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FHWA Office of Real Estate Services Research Results: 2006 Strategic Vision for the Public Sector Real Estate Profession

III. Strategic Plan

Based on the 10 year and 30 year vision statements, this section proposes a mission statement for the public sector real estate function, a set of strategic goals to support this proposed mission statement and a short to intermediate-term action plan and a long-term action plan to execute the strategic plan.

A. Mission Statement

In response to the various trends, challenges and opportunities being envisioned over the next 30 years, it is anticipated that public sector real estate function will shift from a support organization that is focused primarily on the core real estate transactions associated with a project to one that is an integral partner throughout the project lifecycle from inception to completion and beyond to operation.

Public sector real estate's customers will change from primarily Federal, State, and large Local entities, to a broader mix of customers including large, multi-national consortiums and a wide range of Local entities. These new customers will have less experience with public sector real estate, especially initially, putting a premium on the role of the real estate community to educate these customers on the importance of the real estate function. Consequently, it will be paramount for public sector real estate to be more proactive in defining its role, explaining and sustaining its value to the project development process and stepping into a leadership rather than a supporting role.

In support of this transition, the research team has proposed the following mission statement for the public sector real estate community:

Public sector real estate will become a value-added partner that actively engages with customers through a world-class work force and effectively leverages technology to operate efficiently and provide effective customer service.

An analysis of the 10 year trend line suggests the need for public sector real estate to immediately begin to transition from being a transaction focused organization, with its involvement primarily focused on the real estate acquisition process phase of the project to a flexible partner with a highly skilled staff that works closely with its peers and customers as an integral component of the project development process from project inception to at least completion and in many cases beyond this into the operations phase.

In support of this role, not all public real estate staff will need to have a broad range of multi-disciplinary skills. In addition to core technical skills in one or more specific disciplines such as acquisition, appraisal, and relocation, public sector real estate professionals will need to have a broad set of management and general business skills including, project management, cost estimating, relocation assistance, and property management among others. Typical public sector real estate professionals will also have to have strong oral and written communication skills, work well in teams and have proficiency in at least two languages.

Over the 30-year timeline, this evolution of the public sector real estate function continues with the real estate community institutionalizing many of the changes achieved during the initial 10 years. There will also be a trend towards increased globalization and greater overall complexity of projects, with public sector real estate staff actively participating as part of global teams and partnerships executing various infrastructure development projects.

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B. Strategic Direction: Years 0 - 10

To achieve the mission outlined above, the research team is proposing a number of goals or strategies and a supporting action plan to implement these strategies. As with the vision statements, this strategic plan has been segmented into 10-year and 30-year segments. The ten-year strategic plan represents actions that the profession should begin to implement immediately in order to prepare to address both current challenges and the anticipated changes in the role of public sector real estate over the next ten years. Because of the time required to both implement and gain the intended benefits from these goals and strategies, timing is of the essence in beginning to address and execute on these strategies.

Key Strategies: Years 0 - 10

To support the proposed mission of public sector real estate, the research team is proposing several strategies to be implemented over the first ten years of the 30-year planning horizon. These strategies are as follows:

1. Achieve recognition by our customers and our peers as a valued and essential business partner

Public sector real estate should work towards achieving recognition by its customers and peers as a valued and essential business partner. This recognition can be achieved through a number of mechanisms including:

2. Play a critical role as a team member in developing creative, cost effective project solutions for public infrastructure

Integral to achieving this strategy is the early involvement of real estate staff in the project planning and project development process, establishment of predictable cost estimating methodologies for the real estate aspects of projects, and the education of other team members in the impact of real estate issues to allow engineers and architects to be more sensitive to real estate issues in their designs for projects.

Costs of projects will continue rise to as a result of global pressures on scarce resources such as steel. At the same time, more projects will be done in urban areas where there is a greater potential to impact high-priced and highly valued real estate or utilities, making both of these items a much higher percentage of the overall project budget. Thus, it is essential that the real estate and utilities functions actively engage early in the process to try and provide innovative solutions. These solutions should be designed first and foremost to avoid real estate and utility impacts if at all possible. If avoidance is not possible, then the team should work to design solutions that try to mitigate the impact on real estate and utilities, thus reducing overall project cost and risk.

