Federal agencies are not strictly subject to state and local government building regulations, although federal law encourages them to conform to applicable regulations in jurisdictions where federal projects are located. The agencies have adopted their own design guidelines and specific criteria that in many cases are identical to those contained in model codes and in the state and local regulations based on these codes. Nevertheless, federal agencies have an authority in principle to adopt design practices, construction procedures, or new technologies that are not accepted under state or local regulations. In practice, this authority may be constrained by public opinion and agencies' aversion to the potential losses when new technology does not perform as hoped.
Liaison representatives of agencies sponsoring the study presented to the committee the current concerns and interests of their agencies in matters of new technology in the building industries. Although the sample of agencies surveyed is necessarily limited, the concerns and interests raised are a representative cross section of issues regarding government's role in building innovation.
The leadership of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), among the principal motivators of the current study, finds itself called upon to demonstrate new building technology that goes beyond the agency's basic mission. A case in point is the application of seismic base isolation devices
Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 81
The Role of Public Agencies in Fostering New Technology and Innovation in Building APPENDIX C REVIEW OF SPECIFIC AGENCIES' STANCE TOWARD BUILDING INNOVATION Federal agencies are not strictly subject to state and local government building regulations, although federal law encourages them to conform to applicable regulations in jurisdictions where federal projects are located. The agencies have adopted their own design guidelines and specific criteria that in many cases are identical to those contained in model codes and in the state and local regulations based on these codes. Nevertheless, federal agencies have an authority in principle to adopt design practices, construction procedures, or new technologies that are not accepted under state or local regulations. In practice, this authority may be constrained by public opinion and agencies' aversion to the potential losses when new technology does not perform as hoped. Liaison representatives of agencies sponsoring the study presented to the committee the current concerns and interests of their agencies in matters of new technology in the building industries. Although the sample of agencies surveyed is necessarily limited, the concerns and interests raised are a representative cross section of issues regarding government's role in building innovation. NAVAL FACILITIES ENGINEERING COMMAND The leadership of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), among the principal motivators of the current study, finds itself called upon to demonstrate new building technology that goes beyond the agency's basic mission. A case in point is the application of seismic base isolation devices
OCR for page 81
The Role of Public Agencies in Fostering New Technology and Innovation in Building developed by a private entrepreneur but not yet demonstrated in U.S. applications. The agency lacks adequate funds for product testing and often finds congressional oversight unforgiving when new technology fails to perform as promised. Furthermore, personnel as well as funding tend to be fully occupied with the day-to-day demands of the agency's mission, which does not seem to include explicit responsibilities for furthering innovation. NAVFAC leadership thus questions whether it is appropriate for the agency to assume the risks of trying new technology. Although the agency may benefit from a particular application—and, when the benefits seem likely to outweigh the risks, will opt for the new technology—it is the private developer of that technology who reaps the larger commercial benefits of successful application. Liability issues are not generally a constraint on decision, although the agency must typically relieve the architect/engineer and constructor of liability when new technology is applied. Rather, the question for NAVFAC is whether broad national interests in innovation should influence individual project decisions in ways that may in some instances pose risks to the agency's effective and efficient performance of its basic mission. U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' current spending for buildings and other facilities includes new construction, rehabilitation and retrofit, and maintenance for other agencies as well as the Army. In its own construction the Corps faces many of the concerns expressed by NAVFAC. The Corps has notable examples (e.g., early experience with heat pumps for air conditioning) in which overly aggressive efforts to adopt new technology led to failures that actually delayed innovation. However, the Army has been assigned a more active role in fostering the development of new technology. The Construction Productivity Advancement Research (CPAR) Program, initiated in 1989, is a cost-shared research, development, and demonstration program, under which private enterprise and the Army work jointly to develop new ideas within a limited range of technical areas consistent with the Corps' primary mission. Examples of new technology developed under the program include a mechanical device to assist masons in lifting heavy blocks, and computer programs to assist facilities designers and managers to perform life-cycle economic analyses of major building subsystems. The Army has several research facilities that support its missions and provide technology support to the construction sector. The CPAR program and other broad federal legislation have placed considerable emphasis on technology transfer, and the Army has capitalized on it via an aggressive Facilities Engineering Application Program (FEAP) and the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRDA) program. FEAP has facilitated the adoption
OCR for page 81
The Role of Public Agencies in Fostering New Technology and Innovation in Building of 120 technologies in the day-to-day operations, design, maintenance, and construction of Army facilities and of 40 technologies into the private sector for marketing to the Army and other customers. The Army has capitalized on the royalty provision of the federal legislation, with $150,000 having been realized. The Army has a continuing research program in technology transfer for the construction industry supporting the Army. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY The Department of Energy (DOE) builds facilities for its own use, and also has active programs of research and technology transfer to foster energy conservation and shifts toward greater use of renewable resources throughout the building sector. The experience with these latter programs provides a number of examples of specific new technologies that have had varying levels of success in being adopted in practice, some of which have been described in Chapter 2. The National Competitiveness Technology Transfer Act of 1989 has been a factor in shaping DOE programs, and transfer of government-funded technologies to the private sector is considered a part of the department's mission, sought as a means of enhancing U.S. competitiveness. In dealing with this aspect of its mission, DOE must make decisions regarding allocations of effort among the stages of innovation from the discovery of new ideas to putting those ideas into practice. DEPARTMENT OF STATE The State Department's embassy construction program presents a wide range of very challenging technical problems, but the department also needs safe, functional, and attractive facilities to house a range of more mundane activities at reasonable cost. The objectives set for facilities of both types are often in conflict (e.g., fire safety, which requires easy access and egress, versus security, which requires that access be strictly limited) and the department finds that decisions about hardware technology may often be made without adequate consideration of the ''software" or management issues involved. For example, a pre-engineered concrete office building was designed for use in New Guinea. The factors motivating this new design included ability to manufacture the parts with better control than could be achieved locally, as well as shortages of local materials. However, the manufactured parts could not be effectively transported to sites in New Guinea, and the new technology was judged inappropriate.
