WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is preparing to move its disaster operations staff from the Mt. Weather Emergency Operations Center and other locations in the area to a new building in Winchester, Va. The structure is the first commercial building in Frederick County to be certified "green" by the U.S. Green Building Council, which developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green rating system for high-performance, sustainable buildings.
The building was officially opened today in a ribbon-cutting ceremony by FEMA Administrator David Paulison and John Phelps, chief of staff for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which managed the construction of the built-to-suit building and has leased the facility on FEMA's behalf for an initial 15 years.
"Over the past year I have spoken extensively about building a New FEMA," Paulison, said. "Today we are here to celebrate that this is more than a metaphor and dedicate this new facility so that the hard working men and women who work at FEMA will have a place from which to act."
Housing more than 600 FEMA staff, the new building will be the second largest FEMA facility in the country, after the agency's headquarters at Federal Center Plaza in Washington, D.C. Disaster operations staff moving to the new center include call center workers who take applications for assistance from disaster victims and provide helpline services, those who process personnel actions, workers who provide IT and logistical support and personnel who manage the disaster inventory service center and warehouse.
"Having a superior, state-of-the-art workplace is critical to FEMA being able to fulfill its mission of service to the American people," Phelps said. Since its birth as an agency, GSA's work has been "to provide the supplies, services, and world-class workspace other agencies need so they can stay focused on their core missions."
Some of the building's features include a raised floor with an under-floor air distribution system; a green roof over the warehouse, permeable parking surfaces in portions of the parking lots, and an environmentally safe bio-swale to collect rainwater. The building comprises 120,523 square feet of office space and 35,000 square feet of warehouse space.
The building also features a landscaped amphitheater for large group activities; exterior window sunshades, two large two-story atrium areas, enough parking to account for emergency surge events, and native plant materials throughout the grounds of the property. LEED-certified building such as this one, utilize state-of-the-art strategies in five areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials and resources selection, and indoor environmental quality.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.