Deferred maintenance in GSA-owned buildings leaves them “vulnerable to rising maintenance and repair costs and an increased risk of building system failure, accelerated deterioration of systems and structures, and potential life safety hazards,” an IG report has said.
The report said that the GSA Public Buildings Service’s maintenance strategy “has not been effective” to reduce the maintenance backlog in its portfolio of some 1,600 federally owned buildings, which on average are 49 years old.
The formal estimate of $1.93 billion in deferred maintenance in 2019 represented an increase of more than half over the prior five years, the report added, but those estimates suffer from “data shortcomings and errors” that “may not accurately represent the cost.” In a sample of 10 projects—for items such as walls, air circulation and electrical systems—it said that in comparison with outside estimates, GSA’s estimates ranged from 87 percent less to 32 percent more.
Costs also increase as maintenance is deferred, the report said; in a sample of five projects, projected costs now are nearly twice as much on average as when the needs were first defined as an “immediate” liability.
“Long-term deferred maintenance can also lead to more costly emergency repair or replacement projects,” it said. “Depending on the nature of the emergency repair work, these emergency projects often result in hidden costs, such as lost productivity if building occupants are not allowed into the building while the repair work is ongoing.”
Even where money is dedicated to repairs at a facility it does not necessarily address such immediate liabilities, it said. The GSA agreed with recommendations to improve cost estimates but only partly agreed with a recommendation to place greater emphasis immediate liabilities by prioritizing projects to reduce them.
Separately, the IG released a review of a specific “high-risk” building—whose identity was redacted—finding issues including “significant problems with the closed circuit camera surveillance and intrusion detection systems” which created problems such as “a contract employee living in the building unbeknownst to the security guards on duty.”