Site Selection Process Overview
While initial costs are a significant driver, all of the factors must be considered in order to make the right decision. This Guide is designed to offer assistance to the site investigation team and ensure that all appropriate requirements and best practices are implemented in order to identify the most suitable site for the customer agency and the local community.
For a complete review of the GSA site acquisition process, see GSA Guidebook 1: Acquisition of Real Property.
Site selection is a critical step of the overall site acquisition process, which is outlined in GSA Guidebook 1: Acquisition of Real Property. Guidebook 1 is an excellent resource for the complete site acquisition process, including information on appraisals, negotiation, title, closing, and condemnation. This Guide focuses on site selection exclusively.
When does site selection really begin? Site issues are considered early in the capital development process and often are part of preplanning discussions with the customer agency and public officials. During the Feasibility Study, the site acquisition budget is developed for the Site and Design Prospectus. Team members use the informal consultations and preliminary site research to understand the costs of potential sites. At this time, the team also may begin preliminary NEPA and NHPA studies.
Formal site selection commences when the GSA Central Office issues a “Limited Site Directive"; this follows submission of the President’s Budget (which includes the Site and Design Prospectus) to Congress. Typically, there are seven (7) months from the issuance of the Site Directive to the release of funds. Often, this amount of time is insufficient to complete the site investigation and still meet the project schedule.
A typical site investigation takes nine (9) months; a more complex one can require much more time. Many projects require site investigative activities such as NEPA studies, meetings with stakeholders, preparation of offers, and so forth.
Informal site investigations are encouraged prior to receiving the Site Directive in order to complete the site investigation process so that site acquisition can occur shortly after funds are released.
The Regional Offices establish the appropriate site selection process for each project. Until Congress authorizes and appropriates specific site acquisition funds (BA51), the Regions should plan for and provide planning funds (BA61) from the Regional budget. The local Project Team must make the critical decisions and set the criteria for each project. The initial decision as to whether to advertise for sites is vested in the Regional Administrator. The GSA Central Office, including the Office of the Chief Architect, offers expertise on topics related to the larger interest of the federal government and provides support as requested by the Regions. The Site Knowledge Bank also is available for support at all stages of the process.
The site selection process involves a series of data collection and evaluation activities that become more specific in each subsequent step of the site selection process (see Site Selection Process Diagram on page 23). Each step evaluates the suitability of the criteria categories. The evaluations move in a methodical manner, addressing more detailed criteria as the process proceeds. For example, Step 3 looks at macro-level evaluation of the delineated area and identifies “Go/No Go" criteria. Step 4 applies “Go/No Go" criteria as well as other criteria to the long-listed sites. Step 5 uses even more specific criteria to rank the short-listed sites.
The Guide is divided into five chapters, (one for each step of the process), plus a section on troubleshooting, an overview of NEPA activities, and several appendices.
Step 1: Confirm Readiness
emphasizes that decisions made during the Feasibility Study should be reviewed and validated prior to commencing detailed site investigations (either formal or informal).
Step 2: Develop the Work Plan
reviews the development of a Work Plan and a Communications Plan and the selection of the evaluation criteria.
Step 3: Conduct Search for Sites
starts the real work of collecting and analyzing data, finalizing the delineated area and evaluation factors, advertising for sites, and compiling all offers to be evaluated.
Step 4: Evaluate Long List
focuses on the analysis of the long list to identify the top three (3) sites for the project.
Step 5: Evaluate Short List/Recommend Site(s)
describes the detailed evaluation process to develop the recommendation for site selection.
provides GSA experts’ answers to commonly asked questions about site selection.
NEPA Activities in Site Selection
summarizes NEPA requirements regarding environmental protection, including levels of analysis.
include glossary and definitions, team roles and responsibilities, and a list of professional organizations and resources for site selection.