What is the Public Buildings Service (PBS)?

Thursday, November 10, 2022

As the landlord for the civilian federal government, Public Buildings Service (PBS) is the country’s biggest landlord. Part of the General Services Administration (GSA)  acquires space on behalf of the federal government through leasing and new construction. It acts as a caretaker for federal properties across the country. Under the Biden Administration, PBS is a focal point due to its critical role in the government’s response to the climate crisis. 

History, Mission, and Organization

PBS manages the real estate portfolio for the federal government, making it the country’s largest public real estate and inventory organization. Founded in 1949 PBS manages, oversees, and preserves over  8,000 assets – including 370M square feet of workspace for 1.1M federal employees, 50% of the total federal civilian workforce, 500 historic properties, and $71.1B in owned value. Today PBS provides national leadership, policy direction, and standards for architecture, engineering, urban development, sustainable design, fine arts, historic preservation, construction services, and project management. 

As an organization, PBS maintains 5,300 employees across its Central Office and eleven regions. PBS office functions are outlined below. The accuracy of these office functions may differ from the current state of PBS as The Pulse was unable to locate a current organizational structure.  

  • Office of Portfolio Management and Customer Engagement is responsible for maximizing the value of PBS’s portfolio of owned and leased assets by developing national strategies and serving as a consultant to the regions. This office includes:
    • Office of Real Estate Portfolio Management includes the Pricing Policy and Tools Division, Capital Allocation Division, Portfolio Analysis Division, and Occupancy Administration. In general, this Office executes the following tasks:
      • Manages the financial performance of the portfolio of leased and owned assets
      • Develops new, or adapting from the private sector, tools that enable regions to manage individual assets in ways that serve long-term portfolio management goals
      • Coordinates with the Office of the PBS Chief Information Officer (CIO) in developing and managing automated tools; e.g., the System for Tracking and Administering Real Property (STAR) and Computer Assisted Design (CAD) and Computer Integrated Facilities Management (CIFM) software.
    • Office of Real Property Utilization and Disposal (RPU&D) role has evolved from operating solely as the Property Act disposal agent to being a customer-focused government-wide realty services provider. In general, this office executes the following tasks:
      • Provides expertise for federal real property disposal
      • Identifies, prepares, and divests unneeded property
    • Office of Customer Engagement coordinates customer relationships and oversees services to customers. 
  • Office of Design and Construction (PC) offers national leadership and policy direction in the areas of architecture, engineering, urban development, construction services, and project management. This office includes the Office of the Chief Architect and the Office of Project Delivery. 
  • Office of Leasing directs the development of procedures related to realty services and executes the National Realty Services Program. 
  • Office of Facilities Management and Services Programs provides program management, support, and guidance to Property Managers to improve the work environment for clients. 

PBS in Action

While most of the work PBS does revolves around the acquisition and upkeep of federal facilities, that work is much more than simply executing lease agreements. 

  • Green Proving Ground (GPG): Working with the Department of Energy (DOE), PBS started the Green Proving Ground (GPG) program in 2015 to evaluate innovative building technologies. GPG aims to lower operational costs in federal buildings and help lead market transformation. So far, it has deployed 21 technologies, saves 58,000 tons of CO2 per year, and has $16M in annual cost avoidance. GPG currently has a Request for Information (RFI) for Technologies for Net-Zero Carbon Buildings that is open until December 9. The RFI is centered on emerging technologies that improve operating efficiency and promote healthy workplaces, enable whole-building electrification, facilitate GHG and carbon reduction, provide on-site energy generation and storage systems, and deliver electric fleet and load management solutions. This program is in support of the federal government’s goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 
  • Urban Development Program: PBS is supporting community goals and development by installing a wayfinding signage program in the San Ysidro Port of Entry District. This effort will help pedestrians and bicyclists navigate the area, located in San Diego, California. 
  • Fine Arts Collection: The Fine Arts Program ensures the safety, accessibility, preservation, and use of art in federal work environments. Dating back to the 1850s the Fine Arts Collection is one of the country’s oldest and largest public art collections. Some of the art was acquired through the Art in Architecture Program and the New Deal art projects. PBS’ Fine Arts Program puts art in federal buildings, as well as loans art to museums and nonprofit organizations. 

Contract Procurement and Acquisition

There are several typical contracts PBS awards:

  • Studies: Usually Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ), GSA Schedule, or Sole Source 8(a).
  • Design: Usually Brooks Act or IDIQ.
  • Construction Managers as Agent: Usually GSA Schedule BPA, GSA Schedule, IDIQ, Open Sources, or Sole Source 8(a).
  • Construction: Usually Source Selection, Best Value, Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA), IDIQ, Small Business Set-Aside, or Sole Source 8(a).
  • Operations and Maintenance: Usually LPTA (either Small Business Set-Aside or GSA Schedule.
  • Lease: Usually Full and Open Competition within Delineated Area or AAAP.
  • Energy Savings Performance Contracts/Utility Energy Service Contracts: Usually Limited Source Contracts or Utility Companies.   

