Better Buildings

November 20, 1996

Better Buildings

At the first annual National Summit on Building Performance yesterday, government and industry leaders gathered to discuss how to promote productivity in the workplace by improving workplace environments in government and the private sector.

A panel of facilities managers that included GSA Public Buildings Service Commissioner Robert Peck explored how communications technology, flexibility, security, and cost control will shape the future of workplaces. The federal government currently maintains 280 million square feet of facilities.

Peck said productivity is a strong concern when designing workspaces because agencies are being told that if they don't perform better, there are private sector businesses who can and will. He also stressed the importance of emphasizing security in building design given the spate of sometimes-fatal security breaches at federal facilities over the past few years.

"It's important to do it in a way that's as unobtrusive as possible," Peck said.

The size of an employee's workspace should not be based on his GS-level either, Peck argued. "People are bounded by their traditional concepts," he said. "We need to help people think differently."

Peck also predicted that because telecommuting opportunities and other advances in communication technology will make physically-centralized operations unnecessary, location of federal facilities will be driven by where jobs are needed most. Though Gibbons said the Clinton administration was committed to regulatory reform, he also said the government will find ways to encourage innovation without jeopardizing environmental and safety standards.

Also at the conference, John Gibbons, assistant to the President for science and technology, stressed the need for public-private partnerships in developing new work environments. But Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., who worked in the building industry for 15 years before being elected to Congress, said the building industry should avoid partnering with the government.

"I really don't want your business," Hoekstra said. "I feel you don't need my product."

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