Washington, D.C. – Mailboxes may look a bit different in the near future for new construction and renovations, due to a rulemaking under way by the United States Postal Service (USPS).For the past year-and-a-half, the USPS has worked with affected parties, including mailbox manufacturers, distributors, magazine publishers, mass mailers, and residential and commercial property representatives, to draft a new standard on wall-mounted centralized mail receptacles. BOMA International served on this committee representing the office building industry. The National Association of Homebuilders, Multi Housing Council, and the National Association of Realtors are also members of the committee.The group met several times to negotiate the rulemaking, and an agreement has been reached. At press time, the proposed standard was expected to be printed in the Federal Register by early April, and a 30-day comment period would follow. At the close of the comment period, the groups will come back together to review the public comments received, and, if necessary, recommend changes to the proposal, which will then become final.The new standard (Standard 4C, Wall-Mounted Centralized Mail Receptacles) replaces a standard promulgated in 1975 (STD-4B, Receptacles, Apartment House, Mail). Though the standard was commonly referred to as an apartment mailbox standard, it has always governed all buildings (including commercial office buildings) that utilize wall-mounted centralized systems (where USPS distributes the mail directly into the tenant boxes). The name of the standard has been changed to make it more clear which buildings must comply.Citing mail/identity theft as the main reason a new standard is needed, the USPS also points out that customers receive mail differently now than 20 years ago. With the growing Internet shopping trend and magazine subscriptions still going strong, more parcels and larger pieces of mail are delivered daily. The typical mailbox – especially the smaller boxes commonly used in apartment buildings – is not large enough to accommodate these larger items. In addition, to save money by streamlining the way the USPS sorts and bundles mail for delivery, every tenant’s mail may come shrink-wrapped in the future – in flat bundles that will not fit easily into today’s mailboxes.For these reasons, the USPS initially proposed requiring every building – new and existing – to install mailboxes that were, at a minimum, three inches high, 12 inches wide, and 15 inches deep. They also wanted to require every building to install parcel lockers to cut down on customers needing to make a trip to the Post Office to receive packages. BOMA International strongly believed that the USPS’ initial position was not justified.Through its work on the committee, BOMA was able to secure several changes to the proposal. First and foremost, the committee agreed to exempt existing buildings from the new standard. The new rules will only apply to buildings undergoing substantial renovation of the mailroom area and new construction.Also, BOMA was able to point out that parcel delivery was not a problem in most office buildings. In apartment buildings, the USPS assumes that most residents are not available to accept delivery of a package during mail delivery hours (9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), but in office buildings, businesses are typically open during normal business hours. In addition, many buildings utilize boxes that are “double wide” or “double high” that therefore exceed the proposed minimum standard. Consequently, the USPS agreed that exemptions to the parcel locker requirement may be considered for buildings which use boxes that exceed the new minimum requirement, as well as buildings that have an alternate delivery mechanism in place (i.e., concierge or security desk willing to accept packages on behalf of tenants).The compliance date is two years after the standard is final; new construction and renovation projects applying for permits two years after the final rule is printed must use the boxes that meet the new standard.Key requirements of the proposed rule:Proposed form factor: three inches high, 12 inches wide, and 15 inches deep (former standard was five inches high, six inches wide, and 15 inches deep horizontal or five inches wide, six inches deep, and 15 inches high vertical).Parcel lockers: 1:10 ratio (integral or standalone); no requirement for buildings with less than 10 tenant boxes. Exemptions considered for buildings that use boxes that exceed the new minimum requirement as well as buildings that have an alternate delivery mechanism in place (i.e., concierge or security desk willing to accept packages on behalf of tenants).Increased security requirements for boxes.While this represents a significant victory for BOMA International, it also illustrates that the consensus process for rulemaking works. All parties serving on the committee finished the process feeling that a fair, workable standard was crafted that meets the needs of the USPS without mandating “overkill” requirements on industry.Information on these issues and more can be found at BOMA International’s website (www.boma.org).