased collaboration and transparency. Creating a more open environment was a major priority for the agency. But with a workforce where three out of four employees are considered “visiting scholars,” maintaining the highest levels of security required our most innovative thinking and carefully coordinated efforts with the design, construction, security, and technology teams.
Advocating for our client means scrutinizing every detail of the scope, schedule, and budget – and finding creative ways to save. At the project onset, we identified base building savings that the GSA could use in negotiations with the developer. On-site during construction, we identified additional savings in developer-paid corrective actions. And, by directly procuring the client’s special FF&E needs, we created an opportunity for significant savings to be redirected throughout the project.
AN AWARD-WINNING SPACE DESIGNED TO ENGAGE
Employees who were isolated and separated in the original headquarters now found themselves engaging more, freely sharing ideas, and having impromptu brainstorming sessions. The 350,000 SF building also garnered its share of accolades, including LEED Gold building certification, the first government-owned LEED Platinum interiors certification, and Craftsmanship Awards from the Washington Building Congress.
A new headquarters has the opportunity to give an organization renewed energy and purpose. For a national research agency tasked to make the impossible possible, there couldn’t be a better outcome. In addition to helping the client achieve a sustainable, collaborative and state-of-the-art space that invites innovation, we empowered them to do the kind of groundbreaking work that keeps our country strong and secure.
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