PUBLIC BUILDINGS ACT OF 1959, AS AMENDED

The Public Buildings Act of 1959, as amended (Public Buildings Act) is codified in 40 USC 601-619, Chapter 12--Construction, Alteration and Acquisition of Public Buildings. Since originally enacted in 1959, three statutes have significantly amended the Public Buildings Act: Public Buildings Amendments of 1972 (P.L. 92-313; 86 Stat. 216), Public Buildings Cooperative Use Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-541, 90 Stat 2505) and Public Buildings Amendments of 1988 (P.L.100-678, 102 Stat 4049).

Section 601. Prohibition on construction of buildings except by Administrator of General Services.

Provides that the Administrator shall be the officer of the Government who shall construct public buildings, prohibits the construction of public buildings except by the Administrator, and directs that such buildings be constructed in accordance with Public Buildings Act.

Section 601a. Duties of Administrator; Federal agency accommodations; historical and architectural preservation of public buildings; consultation with Governors, agencies and chief executive officers.

Establishes policies for the Administrator in the acquisition and management of space: (1) where practical acquire and utilize buildings of historical, architectural or cultural significance (2) encourages multiple-use of buildings by leasing or otherwise making available space for commercial, cultural, education and recreational activities and (3) directs and emphasizes need to work with local officials and groups, as well as community leaders and the general public during the process.

Section 602. Acquisition of buildings and their sites.

Authorizes the Administrator to acquire by purchase, condemnation, donation, exchange, or otherwise, any building and its site which he determines to be necessary to carry out his duties under Public Buildings Act.

Section 603. Alteration of buildings; acquisition of land; exemption from committee approval.

Authorizes the Administrator to alter any public building and to acquire in accordance with section 604 such land as may be necessary to carry out such alteration. Congressional approval (section 606) not required if alteration, including acquisition of land, does not exceed $1,500,000.

Section 604. Sites.

Authorizes the Administrator to acquire by purchase, condemnation, donation, exchange, or otherwise, necessary lands for use as sites or addition to sites for public buildings authorized to be constructed or altered . Requires the Administrator and Postmaster General to jointly select the general location and specific site for public building to be used in whole or part for postal purposes. When acquiring a site, the Administrator may solicit by public advertisement.

Section 605. Construction of new buildings.

When constructing a new building to replace an existing one, the Administrator may demolish the existing building and use the same site or exchange the existing building and site, or just the site for another site, or sell the existing building and site in accordance with the 49 Act. Permits the Administrator to exchange for another or to sell in accordance with 49 Act any site acquired for construction of building but no longer suitable for purpose. Prohibits the use of a site unless Congress approves (section 606).

Section 606. Approval of proposed projects by Congress.

Requires the submission and Committee approval of a prospectus for a proposed facility to be constructed, altered, purchased, acquired, or for space to be leased if the total expenditure is in excess of $1.5 million prior to an appropriation being made for the project. Also requires submission and approval of a prospectus for any alteration of leased space which exceeds $750,000. Contains criteria for prospectus submissions.

Permits the Administrator to proceed with an approved project, without further committee approval, when the estimated maximum costs is increased by reason of increased construction costs but does not exceed 10%.

Any approved project for which an appropriation has not been made within one year after approval date may be rescinded by either Committee(House or Senate) at any time prior to an appropriation actually being made.

If declared necessary by President, permits Administrator the authority to enter into 180 day emergency leases without submitting prospectus.

Prohibits the leasing of space to accommodate major computer operations; secure or sensitive activities related to national defense or security; or a permanent courtroom, judicial chamber, or administrative office for any US court if the average cost exceeds $1.5M, unless the Administrator determines space requirements cannot be met in public buildings and submits reasons to Committees.

Subject to notifying committees, the Administrator may adjust threshold dollar amounts referred to in sections 603 and 606 to reflect percentage increases or decreases in construction costs as determined by the composite index of construction costs prepared by the Department of Commerce.

Section 607. Buildings and sites within District of Columbia.

Requires that Public Buildings Act be carried out in harmony with Peter Charles L'Enfant plan, permits closing of streets and alleys where necessary, sets out specific consultation requirements regarding acquisitions close to Capitol Hill.

Section 608. Authorization for construction or alteration by contract.

Authorizes construction or alteration of public buildings by contract whenever Administrator deems most advantageous.

Section 609. Architectural or engineering services.

Permits Administrator the authority to contract for architectural or engineering services for public buildings authorized to be constructed or altered. Directs the Administrator responsibility for construction, interpretation of contracts, settlement of contract, etc. (Intended to insure that the Administrator not be able to contract away any of his basic responsibility.)

Section 610. Report to Congress; uncompleted projects; building project surveys.

Upon request, requires Administrator (and USPS) to report to Congress on status of uncompleted projects and to make building project surveys containing prospectus information.

Section 611. Continuing investigation and survey of public buildings.

Requires the Administrator to continually investigate and survey the public buildings needs and to identify existing buildings with historic, architectural or cultural significance that are suitable to meet needs. Requires the Administrator and various Federal agencies cooperate with each other in carrying out purposes of Act.

Section 612. Definitions.

Defines seven terms which are used throughout Public Buildings Act. One of most important is that of "public buildings". Definition is explicit in stating those buildings which are included as well as those excluded.

Section 612a. Additional definitions.

Generally includes terms used in the Public Buildings Cooperative Use Act of 1976 which amended the Public Buildings Act in order to preserve buildings of historical or architectural significance through their use for Federal public building purposes.

Section 613. Exemption of certain public buildings projects.

Advises that Chapter 12 does not apply to the construction of certain small public buildings projects--essentially those appropriated for in 1959 or lease-purchase project already under construction prior to 1959.

Section 614. Delegation of Authority.

Provides that the Administrator may delegate, upon request, authorities under Chapter 12, to the appropriate executive agency where the estimated cost of the project does not exceed $100,000 and such performance may be delegated to the appropriate agency where the Administrator determines that it will promote efficiency and economy.

Section 615. Leasing of buildings by and for General Services Administration, authority of Postal Service.

Preserves the leasing authority of both GSA and USPS and the authority for improvement of public buildings through the postal modernization fund.

Section 616. Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Bicentennial Civic Center.

Provided for the development, construction, and maintenance of civic center.

Section 617. State administration of criminal and health and safety laws.

Allows the Administrator to relinquish to a State, or to a commonwealth, territory or possession of the US all or part of the authority of the United States to administer criminal and health and safety laws.

Section 618. Special rules for leased buildings.

Prohibits the Administrator making any agreement which will result in the construction of any building which is to be constructed for lease to, and for predominant use by, the US until the Administrator has established detailed specification requirements for such building. May procure the construction of any such building only by publicly soliciting competitive bids. Each building shall be inspected in order to determine compliance with specifications. Upon completion, the Administration shall determine the extent, if any, of failure to comply. Any contract entered into shall contain provision permitting the reduction of rent during any period when the building is not in compliance.

Section 619. Compliance with nationally recognized codes.

To the maximum extent feasible as determined by the Administrator, buildings constructed or altered are required to meet nationally recognized model codes and local zoning laws and other local requirements. For purposes of meeting this provision, special rules providing for state and local government consultation, review and inspections have been established; however, no action or fines may be imposed against the US for failure to meet any of the requirements. Applies to any project for construction or alteration of a building for which funds are first appropriated beginning after September 30, 1989. Shall not apply to any building if Administrator determines application would adversely affect national security.