The U.S. Government Accountability Office recommends that the Office of Management and Budget’s deputy director, as chair of the Federal Real Property Council, take the lead in creating benchmarks for measuring utilization in federal buildings, with a focus on adjusting to increased telework. The OMB has agreed to implement this recommendation, GAO said.
Federal agencies have been contending with a lack of a governmentwide benchmarks for effective space utilization. Currently, agencies use a variety of metrics, benchmarks and calculations while planning their space — even for square footage within the same building.
“A standard method to measure utilization and benchmarks that account for higher levels of telework could help the federal government more consistently identify underutilized space within and across agencies,” GAO said in the Oct. 2023 report. Such information could support a more effective alignment of the federal real property portfolio with future needs, reducing costs by letting go of unneeded space, it said.
A study GAO conducted in July estimated that 17 of 24 agencies use 25% or less of their headquarters building capacity, on average. At a January 2023 FRPC meeting, more than half the agency officials present reported that their headquarters had surplus space before the COVID-19 pandemic. That surplus has since increased with more adoption of telework and remote work, the report states.
Senators called for the use of consistent benchmarks and more efficiency in evaluating future space needs at a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing in late September, but Public Buildings Service Commissioner Nina Albert disputed the idea of federal buildings sitting empty.