ACE Virginia – Joint Owner Forum with the Department of General Services

ACE is a joint venture of the American Institute of Architects, Associated General Contractors, and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Virginia, to educate and promote best practices of the design and construction industry. ACE had its first quarterly meeting on February 20 at the Omni Hotel in Downtown Richmond. The event consisted of an exclusive, up-close discussion with the senior leadership of Virginia’s Department of General Services (DGS). What resulted was an improved understanding of the decision matrix at DGS, sharing of the vision of the Agency, and an exchange of innovative ideas.

Joe Damico, the new Director of DGS, served as the Agency’s Deputy Director for 15 years prior to this gubernatorial appointment by Governor Northam. He kicked off the forum with general comments about his vision for the Agency. One of his goals is to get the word out about what DGS does, especially as it relates to the A/E/C industry. There is over $1.8 Billion of new construction which is overseen by DGS and it continues to look at how to improve processes. This forum was just the avenue Mr. Damico was looking for to discuss complex issues with the design and building community.

A panel discussion was led by the Director of the Bureau of Capital Outlay Management (BCOM), Mike Coppa, who was joined by a team of key decision makers in the Agency. The panel was facilitated by Ed Gillikin, AIA and covered various topics of interest. Below is a high-level recap of the discussion:


DGS is open to considering the platform you want to work with. Despite the promise of BIM as utopia, the Agency is not there yet. BIM is considered “means and methods”. In reality, keeping up with electronic documents is still difficult.


VEES is flexible and the High-Performance Building Act is the guiding principle. While there are no changes unless legislation changes, DGS would be open to the idea of discussing and considering alternative approaches for the sustainable design of state buildings. The ultimate goal of the Agency is to have high performing buildings.


This is an area that impacts many stakeholders. What many thought would be a bi-partisan opportunity this legislative session to address significant confusion by the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity has failed. It appeared that the large majority of attendees were concerned with the Governor’s Executive Order 20 around reaching the 42% goal of SWaM business participation. DGS would like to pick this issue back up at an appropriate time this summer. There are over 100,000 vendors of which 13,000 are “small”. No matter the decision, there will be “winners” and “losers”. DGS reminded attendees this issue is “local, local, local”. DGS provides guidelines for SWaM to Agencies, but it’s the decision of the owning Agency to make the choice of what works best for them.

Business Development:

If a firm has limited state experience, how does it start gaining that experience? First, register with various state Agencies so they are aware that you exist. Job Order Contracting (JOC) is newer legislation established to serve as a term contract for small maintenance-type projects. It is an effort to help firms begin to gain resume experience. In addition, seek out Agency-specific term contracts.

After the panel discussion, DGS attendees spread out into various sections of the room and met with attendees in small group charrettes to discuss more in-depth issues. Thereafter, the event concluded with a legislative networking reception with General Assembly members. Future forums will feature federal government, local government, universities and health systems and will be held around the state. Please be on the lookout for information regarding the second quarter event which is anticipated to occur toward the end of this Spring.

We are thankful for The Garland Company and Keith Fabry Reprographic Solutions who served as sponsors for the February ACE event.

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