Federal Manager's Daily Report

A GSA program created as a “response to criticism that federal buildings are uninspiring” has resulted in some attractive and creative building designs but such customized features also are proving to be especially expensive to keep up, GAO has said.

In a blog post that highlighted lessons learned from a recent report on the Design Excellence Program–under which 78 office buildings and courthouses have been built since 1994–GAO said that “some design choices, such as natural light, durable materials, and low-maintenance landscaping, led to lower overall operations and maintenance costs in these buildings.”


Using natural light also reduces energy costs, and using native plants that require little watering reduce those costs as well, it said.

“However, other design choices, such as separate structures (like rotundas), custom windows, and multi-story atriums, led to higher maintenance costs. For instance, the rotunda in the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., had water stains on the ceiling from leaking roof gutters. And while fixing gutters is a common maintenance activity, specialists had to be hired to fix these gutters because the dome roof has no area to stand,” it said.

At one federal courthouse, each of eight custom windows cost $80,000 to fabricate and $50,000 to install or replace because a crane is required. “Multistory atriums also often led to additional costs, including the need to erect expensive scaffolding for maintenance,” it said.