In addition, it is essential that the real estate and utility cost impacts on projects be accurately estimated as early in the project lifecycle as possible. Accurate cost estimates will allow informed decisions to be made on tradeoffs between various alternatives or on whether to even proceed with the project at all. In addition, these estimates must be developed to consider the impact of future changes in real estate values and/or utility relocation in order to avoid unexpected budget issues when the project actually begins construction, potentially a number of years in the future.

3. Leverage and optimize the knowledge of existing resources to help manage a short to intermediate term knowledge gap in the profession

The public sector real estate community has an aging work force. Over the next several years, a number of both public and private sector staff will be retiring. These staff have thousands of years of experience among them and substantial experience with developing solutions for a number of very complex issues. These retirements will have a significant impact both on the availability of resources to staff project work and the intellectual capital available to design solutions to difficult problems.

To address this resource challenge, the public sector real estate community needs to identify ways to effectively leverage and optimize the deep expertise and intellectual capital of the experienced resources remaining in the field. Some potential solutions in this regard include developing SWAT teams of resources with specialized experience in certain areas and contracting these shared resources across agencies within government, developing a center of public sector real estate expertise to act as an information clearinghouse, implementing searchable project repositories and developing collaboration tools to improve information sharing across and between projects.

4. Establish public sector real estate as a field of choice for people entering the work force or considering a job change

To both help fill the short term to intermediate term resourcing gap and to help the profession execute its mission to become a highly value added part of the project development process, it is critical to ensure that public sector real estate continues to attract the best and brightest resources to the profession.

Public sector real estate over the next 10 years and beyond will offer a number of exciting career opportunities to potential employees. It is important that this story be told to both high school and college age students considering potential careers and early and mid-career individuals considering new opportunities.

5. Develop a highly trained, multi-disciplinary work force

To replace the existing resources approaching retirement and to most effectively prepare the current and future public sector real estate staff for the challenges envisioned over the next ten years and beyond, it is critical that the profession develop a highly trained, multi-disciplinary work force. The public sector real estate professional must not only have solid experience in one or more technical disciplines, but they must also have strong project management, financial management, team work and team building and communication skills. Given the increased diversity of the country, the ability to speak and work in at least English and Spanish is also likely to be an essential skill for public sector real estate staff.

Key to implementing this recommendation will be designing and implementing a broad based training program, which in addition to the core technical skills emphasized currently, focuses on the other skill areas needed to position the public sector real estate professional to perform their role in the years ahead.

6. Achieve recognition for public sector real estate as a distinct profession among our customers and peers

To both attract and retain a world-class work force and to position public sector real estate most effectively among its peer functions in our customers and partners, it is essential that public sector real estate achieve standing as a profession similar to that achieved by architects, engineers and accountants.

A critical step in this process will be the establishment of a set of standards of excellence to guide the profession from an overall perspective and a credentialing process to demonstrate mastery of these standards. While a credentialing, certification and licensing process exists for appraisers, private sector real estate salespeople and brokers, there is currently no such process for the public sector real estate generalist. This credentialing process could be achieved through either development and implementation of a public sector real estate certification program or by strengthening existing credentialing programs, such as the that offered by the IRWA.

7. Modify the Uniform Act to allow for more adjustments in benefits and processes to be made through regulatory and policy channels, allowing for a more rapid response to changing conditions

The Uniform Act has really only had one significant modification since its initial passage in 1970. The world has clearly changed dramatically in the thirty plus years since the legislation was first passed and many more changes are anticipated in the years ahead.
Currently, it can be difficult to make adjustments to benefit caps. Allowing for changes to these caps to be implemented through the regulatory process, while preserving the overall intent and framework of the Uniform Act to ensure consistency across program areas, will allow for a more rapid response to changing conditions.

Action Plan: Years 0 - 10

To implement these strategies, the following action steps are recommended:

1. Implement a service delivery model that provides the benefit of single point of accountability, while leveraging deep expertise in specialized situations.

This model would utilize a generalist Real Estate Project Manager or Negotiation/Relocation Agent as the primary service delivery agent. Specialist resources with in-depth experience in certain areas such as business relocation could then be drawn upon as a pool. This model could be implemented in state transportation agencies and large Local Public Agencies. It could also be adapted for use in smaller agencies by sharing or renting specialist resources from other agencies. To maximize the utilization of these specialist resources, for example, it may be appropriate to have these resources housed in the Lead Agency or shared among a number of agencies at the Federal level.