OCR for page 81
The Role of Public Agencies in Fostering New Technology and Innovation in Building The State Department feels a need for better procedures and criteria for assessing new technology ideas, in view of the conflicting objectives of various participants in the decision-making process. Although the department is fairly effective in learning from previous experience, the management system deals poorly with changing priorities, such as the shift since the 1960s, when architectural design excellence was a primary objective, to a current emphasis on security as the most important factor in design. Such shifts are to be expected during the anticipated long service life of new technology. Such change can pose risks that commitments (e.g., to maintenance or to priorities for a particular energy source) implied in the initial decision will be superseded. U.S. POSTAL SERVICE The U.S. Postal Service is relatively unique as a government agency in that its programs are judged somewhat like a private enterprise. New technology can be evaluated in terms of its likely ability to reduce costs or increase revenues. The Postal Service constructs facilities in three primary size categories, from small post offices in typically rural settings to large and highly mechanized processing facilities. Rehabilitation of older buildings is seldom as cost effective as the construction of new ones that take full advantage of the most current technology (particularly in mail handling). The Postal Service maintains an active search for useful new technology, but the technology must be clearly cost-effective before it is adopted. Professional staff undertake to scan selected literature for new ideas and maintain an informal index card system for capturing these ideas. Recent examples of successful introduction of new technologies include use of computer simulation for the development of more effective HVAC design principles for 24-hour facilities, applications of postoccupancy evaluation, introduction of lightweight plastic doors, and work on the "store of the future" (prototype retail postal unit). However, identifying cost-effective new technology to fill definite needs is still a major challenge. Concerns for worker safety, and to a lesser degree security of mail, necessitate thorough evaluation of new technology and represent the most significant constraints to the adoption of new ideas. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a part of the Department of Commerce (DOC), with wide-ranging programs in many areas of science and technology. NIST's Building and Fire Research Laboratory
OCR for page 81
The Role of Public Agencies in Fostering New Technology and Innovation in Building (BFRL) conducts a broad program of research activities, funded approximately 52 percent by requests from other agencies and 48 percent by directly appropriated funds. The laboratory's aims are primarily to develop technologies to predict, measure, and test the performance of construction and fire prevention and control products and processes, and to foster the exchange of knowledge. The institute undertakes no direct construction. The system for selection of research topics is based largely on NIST review, congressional mandates, DOC programs, and recommendations of committees of experts. Like the USA Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, the BFRL finds that communication of new ideas resulting from the agency's work to those who might benefit from the knowledge, is a continuing challenge. The Trade Act of 1988 established a position of Under Secretary for Technology in DOC and a program at NIST to encourage commercialization of new technology developed in the government's labs. NIST's Advanced Technology Program provides partial funding and technical assistance to encourage the development of precompetitive new technology to reduce some of the risks inherent in the application of such technology. Proposals for the support of new building technologies are eligible for assistance under this program. STATE OF MARYLAND Like many other state and local jurisdictions, Maryland's primary interests in new technology emphasize maintenance and repair of existing facilities. Past efforts to try new technologies have had a generally low success rate, and efforts to use single-ply roofing are an outstanding example for state officials of the risks of trying new technology. Problems have been encountered in both installation and maintenance. The state experiences persistent difficulty in recruiting, training, and retaining qualified people for operation and maintenance of new technologies. These difficulties—and the overall challenges of follow-through on action needed to ensure success in the adoption of new building technology—make it difficult for professional staff, who might otherwise be inclined to try new technology, to justify such decisions to elected officials. MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND Montgomery County, a part of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, has over the past decade experienced rapid growth necessitating substantial construction. The county has tried new technologies, particularly for energy
OCR for page 81
The Role of Public Agencies in Fostering New Technology and Innovation in Building management, and found that its biggest challenge is in getting the new technology incorporated early enough in the design process to ensure effective implementation. Securing sufficient funding to permit adequate analysis of new technology options in the planning and design stages of project development has been difficult. One area in which the challenge has been met, with substantial success, is energy efficiency. County legislation has made energy-efficient design a mandatory part of all county construction. Each request for design services specifies analysis models to be used in the evaluation of energy-saving technology options. The county finds that savings of 30 to 40 percent of future energy costs are achieved with minor increases in design expense—typically less than 0.5 percent of initially estimated total project cost—and no increase in construction cost.