WASHINGTON, DC-The District office of global architectural and engineering services firm URS Corporation has completed the Standard Embassy Design as commissioned by the US Department of State. This new, multi-faceted “prototype” will serve as a guideline for the design and construction of new American embassies to be built around the world. Currently the State Department’s Overseas Building Operations division has a plan in place to seek design/build contracts for embassies in six cities: three in Africa, two in Central Asia and one in the Far East.

“The intent of the State Department is to establish a design and modify it so it complies with the unique conditions on a site, such as the geography and climate,” URS DC office head Lou Robinson tells GlobeSt.com. URS Corp.’s SED calls for a complex to be located on a 10-acre site and to consist of several structures totaling 195,000 sf. The structures include a New Chancery Office Building, an office building for use by USAID, a residential structure to house Marine guards, and compound access control buildings.

The goal is to locate new embassies away from the street and in suburban areas of capital cities when possible. Security, of course, plays a great role in the compound design. A security wall surrounds the complex, which has three entrances, but that is just for starters. “Along with September 11 came a heightened awareness and concerns about chemical-biological attacks,” URS principal Gerald Briggs explains. The plan for an SED, however, was a result of the Oklahoma City tragedy and the bombings of two US embassies in Africa. “The walls are designed to withstand the effect of a blast and do not contain large expanses of glass,” he continues. “And there are [specially designed] mechanical, ventilation and filtering systems.” URS reiterates the goal is to adapt the SED to particular sites.

As for construction cost, Robinson estimates that an embassy compound based on the SED model could cost as much as $400 to $500 per-sf. “The typical office building in DC would cost no more than $100 per-sf to build,” Briggs says, “and that would be a class A building. Currently these SED guideline documents are being issued to potential design-build contractors for the new embassies.

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