Will the GSA Scandal Harm Design Professionals?

After being rocked by a scandal over extravagant spending, Tom Stoelker wonders whether the General Services Administration (GSA) and their hallmark initiatives, such as the Design Excellence Program, will suffer in the political fallout.
June 7, 2012, 5am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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The GSA's lauded Design Excellence program, which was established by former chief architect Ed Feiner in 1996, established an important partnership with the architecture community by promoting and mandating high quality and innovative design in federal government building projects. Politically vulnerable from the start, architects now fear that the recent scandal could have a far reaching impact on the design of federal projects and on the Design Excellence program itself.

"Rob Rogers of Rogers Marvel Architects, who has worked on GSA projects both in New York and Washington, D.C., fears that now any design element could be interpreted as an extravagance and even high-profile projects will be forced to have heavy rounds of value engineering," notes Stoelker.

Although Feiner, who now runs the Design Leadership Forum at Perkins+Will, "is not too concerned about the program's staying power since it's codified in law," architects working with the GSA have already noticed significant changes in the agency's practices.

"There's definitely been a tightening of the belt," ZGF Architects principal Todd Stine said of his firm's work with the GSA. "Normal things like basic travel have been tough. It makes it a bit more challenging when the client can't come to the site."

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Published on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 in The Architect's Newspaper
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