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May 2, 2011, 2:47 PM
State Department Ramping Up Design Excellence Program for U.S. Embassies

April 28, 2011

By Tom Ichniowski


Read More: http://archrecord.construction.com/news/2011/04/110428-Design-Excellence-Program.asp

The State Dept. is pushing ahead with plans to embrace “design excellence” in its embassy construction program, using some elements for a new U.S. embassy in London, now in design, and fleshing out details through a series of documents that will spell out specific Design Excellence program guidelines. The department's Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO), which manages the construction program, announced the Design Excellence effort in April 2010, when it issued general “guiding principles.” The principles draw on recommendations of a 2009 American Institute of Architects task force. The OBO intends to publish a series of documents over the next few years, with the first one being released by July. The Design Excellence initiative is not simply aiming for buildings that are beautiful on the outside but much more energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable on the inside.

Moreover, the initiative is reshaping OBO contracting. Adam Namm, OBO's acting director, says that while the bureau did use design-bid-build contracting for certain major facilities, such as embassies in Berlin and Beijing, its “default” contracting method was design-build. Namm says, “We are now not going to have a default, and we're going to look at both methods of construction for all projects.” Lydia Muniz, OBO deputy director, says the contracting shift “goes really to the heart of our program.” She adds, “It really sets forth a very clear position for us moving forward—that we're going to use both methods, that we're going to push for design excellence with both, that we need to rely on both because we deal with so many different environments, that we really need to be able to call on each methodology whenever we want.”

Speaking of contracting, William Miner, director of OBO's office of design and engineering, says, “You have to become ambidextrous.” Or maybe “tridextrous.” Miner says OBO is looking for a “third way” of contracting. In fact, the agency already has used “bridging” and now, on the London project, is accepting early-contractor-involvement proposals. The design contract for the London project was awarded last year to KeiranTimberlake, Philadelphia. OBO also has looked at integrated project delivery. Muniz says the contractor would come onboard well before OBO normally would hire a firm and “deliver services during design.” Depending on how the contractor performs, OBO could keep the firm on for the construction phase or seek a new contractor.


http://archrecord.construction.com/news/2011/04/images/110428-Design-Excellence-Program1.jpg http://archrecord.construction.com/news/2011/04/images/110428-Design-Excellence-Program2.jpg

May 3, 2011, 9:50 PM
Judging from those two pictures, 'design excellence' equals moats.

My question: will new embassies include drawbridges and portcullises?

May 3, 2011, 10:29 PM
More architecture of the Age of Fear. Design excellency = they don't want protestors to gather around and throw eggs at the embassy next time the US does something questionable. The only thing those designs are missing are starchitect-designed gun turrets and LEED-certified mine fields.

May 3, 2011, 10:44 PM
They are, of course, ugly modernist disasters but security is a top priority due to numerous embassy bombings over the past few decades.


There is reason to fear.

May 4, 2011, 3:45 AM
If security measures are needed, I'd much rather they be something more subtle like artistic moats than six-foot concrete blast walls topped with spike fences or sheer concrete security berms.