2. Develop model performance measures to provide a framework for greater accountability for the profession.

These performance measures can be developed by a multi-agency task force and provided to the profession at large for potential adoption within their own organization. The goal should be to create a set of measures that allow for evaluation of the performance of the public sector real estate function in meeting the needs of its customers.

3. Develop and deploy for general use a real estate and utility cost estimating methodology and supporting tools to implement the methodology

A structured cost estimating process and methodology for the real estate and utility cost components of project is urgently needed. This process must be based on early and continuous engagement of the public sector real estate discipline. It should incorporate the concepts of high growth contingencies and the time value of money and provide for updating of the estimates at predefined intervals based on an increased understanding of the project scope and any changing conditions in the surrounding environment (increased land values, better understanding of acquisitions which will be required, increased understanding of utility relocation which will be required).

An NCHRP study of cost estimating in transportation is currently in progress. This study has now been extended to look specifically at real estate cost estimating. It is critical that this project be completed on an expedited basis. As follow-on to the NCHRP effort, tools will need to be developed to automate the methodologies and approaches recommended by the study and a training program initiated to share this information as quickly with public agencies and private sector partners to allow implementation of these concepts within their organizations. In addition, additional research will likely be needed to adapt some of the recommendations beyond transportation to cover the full spectrum of program areas supported by public sector real estate.

4. Develop and implement an education program to help sell the role of public sector real estate as a valued business partner to decision-makers.

This training program should explain the concept of the Uniform Act and stress the need for complying with the Uniform Act on projects that have or may have Federal funds. However, this training program must go beyond the fundamentals of the Uniform Act. It must explain the impacts that real estate and utility issues can have on project cost and risk. It must then define in clear terms the value proposition offered by public sector real estate in terms of the professions ability to helping lower risk, more cost effective project solutions.

This education program should be targeted to:

It is recommended that FHWA as the lead agency for the Uniform Act and the National Highway Institute (NHI) as the training arm of FHWA take the lead in developing this program, with advice and input of a stakeholder group representing a cross section of public sector real estate personnel. This training program should be structured for use as part of a comprehensive national education program, as well as for tailoring by public agencies and private sector organizations nationally for use in particular project situations.

FHWA, in conjunction with other Federal Agencies and the Consultant council should also take the lead role in developing a marketing and communication plan to guide the rollout of this material. Appropriate audiences for example could include presentations at national meetings such as those for city and county managers and senior state highway officials. Other target audiences could include meetings of national engineering, architecture, and construction management firms.

5. Develop a training seminar for project managers, designers and other stakeholders on real estate and utility considerations

Complimenting the education program to be developed for decision makers, a training seminar should also be developed for project managers, designers and other stakeholders on real estate and utility considerations. The goal of this training course will be to provide a greater general awareness of potential real estate and utility issues on projects to other team members, educate team members on the benefits of involving public sector real estate and present examples of situations where the team members will want to involve staff with significant real estate or utility relocation experience.

This training course should be easily tailored for use in specific agencies or project situations. It should also be developed to allow it to be taught in a classroom or through a distance-learning environment.

While FHWA can also take the lead on initiating this education program, it is anticipated that examples and case studies specific to individual programs will need to be integrated into the course materials. Thus, the involvement of a number of other Federal agencies and other organizations seems appropriate.
A seminar of this type is currently being developed by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and may be available as a model or starting point for this recommendation.

6. Develop a model multi-disciplinary training programs to train new staff and expand and extend the skills of existing staff.

This training program would extend beyond the training in technical disciplines (appraisal, acquisition, and relocation) that are generally available today to focus on the broader skill sets envisioned to be essential to the public sector real estate professional in the future. Elements of this training program could include:

This program should be developed to have different levels such as entry level, intermediate or advanced to allow training opportunities that are geared to specific experience levels. This will help to make available different training opportunities to public sector real estate professionals throughout their career.

7. Leverage technology to improve communication, collaboration and information sharing among public sector real estate professionals
A number of tools could be implemented using existing, proven technology to capture, document and make existing information easier to access use. These tools can help to capture the intellectual capital of existing public sector real estate staff and make this information more easily available to new members of the profession. Examples include:

An example of one of these potential tools is a web-based collaboration environment, which has been recommended for development as an aid in capturing, documenting and sharing information about the Federal Land Transfer process. It is envisioned that this web-based portal will include:

FHWA should take the lead in documenting best practices in these tools and technology areas and making this information available to other organizations to assess the applicability of these techniques for use in their own operations. In addition, it may be appropriate to conduct research to develop a model set of requirements or the framework of a conceptual design for one or more of these solutions.

