NCPC planning fed workplaces of the future

Tuesday - 11/9/2010, 10:08am EST

David Zaidain, Senior Urban Planner, National Capital Planning Commission

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Will the future federal workforce skateboard, walk, and/or use hovercraft to commute?

Those are some of the possibilities that could be considered by the National Capital Planning Commission tasked with updating the federal elements of the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital Region.

The Comprehensive Plan is a "blueprint for the long-range development of the National Capital Region," according to the NCPC's website.

There are seven federal elements to the plan. All need updating. First on the schedule: Transportation.

David Zaidain, National Capital Planning Commission Senior Urban Planner, told Federal News Radio everything from design and construction of facilities, location, and getting federal workers to and from work every day is on the table, with one over-arching concern in mind: sustainability.

The President's "sustainability order," said Zaidain, is "forcing the federal government to look at its federal facilities siting policies and making sure that federal buildings are closer to transit in the future and our comp plan will take that policy even further as we reinforce where federal facilities go throughout the region."

Transportation Options

Commuting patterns need to be considered and anticipated. For example, said Zaidain, "biking to work is becoming more common and more accepted. People are driving less although we still drive too much." Currently "about 60 percent of the federal establishment drives to work in a single occupancy vehicle," and while that's still lower than the regional average of 73 percent, "by siting our facilities closer to transit, we can help improve those numbers."

At the end of the updating process, which Zaidain expects to take between 12 and 18 months, federal workers should watch for "more programs that would support commuting by ways other than single occupancy vehicles. I think we're going to be really getting creative on how to get people to work without just hopping into a car. That includes everything from having a very basic conversation about bicycling and even skateboarding and things like that, all the way to telecommuting and these new telecenters that have become quite an issue so that...the federal government isn't just throwing people on the road. We're hoping the region will become a better place transportation-wise."

Urban Design Features

And it's not just the roads the NCPC is trying to improve.

Regardless of the tenure of the property, whether it's owned or leased, we want those buildings to be designed in a way that compliments the surrounding context, that helps make the national capital a better place, and also provides mix of uses so that we don't have these federal enclaves anymore that are just dead beyond five o'clock.

Zaidain anticipates a future Washington where the vast, open concrete sun-baked plaza will be a thing of the past.

As a matter of fact, as part of this update, we plan on adding an urban design element. The comp plan has addressed the design of federal buildings from an aesthetic standpoint and from a public space standpoint, but it really hasn't been embodied as an element (of the plan) to show that it's a priority and we're doing that now. We're also encouraging a kind of a new paradigm with federal buildings where we're trying to get things like retail and other uses in these buildings so that it activates the public space around it and it's just not a, for lack of a better word, a stale federal building.

While building security is important, Zaidain said he's seeing a shift in that conversation.

Right now the General Services Administration, in their headquarters building, is putting in retail around the building where at one point they wanted to put perimeter security around it and they've decided to forgo that and add retail into their building over on E street, so we're really starting to see a good shift in the way things are thought about that way and we hope the comprehensive plan will take that conversation forward.

Employee Involvement

All interested parties, including and especially federal workers, are encouraged to participate in the overhaul. The first opportunity to do that is a public forum coming up on the 16th of the month. See ncpc.gov for details.