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PBS Commissioner Winstead Dedicates SSA Building

As prepared for delivery


Remarks by
David Winstead
Commissioner
Public Buildings Service
Social Security Telecenter Center
Warehouse Seven-Auburn Federal Complex
Auburn, WA
August 9, 2006

Thank you Rob and Jon not just for the introduction but also for leading the team that brought about the unique building we are dedicating today. What an example of Adaptive Reuse.  In addition to the GSA regional leadership team, there are a number of GSA employees required to pull a project like this together.  For this type of venture there’s the project team composed of project managers, portfolio managers, property managers, the contracting team, asset managers, building operations specialists, architects, engineers, and account managers.  These folks along with a very cooperative SSA team have made this a very successful undertaking.  Thank you—together all of these dedicated federal employees have worked for the last five years to give you what we have here today.  Since the original feasibility study was completed in September 2001 until today’s ceremony represents five years of planning, contracting and construction.

A project of this nature is anything but a small undertaking.  We at PBS are entrusted to ensure that the American taxpayer is well represented when making decisions to invest millions of dollars as well as a significant portion of time.  Nationally, this represents one of the over 1,500 government-owned buildings that PBS operates on behalf of the American taxpayer. 

I’d like to take a moment to say what a valued customer the Social Security Administration is to the General Services Administration, specifically to the Public Buildings Service.  Nationwide, PBS supplies SSA with over 28 million square feet of space representing about 8 percent of the space PBS provides to support federal employees.  Nationally, SSA is one of PBS’s largest customers.  Of the hundreds of federal agencies that look to PBS to support their space needs, SSA is in the top five.  Let me just say “Thank You” to Commissioner Barnhart and the whole SSA team for trusting us to provide you with superior workplaces at a good economy to the American taxpayer.

This building before us today represents a very significant change to the PBS portfolio.  Originally constructed in 1943 as a military warehouse supporting the war effort and essentially unchanged until 1989 when a portion was developed into office space to support the then new SSA Auburn TeleService Center.  This space has served SSA well for nearly two decades but changes in both technology and the methods in which SSA services American citizens brought about a need for newly designed and expanded space. 

With the needs of our SSA partner’s mission firmly in mind, GSA has developed the remaining portion of that 1943-era warehouse into what we see before us.  Eighty-thousand square feet of mundane warehouse space has been transformed, with the help of a mezzanine area, into one hundred and twenty thousand square feet of modern, state-of-the-art office space. 

Among the guiding principles for federal architecture is that federal office space must provide efficient and economical facilities for the use of government agencies.  Second, it must provide visual testimony to the dignity, enterprise, vigor and stability of the American Government.  The goal is to produce buildings that are a source of pride in their community and to express the Nation’s enduring democratic values. 

Through GSA’s Design and Construction Excellence programs, we are working with the country’s best firms to design and build federal buildings that will have a positive impact in the communities in which they serve.  The architectural firm of TVA Associates of Portland, Oregon, and the construction contractor, Absher NW of Puyaluup (PEW-WALL-UP), Washington, have done a tremendous job of interpreting the needs of the Social Security Administration’s Teleservice Center and applying that to this existing facility.  They have created a space that enhances the service that SSA provides American citizens, meeting today’s security requirements, and creating a project that portrays the professional image of GSA and SSA.  What a superb job they’ve done!

Teleservice Centers such as this are not typical office space as found in many of our federal buildings.  A large number of people working side-by-side, each engaged in serving their particular customer demand a special atmosphere.  Call centers are a critical link between an agency and its customers and as such special care must be taken to ensure that employees are able to effectively communicate with their customer.   They deserve workspace that promotes efficient and productive time with their customers.  I believe we have set the bar high with this particular workspace with its park like setting, the high level of natural lighting, and just that open and spacious feeling that you get when you approach and enter the building.  It will make this a very enjoyable place to serve the American public.  

I am also proud of GSA’s leadership role of setting the example of being a “Good Neighbor” to the 2,100 communities in which there is a federal presence.  This includes our social responsibilities in the areas of energy efficiency and environmental stewardship.  GSA is setting the example by building green that has become a standard way of doing business.  All of our new building projects must be certified through the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program, administered by the U.S. Green Building Council.  LEED measures a building’s energy efficiency, ecological compatibility and sustainability.  This project has exceeded the GSA goal of LEED Certified and has been designed and constructed to meet the LEED Silver rating.  GSA, working with our client and private sector partners, has designed this new facility incorporating flexibility, economic feasibility, and human comforts in their decision-making.  Using the LEED process was just one mechanism in achieving these goals.  The public can be assured that this is an energy-efficient building constructed with sustainable products.

Along with conserving the wonderful roof monitor with clerestory lighting, the main foundation, and the main timber structure of the original building, PBS has taken this minimally used Federal asset and converted it into a first-class office space.  That allows the SSA employees a more pleasing work environment, giving them more productivity and enjoyment in their occupation.  All of this saves the Government the cost of maintaining an old facility and allows it to be a financially self-supporting facility, which saves in costs related to employee retention.  You can truly say that this project has been an exercise in reclaiming and recycling.

This energy efficiency is further enhanced by an agreement between our two agencies that allows GSA to procure “Green Power” for this facility.  Again setting the example for our nation, GSA is a leading purchaser of renewable energy.   And it is being generated from renewable energy sources, which in this area is largely supplied by wind farms in Eastern and Southeastern Washington.  Buying green power offers a number of environmental and economic benefits over conventional electricity and it’s the right thing to do. 

This project also received the “Reclaim to Fame” award that PBS gives to regional projects that are using recycling principles in building adaptations.  With an overall recycling effort of 95 percent, the cost saving here alone amounted to over one-hundred thousand dollars.  What you see before you is an outstanding example of what can be done to reclaim or reuse an existing, underutilized facility to create modern, state of the art, and efficient workspace. 

The commissioning of the new facility is now nearly complete.  We’ve tested, measured and documented the performance of the building systems so that overall system performance is optimal.  This will ensure both comfort and operating efficiency.  The commissioning process is extensive and has gone extremely well in this facility and we can all be assured of a building that will function to its best potential.

Historically, the federal government had a need for warehouse space.  Because of that, complexes such as what we have here in Auburn were constructed in many locations across our country.  These complexes served the nation well for many years.  However, changes in the way our government operates have resulted in a lessening need for warehouses but at the same time, an increasing need for first-class office space.  As the steward of federal properties, PBS is charged with maintaining over 400 historically significant buildings.  As our world has changed, a number of these aged buildings do not efficiently serve the public need.  Adaptive reuse, as we can see here, is a way to both maintain much of the historical aspects while still providing value to our nation.

I am a firm believer in that when we take on an undertaking such as this, we must first know our project.  We should know what it will ultimately cost!  We should have a full understanding of how long it will take to complete!  I’m proud to say that this new, modern complex was completed both on budget and on time—a PBS goal we aspire to achieve with each project.

With the help of our SSA partners, we did it right!  Thank you.


SSA