8. Develop practice aids, templates and guides to further the sharing of knowledge across the profession.

This can be especially valuable for sharing information and providing guidance on activities that occur less frequently and consequently staff would have less experience performing. Examples could include business relocations, the Federal Land Transfer process as described above and acquisition of easements over Native Lands among others. FHWA as the lead agency for the Uniform Act should take the lead on identifying guides and templates that may be appropriate and coordinating their development, in close cooperation with other agencies and functions within the public sector real estate community. These practice guides and templates should be easy to find and use through a public sector real estate portal.

9. Design, implement and begin to institutionalize a new public sector certification programs or strengthen existing certification program available through IRWA and other organizations

This recommendation involves either implementing the certification program defined in the recent Public Sector Real Estate Market Needs Study sponsored by FHWA or working with other organizations such as the Appraisal Institute and the IRWA to extend current certification programs to establish a more generalized public sector real estate certification. It is assumed that this certification program will:

10. Establish marketing programs to attract new people to the profession.

This comprehensive marketing program should sell the benefits of a career in public sector real estate and be aimed at both individuals choosing their career such as high school or college students, as well as those considering career changes.

A key element of this program should include a careers package, including the brochure on the proposed certification program and several one-page case studies illustrating the work opportunities in public sector real estate. This information should be designed to sell the advantages of a career in public sector real estate, emphasize the forthcoming certification program, and be available via the web and also packaged for distribution to, and use by high school guidance counselors and career counseling centers at universities, colleges, and community colleges.

11. Work with all of the Federal Agencies to advocate for changes to the Uniform Act to allow for increased flexibility

This action step will involve multi-agency collaboration to determine the changes required, education of policy makers on the business case for this philosophy, and advocacy for the changes to help ensure passage by Congress. Once these changes are made, there will then need to be additional efforts to successfully implement this more flexible, expanded regulatory framework.

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C. Strategic Direction: To Year 30 and Beyond

The 30-year strategic plan builds off the 10-year strategic plan and in some cases is really an evolution from the 10-year plan. The goals and supporting actions in the 30-year plan represents actions which can in some cases begin now but which will continue over the entire 30-year planning horizon.

Key Strategies: Years 11 - 30

To continue implementing and expanding the proposed mission of public sector real estate, the research team is proposing several strategies to be implemented in years 11-30 of the 30 year planning horizon. These strategies are as follows:

1. Establish public sector real estate as a value added partner for collaboration with multi-national teams on domestic and international projects

Public sector real estate will continue to expand its role as a value added partner from project inception through project completion and operation. The nature of this role will continue to evolve as diverse, multi-disciplinary, multi-national teams become more typical. Public sector real estate will distinguish itself as integral resources on these project teams who are extremely knowledgeable about real estate and utilities issues and their impact on project cost and risk. Using this knowledge, the public sector real estate professionals will continue to help to design creative, cost-effective solutions that seek first to avoid and then to minimize real estate and utility impacts.

2. Maintain and extend positioning of public sector real estate as a prestigious profession
Public sector real estate will extend and begin to institutionalize its position as a prestigious profession, with other professions such as architects and engineers beginning to more readily recognize the distinct and specialized credentials and expertise of the public sector real estate professional.

Critical to institutionalizing the professional standing of public sector real estate will be the consistent delivery of proven, valued-add results by members of the community on day to day to basis, while working on a number of diverse projects. This institutionalization will be further accomplished through completing implementation of a strong public sector real estate certification program, attracting talented individuals to the profession and by training these professionals in a variety of skills integral to working in a team environment.

3. Establish a comprehensive research program to develop cost effective solutions for current, evolving and yet unknown issues
The issues and opportunities facing public sector real estate will continue to evolve and change over the next 30 years. Opportunities that we cannot even imagine now will be critical drivers and keys to decision-making 30 years from now. To put this in perspective, all we have to do is look back 30 years to 1976 and think about how many people were thinking about the internet and the impact it would have on our lives today.

