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4 FEDERAL ACTIONS RELATED TO THE QUESTION The Public Building Amendments act of 1988 is not the first instance of official concern about the relationship between federal government design criteria and non-federal standards and criteria. In 1984, the FCC member agencies sponsored a BRB study of opportunities for increasing the quality and efficiency of federal design and construc- tion.14 The committee conducting that study expressed concern regarding lack of coordination among various agencies' criteria for design of similar facilities, and the overlap of federal regulations with codes, standards, and criteria used in the private sector. The committee recommended that, wherever possible, federal agencies should purge their design criteria of provisions that needlessly duplicate provisions of the model codes and specify by reference the use of one of these codes. Executive Guidelines on Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Standards The federal government, as a whole, has recognized that standards for describing required characteristics of many products or services used by the government may be adapted from or used as stated by private voluntary standards bodies. This recognition, as well as a policy of reliance on the private sector to supply government's needs for goods and services, led to issuance by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) of Circular No. A-119, 'Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Standards." The most recently revised version of this circular was issued October 26, 1982. (Appendix A) The circular calls upon federal agencies to adopt and use "voluntary standards that will serve agencies' purposes and are consistent with applicable laws and regulations," in the interests of economy and efficiency, unless they are specifically prohibited by law from doing so. Agencies are further urged to give voluntary standards preference over non-mandatory government standards unless use of these voluntary standards would adversely effect performance or cost or have other l4Design Criteria for Federal Buildings. Committee on Federal Construction Design Criteria, Building Research Board. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 1985. 19
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significant disadvantages. Agencies responsible for developing standards are advised to review their standards at least every five years and to cancel those for which an ''adequate and appropriate voluntary standard" is available. The circular also encourages participation of knowledgeable agency employees in the standards-development activities of groups that propose voluntary standards. Noting specifically that such participation does not signify agency endorsement or adoption of agreements and standards that might result from these activities, the circular suggests that this participation should be aimed at eliminating the need for development and maintenance of separate government standards. While the benefits of reducing duplication of effort and needless diversity of product standards are clear, there are caveats as well. The OMB memorandum issuing the 1982 revision of Circular No. A-ll9 included a copy of the letter from the Department of Justice commenting on issues of competition raised by the policy. This letter referred to U.S. Supreme Court opinion and international treaty responsibilities as bases for federal government agencies to encourage voluntary standards groups to give open consideration of all relevant viewpoints and interests, and to remain wary of the possible anticompetitive impact of broad adoption of standards set by private groups without adequate involvement of existing and potential industry participants and consumers. The Secretary of Commerce, given responsibility for reporting progress under Circular No. A-119, submits a triennial report for the Director of OMB. An Interagency Committee on Standards Policy (ICSP) prepares this report based on annual reports by other federal agencies to the Secretary of Commerce. The committee noted that the large number of voluntary standards groups, the very wide range of relevant interests in standards influencing building products, design, and construction, and absence of funds specifically designated for agency participation in standards setting, make it especially difficult for federal construction agencies to assure that the guidance given by the OMB is effectively applied. Thus, while agencies have in fact adopted many voluntary standards in their owner's criteria, the committee found it difficult to distinguish the impact of OMB Circular No. A-ll9 in current agency practices regarding building design. Legislation to Improve the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Management of Public Buildings The 100th Congress, in October, 1988 passed the ''Public Buildings Amendments of 1988.~' (Appendix B) The act includes a section (designated Sec 21. Compliance with Nationally Recognized Codes) requiring that all federal buildings be reconstructed or altered, to the maximum extent feasible" in compliance with one of the nationally recognized model building codes and other applicable nationally recognized codes such as electrical codes, plumbing codes, and fire and life safety codes. The ''maximum extent feasible" is as determined by the Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) or the head of the federal agency undertaking the construction or alteration. The law also requires that 20
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federal agency officials consult with appropriate state or local officials and, if requested, submit building plans for review and permit inspection of construction according to local customary procedures.15 The committee observes that this legislation, in principle, simply codifies what is already federal agencies' policy. The committee's experience is that agency design criteria typically meet or exceed the provisions of the model codes. Further, despite some examples: of agency personnel failing to take account of concerns or knowledge of local conditions that state or local officials have, the committee asserts that responsible managers and professionals for most federal building projects seek to respect local building and zoning regulations which do not conflict with the government's needs. Where conflict may arise' the committee's experience is that efforts are typically made to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of all parties. The law may provide state or local authorities with a stronger weapon for dealing with those cases of conflict that do occasionally arise. However, the law specifically states that no action may be brought against the federal government for failure to comply with the act's consultation and review provisions, and exempts the federal government and its contractors from payment of any fees that might normally be collected by a state or local agency for plan review or construction inspection. The committee anticipates that guidelines that may be issued by GSA, regarding how compliance with nationally recognized building codes is to be assured, will have cost implications for the agencies. In the extreme, it could become necessary for each agency to prepare point-by- point comparisons of the agency's design criteria with the requirements in each nationally recognized building code. The committee asserts that there is still a benefit to be gained by reducing the overlap of some agencies' criteria with the principal model codes, but that a laborious point-by-point comparison would be largely unproductive, because of both the large number of nationally recognized codes and the typically equal or higher requirements set in federal design criteria. However, the committee suggests as well that such a comparison may evolve with development of computerized building code and design criteria databases and that such evolutionary development is worthy of encouragement. (Refer to Chapter 2) 15The act also requires that consideration be given to all require- ments (other than procedural requirements) of zoning laws and laws relating to landscaping, open space, building heights, distances between buildings and property lines (termed ''building setbacks or ) , historic preservation, aesthetic qualities of a building, and other similar state or local government laws that would apply if the building project were not being undertaken by a federal government agency. Such requirements are outside the scope of building codes and thus are not addressed in this study. 21
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Current Agency Activities The various federal agencies have little uniformity in their policies and practices regarding the relationship of their owner's criteria to model codes or local codes. The Army Corps of Engineers reports, for example, that the agency used the Uniform Building Code (UBC) as the starting point for developing its criteria documents. Consequently, the Corps' criteria are very similar to the UBC in matters having to do with health, safety, and general welfare of building occupants, but these documents do not make any specific reference to the UBC. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command has not followed closely any single model code in developing its criteria documents, but has adopted many specific proposed voluntary standards. This more eclectic approach to criteria development may be most representative of current federal agency practice. The Department of Energy (DOE) has in recent years reviewed and revised its design criteria to virtually eliminate overlap with the model codes. As they are currently written, the predominant model code in a region governs on all matters not covered in the agency's design criteria documents. Design standards are incorporated by reference to voluntary standards, rather than by incorporation of the specific standard. On occasion, for example with respect to earthquake design loads, a single specific model code provision may be referenced. DOE staff estimate that less than one percent of their design criteria now directly address matters covered by the model codes. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for many years issued an extensive list of criteria governing the design and construc- tion of housing and certain other types of facilities eligible for financial assistance under HUD programs, the Minimum Property Standards (MPS). The MPS was developed to protect the government's investment in mortgages secured by the assisted properties, and to maintain the integrity of the underlying government policies of providing decent housing and a suitable living environment to a broad range of people. Many builders and local governments found the imposition of a second set of code-like requirements, on top of local codes, to be burdensome and possibly contributing to costs and management problems in many projects. Responding to these concerns, HUD adopted a policy that compliance with nationally recognized model codes or local codes that HUD staff deemed to be comparable would be considered acceptable for program eligibility, and substantially curtailed the scope of the MPS. The MPS now covers only those matters, such as interior sound transmission and site development characteristics, not covered in the principal model codes. 22