GSA's WillowWood facility to close

WillowWood was 'state of the art before state of the art was cool,' says one of its creators.

GSA WillowWood

GSA's WillowWood facility in northern Virginia.

Smart cards for entry. A conference room with flat-screen TVs for videoconferencing. Docking stations that make it easier to take laptop PCs between home and the office. A wireless phone system that automatically transfers office calls to cell phones. Dry-erase boards on conference room walls to encourage collaboration.

Even today, that sounds like a dream setup for government agencies, but the General Services Administration’s WillowWood office building in Fairfax, Va., had all that back in 1999.

"We were state of the art before state of the art was cool," said Bob Suda, who was chief financial officer and acting CIO at GSA’s Federal Technology Service at the time. "We were green before green was green."

Suda, now president and senior consultant at Suda and Associates, led the way in designing the building’s features. The cost caused some controversy, but Suda said the benefits over the years have been worth it. The Federal Technology Service -- which was combined with the Federal Supply Service to form the Federal Acquisition Service in 2005 -- needed to show off its tech savvy at a time when tech savvy had yet to spread across the government.

Fourteen years later, WillowWood is still considered a high-tech office, but despite its resiliency, GSA officials have decided to close it so they can move out of high-cost leased buildings and consolidate their office space in the region.

A renovated GSA headquarters at 1800 F Street in downtown Washington will nearly double in capacity -- from 2,500 to 4,400 employees -- by adding 62,000 square feet, which will allow GSA to move out of leased space in Washington and Northern Virginia, a GSA spokesman said. The changes will be happening throughout the spring.

Employees will no longer have designated offices but instead will work in a variety of open settings under flexible workplace policies such as hoteling. Hoteling involves reserving a work space in the office -- however, without a continental breakfast or a free USA Today on the doorstep. Employees also have the option of using an unreserved work space or teleworking.

"There will be a seat for every employee at the building, and resident contractors will be able to use work spaces in the building," the spokesman said.

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