GSA is the only federal agency with authority to procure utility services for federal agencies such as electricity, natural gas, and water. Federal contracting officers can procure utility services through GSA’s Areawide Public Utility Contract, a master blanket contract.

PBS has unique methods of acquiring facilities, yet its basic processes are similar to most other federal agencies. PBS utilizes Client Project Agreements (CPAs) to facilitate collaboration, planning, and strategic requirements development consistently and promptly. CPAs also ensure space projects are well thought out and agreeable. They allow PBS to continuously document strategic requirements and the agreement on those requirements between agencies and GSA. PBS typically identifies space needs three years in advance. 

Project Lifecycle

  • Identification: The initial step is identifying the strategic requirements or high-level project outcomes. This becomes Part 1 and Part 2 of the CPA. 
  • Initiation: This step involves outlining the functional or more refined requirements. This includes assigning a project manager and developing an early schedule and budget. 
  • Planning: The technical requirements are laid out, including any agency build-out requirements. The funding commitment is also obtained. 
  • Execution: This step produces the final requirements package and awards a project, including any necessary design or construction requirements.  
  • Closeout: The project closeout consists of final inspections and a completed punch list. Rent payments begin.
  • Operations: The last step is occupancy and the start of the continuous business relationship between PBS and its customer. 

PBS’ Automated Advanced Acquisition Program (AAAP) began in the 1990s as a paper-based system for D.C. leases. It is an online platform that allows bidders to submit proposals for office space to a central database. This multiple-award lease procurement tool allows bidders to submit a single offer for multiple federal leases throughout the fiscal year. AAAP connects federal agencies and building owners, the buyers and sellers. This program reduces leasing process time because it automatically rules out any properties that do not meet the minimum requirements and do not require a Request for Lease Proposal (RLP). AAAP acquires the lowest-cost, technically acceptable spaces, allowing agencies to visit and verify potential buildings first-hand. It is only used for office space leases greater than 500 square feet. 

PBS’ Simplified Lease Acquisition Threshold (SLAT) Model is used for smaller lease acquisitions that qualify for the use of simplified lease acquisition procedures to save time and money, utilizing a two-step bidding process. 60% of the PBS lease portfolio is under SLAT, yet these leases only account for 12% of the total annual rent.

Suppose an acquisition is not AAAP or SLAT. In that case, it goes through the Requirement Specific Acquisition Platform (RSAP), a single award lease procurement tool that allows GSA to address complex space requirements electronically. The RSAP collects offers for specific space requirements using a single RLP.

GSA’s Center for Broker Services awards multiple zonal Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts to commercial real estate brokers; the current contract is GLS Plus. GSA also utilizes commercial platforms and online solutions used by government agencies but managed by a non-government entity. 

Design Acquisition Services are competed using a qualifications-based selection process, as in the Brooks Act and FAR Part 36.6. Technical submissions from Architect-Engineer firms are reviewed, and the top-rated firm engages in negotiations for the award. The government will move on to the next highest-ranked firm if an agreement cannot be reached. GSA uses this process to award IDIQ and small project contracts.

A variation of the Design Acquisition process, Design Excellence, is used for major projects. Major construction contracts are awarded through various Source Selection methods. All construction projects over $100,000 fall under the Miller Act, which requires performance and payment bonds.

Performance bonds act as a promise to perform obligations once the contract is awarded, and payment bonds act as a promise of payment to those supplying labor or materials. Smaller construction projects are acquired through sealed bidding procedures, lowest-price technically acceptable (LPTA) competitive proposals, or competitive orders against existing multiple-award IDIQ construction contracts.

All GSA contractors and employees use Kahua to track projects in federally owned or leased space, such as project agreements or requests for information. The previous system, ePM/ePMXpress, was fully phased out in October 2022.

Recent Contracts

The following are contracts that PBS recently awarded:

