Dec 17, 2015

Does It Cost This Much To Renovate An Office Building?

     Congress is about to appropriate $150 million to renovate Social Security's Altmeyer Building. The agency had not requested any money for this purpose. I had earlier asked how many square feet there are in the Altmeyer Building. A reader was kind enough to find the answer to my question -- 213,716 square feet. If you divide $250 million by 213,716 you find out that the appropriation would work out to be $701.87 per square foot. 
     Let's try to get some scale on this.  Imagine if you bought an old 2,000 square foot home that needed renovations -- just renovations, not an addition. If you spent $701.87 per square foot doing renovations on that old home you'd end up spending $1.4 million. Does that sound plausible? Office renovations are, of course, different than home renovations but do you really think that renovating Altmeyer will cost $150 million? Even if it does cost $150 million, does Congress have to appropriate all the money now? Such a big project is going to take more than a year. I'd guess that the agency doesn't even have a comprehensive plan to renovate the building. Could construction even begin during the current fiscal year? Wouldn't it be better to appropriate some money to come up with a plan and then appropriate money for construction once you have a better idea what it will cost? Aren't you inviting waste by appropriating a ton of money when you don't know exactly what the agency is going to do with the money? That $150 million would really help the agency deal with its backlogs.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is really a petty crusade, that $150mil is not going to solve the backlog like you seem to be claiming. The 10.6bil appropriated is 1.6billion less than Obama's 12.2bil request, which debatably would even be sufficient to get the backlog down. 150mil is 9% of the discrepancy. Would that money be better spent on operations? Maybe, but it's no where near enough to make more than a marginal difference in the rate of increase, much less any reduction.

Anonymous said...

In 2013, an American Institute of Architects publication indicated that a standard office building is typically built for between $80 per square foot and $150 per square foot. On the other hand, a laboratory building, with extreme requirements of control, filtration, and
cleanliness, may cost from $150 per square foot to more than $400 per square foot, again depending on quality and performance requirements.

Thus the $700 per square foot allocation is overkill. But as we know, when money gets allocated it seems to always find a way to get spent.

Anonymous said...

Honestly Altmyer is old but its not in that bad of shape. Standard 9 story office building. Not surprised though highest people in the agency have offices in the building. Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs is in the building. Members of the public do not go into the building. Unless they are adding onto it I couldn't see where this money would go. New commissioner in 2016 will have a shiny new office in a shady part of Bmore

Anonymous said...

2:57 You are just reading this wrong.

Congress did not just appropriate $10.5bn of the President's $12.2bn request. They just appropriated $12.162bn. Earlier in the year, the Senate appropriations committee had penciled in SSA for $500 million less, and the House committee, 300 million less. SO the budget is just about what the president asked for, a pretty rare occurrence, and considerably more than the austerity budget both the House and Senate were preparing.

As for the Altmeyer Building, it is likely SSA has a capital improvement budget every year, and all that is happening in this budget is Congress directing where that money goes. In other words, don't spend that $150 million renovating facilities in Texas, Wisconsin and New York, but use it all on HQ. This was Barbara Mikulski's doing and it is easy to imagine she wants the money spent in Maryland, it is hard to imagine she would require SSA to undertake physical renovation at the expense of operations.

Anonymous said...

Asbestos abatement, new HVAC, blast windows, etc. Gotta protect the executives.

Johnny Cash said...

For 150 million in Wisconsin you get triple the new space. http://m.host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/paul-soglin-new-hill-farms-building-could-spur-downtown-redevelopment/article_408a95cd-d501-585e-8ca7-5d7c2934dec9.html

Anonymous said...

I love how people who have never been in a place have opinions about the place. Worked in the Altmeyer over 10 years, retired working there. The agency has had tentative plans to renovate the Altmeyer for years but always killed them either in lieu of other buildings getting upgraded first (heard is was Astrue who said Altmeyer should be done last) or due to budget. The building has no dedicated freight elevators and depends upon 4 passenger elevators to move things. They are old and need repair/replacement. The HVAC is held together by duct tape and luck. Likely that system would be ripped out and a new more modern one installed. The electric is marginal and wiring for modern computing is so added on. The floorplan might not be changeable all that much, the building is damn narrow, but reconfiguring the interior space to be more useful and comply with GSA space regulations isn't trivial. Asbestos is all over (which is why they won't play with many of the ceilings, too expensive to disturb it and why they test a few times a year). There are two sub basements with all of the mechanicals and plant that is used by the campus. Thinking a lot of that will be replaced due to the HVAC. It also encompasses the main floor lobby and the Auditorium. Add in new security requirements requiring setbacks, specific things like blast proof windows and such and the idea that you can take square foot estimates for residential or typical office and apply them here seems silly. If they do this right, this wouldn't be a renovation as much as a building rebuild.

Anonymous said...

This is not a "renovation" in the usual sense. The Annex Building renovation, for example, involved stripping the old building down to the steel beam framework and essentially building it anew from scratch. The Altmeyer renovation will probably be the same.

Anonymous said...

BTW, you are wrong about the agency not seeking money for restoration of Altmeyer Building. The SSA main campus consists of several buildings and about ten years ago it undertook a multi-year effort to upgrade the three oldest ones. The money was initially authorized to do the upgrades and the first two were completed. The Altmeyer Building was to be up next but right before the project started the GSA pulled the money allocated for the Altmeyer upgrade and spent it on other federal projects. Thus SSA was left hanging, waiting to do the Altmeyer upgrade once money became available. So basically the agency has been asking for money to do the Altmeyer renovation for years, and it finally came through. (The Altmeyer Building was built during the late 1950s, FYI.)

MarcioWilges said...

I think it really depends on how extensive the renovations are really going to be. Office removals generally sees offices get walls torn down but fixtures like light and other power retaining itself, but jobs can be so far and in between….

Anonymous said...

Why don't those rich fucks just pay for there own shit. How about we send them to a detroit school, or make them drink flint water. Then they might realize how lucky they have it.

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