USPTO Makes Its Mark with Consolidation

Sept. 25, 2006
Citation of Excellence in Buildings’ New Construction Awards 2006: U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Headquarters, Alexandria, VA, submitted by Syska Hennessy Group Inc.

More than 1 million patents were issued by the Department of Commerce’s United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) in the last 7 years; in February, the office issued No. 7 million.

The number of patents issued isn’t the only thing that’s been growing at USPTO. With more than 7,000 employees and contractors, the organization’s real estate needs were sizably larger than the area offices and headquarters building could accommodate.

Consolidating employees from 18 buildings in Crystal City, VA, would not only save the federal government money (an estimated $98 million over the 20-year term of the lease), but would also increase productivity and help the USPTO attract and retain a highly skilled workforce.

To construct a complex large enough to house its employees and meet current and future program requirements, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and USPTO decided to lease private-sector-developed office space. The developer, LCOR Alexandria LLC, assembled a team of renowned architects and engineers, and planning began. The campus was designed as five buildings connected by underground walkways. The complex includes:

  • Two parking garages.
  • Two townhouse office buildings.
  • A 70,000-square-foot mission-critical data center.
  • A daycare center, health club, museum, and public patent search library.
  • Multiple food-service areas, including a full-service cafeteria.
  • An expansive atrium.
  • A landscaped, 2-acre urban park.

According to the USPTO, it is the largest lease in the GSA inventory and the biggest lease-construction project ever undertaken by the GSA. While being built, it was identified as one the of the largest construction projects on the entire East Coast. The five-building headquarters is 2.5 million gross square feet and was built on a tight, 4-year design/build phased construction schedule. Each building was built as a standalone facility so that tenants could move in as the leases in currently occupied spaces expired. The GSA signed the lease with LCOR in June 2000, construction broke ground in January 2001, and the first phase of occupancy began in early December 2003.

Each building is constructed of high-quality materials, contains environmentally sensitive design features, and uses state-of-the-art, energy-efficient equipment. The natural and cast stone exterior treatment evokes the same sense of strength and order typical of civil and federal architecture, and the design is respectful of Old Town Alexandria’s Georgian heritage. With numerous symmetrically placed windows, ample daylight infiltrates interior spaces.

Interconnected, decentralized chiller plants with high-tech variable primary pumping and plant optimization controls provide cooling to each building. An integrated campus operational control center and a redundant back-up control center provide the USPTO headquarters with intelligent building automation of addressable fire alarm, mechanical, lighting control, and electrical power-monitoring systems. Indoor air quality and energy conservation are also closely monitored and controlled.

After a decade of planning for a consolidation, USPTO employees are sharing space in one of Alexandria’s finest facilities. “We are proud that construction stayed on (or ahead of) schedule and under budget,” says Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and USPTO Director Jon Dudas. “We now have a world-class, state-of-the-art facility that is better equipped to support the mission of the USPTO.”

JUDGES’ COMMENTS: “The daunting task faced by the GSA in finding a developer that would undertake the huge task of relocating an entire federal department,\ within the Washington, [D.C.], area in an impossible timeframe and within a federal set budget, was huge. A collaborative approach among project team members enabled the impossible to be achieved in a cost-effective manner well ahead of schedule. In fact, the development strategy used in this project provides a clear message to other building owners that innovation can work and be cost-effective in our highly competitive marketplace.”

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