  • Flexible Coworking Services (FCS): In August 2021, WeWork and four other vendors were awarded spots on an IDIQ to provide flexible workspace for federal employees. The contract is the result of the shift to hybrid and telework options for federal employees as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The contract has a maximum value of $50 million and includes one base year plus four option years.
  • Bricker Replace Fire Alarm and Notification System: In September 2022, Madison Services Inc. won a $2.7M total small business set-aside contract to replace the fire alarm system in the Bricker Federal Building and garage in Columbus, Ohio. This negotiated, best-value procurement was based on past experience, key personnel, project management plan, and past performance, with technical factors holding more weight than price.
  • California Electric Supply Service: Direct Energy Business LLC was awarded a contract in October 2022 to supply all electricity commodity components for federal facilities in various Local Distribution Utility (LDU) service territories in California. The contract is worth $27M and the price includes all cost components and transmission and distribution line losses to the end-use meter. The contract is in effect from December 2022 through the end of November 2025.
  • CMc Services for Major Building Modernization of Silvio J. Mollo Building Project: PBS awarded a $238M contract in September 2022 to Turner Construction Company to be the Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc) at the Silvio J. Mollo Federal Building during its Major Building Modernization Project. PBS offered site visits during the bidding phase, and its decision was influenced by total value price, experience on similar projects, management approach, past performance on relevant projects, subcontracting methodology, and cost accounting standards compliance.
  • Lease for IRS Ponce, PR: Plaza Del Caribe, S.E. is contracting out a leased office space on 15 years, 10-year firm term in Ponce, Puerto Rico. PBS was looking for 48,832 to a maximum of 51,274 of American National Standards Institute/Building Owners and Managers Association (ANSI/BOMA) Office Area (ABOA) square feet (SF) of contiguous space with at least 451 parking spaces. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will operate out of the office space.
  • Apple iPads and Accessories: PBS acquired commercial information technology equipment for Region 7’s Program Support Branch in 2018. Panamerican Computers, Inc. delivered Apple iPads and accessories to fulfill the $41K contract. This LPTA was a Total Small Business Set-Aside, where only qualified authorized Apple dealers were permitted to submit proposals.

Contract Spending

As shown above, federal contract work awarded takes place in New York and California. Below are a few key data points for PBS contracting spending from FY18 to FY22:

Top 10 U.S. Federal Contractors:

  • Brasfield & Gorrie, L.L.C. 
  • Hensel Phelps Construction Co. 
  • Volmar Construction Inc.
  • Honeywell International Inc. 
  • Mascaro Construction Co LP
  • Atkinson/Clark A Joint Venture
  • Big-D Construction Corp. 
  • Trade Center Management Associates L.L.C. 
  • The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company 
  • Northland/Cianbro A Joint Venture

A majority of contract dollars are spent under PSC Z2AA, for the repair or alteration of office buildings. The same is true for NAICS Code 236220, commercial and institutional building construction.

Top 10 PSCs:

  • Z2AA – Repair or Alteration of Office Buildings 
  • Y1AA – Construction of Office Buildings 
  • Z1AA – Maintenance of Office Buildings 
  • Y1AZ – Construction of Other Administrative Facilities and Service Buildings 
  • R499 – Support – Professional: Other 
  • S201 – Housekeeping – Custodial Janitorial 
  • C1AA – Architect and Engineering – Construction: Office Buildings 
  • S112 – Utilities – Electric 
  • R699 – Support – Administrative: Other 
  • S216 – Housekeeping – Facilities Operations Support 

Top 10 NAICS Codes:

  • 236220 – Commercial and Institutional Building Construction
  • 561210 – Facilities Support Services
  • 541330 – Engineering Services
  • 541310 – Architectural Services
  • 561720 – Janitorial Services
  • 541611 – Administrative Management and General Management Consulting Services
  • 238220 – Plumbing, Heating, and Air-Conditioning Contractors
  • 221122 – Electric Power Distribution
  • 221112 – Fossil Fuel Electric Power Generation
  • 238290 – Other Building Equipment Contractors

Favorite Vehicles:

  • Multiple Award Schedule (MAS)
  • DOE Energy Savings Performance Contracts 2008-2019 (ESPC)
  • Facilities Maintenance and Management (03FAC) 
  • PBS Region 7 Construction MATOC 2015-2020 
  • PBS R2 General Construction and Design-Build Construction Services
  • PBS Zone 3 Construction Services 2016-2021
  • Information Technology Schedule 70 (IT-70)
  • Region 7 General Construction with Design Build Capabilities IDIQ 
  • National Architect Engineer Interiors 2016-2021

PBS in 2023 and Beyond

PBS has become a big focus of the Administration because it supports many of its priorities, including addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis, advancing equity, and promoting economic opportunity. 

Recently PBS has received harsh criticism due to major shortcomings in the execution of its mission. PBS has been accused of not efficiently renewing and maintaining leases, which is wasting taxpayer dollars, failing to maintain green roofs, and mishandling the Trump International Hotel

GSA’s FY23 Budget Request requests $10.9B in New Obligational Authority (NOA) for PBS’ Federal Building Fund (FBF). A breakdown of this request includes, but is not limited to: 

  • $2.2B in capital program investments
  • $2.9B in building operations
  • $1.19B in major repairs and alterations
  • $339M for basic repairs and alterations
  • $165M for consolidation activities, judiciary capital security, fire protection and life safety, energy and water retrofit and conservation measures, and climate and resilience. 

As for priorities for 2023 and beyond, PBS wants to deliver “financially and environmentally sustainable, accessible, and responsive workspace solutions that enable a productive Federal workforce” by addressing the following:

There are significant opportunities across the PBS portfolio for GSA to reimagine the federal footprint, reduce long-term real estate costs, and meet the future workspace needs of Federal agencies and the public they serve. With future investments in the federal workforce and technology, PBS hopes to operate, maintain, and obtain better utilization of federal facilities. 

Researched and authored by Haley Boulanger, Pulse Analyst.

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