We do not know what all the changes will be over the next 30 years, but we know there will be many change agents. Thus, it is critical that public sector real estate has a strong and active research program. This research program should have two key objectives. First, this research program should be designed to continue to build on, grow and update existing research and bodies of knowledge such as providing for the on going updating of cost estimating methodologies based on actual history and field experience. Second, this research program must be designed with the flexibility to address new opportunities in a timely manner. If public sector real estate is going to remain a value added partner to its parent agencies, it must consistently be proactive and ahead of the curve, anticipating issues and developing methodologies and approaches to address these opportunities as soon as they are needed for use on projects.

4. Develop and maintain a highly trained, multi-disciplinary work force that is sensitive to and representative of the communities we serve

Based on projections concerning the anticipated size and complexity of various public infrastructure programs in the years ahead, the need for well-trained and experienced public sector real estate staff is expected to continue to grow. At the same time, individuals will continue to retire and/or otherwise leave the field. Thus, it is essential that the public sector real estate field continue to proactively market itself to attract well-educated, highly skilled workers. This marketing program should also be targeted very broadly to ensure a diverse set of individuals is attracted to the profession that is representative of the communities we serve and the anticipated changes in the make-up of these communities over the next 30 years.
Complimenting recruitment efforts, it is essential that the profession maintain an effective, on-going training program to ensure a pool of talented, well-trained and experienced professionals. In addition, it is essential to continue to update and enhance our training programs as the challenges and opportunities facing the field evolve over the next 30 years.

Action Plan: Years 11 - 30

To implement these strategies, the following action steps are recommended:

1. Strengthen and further implement knowledge sharing and technology transfer programs on a global basis
We must recognize that the intellectual capital, knowledge and experience base of public sector real estate will now be global in scope. As other countries continue to expand the pace of their infrastructure development, there will be much to learn from them in terms of tools, techniques and methods that can benefit public sector real estate and its customers.

In response, the public sector real estate community should work to establish and maintain active technology transfer programs between the United States and other countries. Whereas these programs have in the past typically been between the United States and other developed nations such as Western Europe (at least in terms of two way exchange), these programs should be developed and maintained as a regular two-way exchanges between the United States and many of the developing nations who will be doing much of the large infrastructure development. At the same time, programs should be extended and enhanced with other developed nations in so much as these nations will be addressing many of the same issues related to the maturing of the public infrastructure that the United States will be facing.

2. Expand centers of expertise to provide for effective sharing of global intellectual capital

The aging of the profession's workforce in the intermediate term, the continuous entry of new workers over the entire planning cycle drive and the anticipated on-going changes in the issues impacting the profession drive the need for centers of expertise in particular subject areas who have both the experience in a particular area and who are actively maintaining the research related to that subject.

To ensure that field staff has both access to the latest tools and methods for addressing particular issues, as well as other staff with hands-on experience resolving these specialized issues, the concept of shared pools of specialized resources initiated during the first ten years should be continued and expanded. To most effectively leverage the field staff, the Public Sector real estate community should continue to enhance and expand the centers of expertise on specialized issues within agencies or program areas or within FHWA as the lead agency for the Uniform Act and make these resources available to specific projects on an as needed basis to provide specialized subject matter expertise. These specialists' resources should bring to projects not only their own experience, but also the latest specific research relevant to a subject area, drawing upon all of the intellectual capital available on a global basis.

3. Institutionalize processes and tools to capture and share intellectual capital on a global basis and foster collaboration

This action step has as its goal the growth, expansion and institutionalization of the tools and techniques that were initially implemented over the first ten years including e-collaboration environments, project repositories and various web-based templates and practices aids. These tools and processes will no longer be new innovations, but job aids that will be used every day and fundamental to how the profession does work. However, to continue to evolve and maintain the currency of these tools, it is essential that the public sector real estate community:

4. Institutionalize and continue to evolve best practices in cost estimation based on feedback and partnerships with multi-national teams

This action step builds on the recommendation in the ten-year action plan to develop and implement real estate and utilities estimating methodologies. Critical to success of any estimating methodologies and tools is the ability to refine and enhance these tools based on actual field experience and history. This recommendation involves ensuring that implementation of processes to ensure that these estimating methodologies are refined based on actual experience and updated to reflect changing conditions and these updates are provided to practitioners on a regular basis to ensure the cost estimating methods and tools remain current.

5. Continue marketing programs to attract new people to the profession
This action step involves maintaining and enhancing the marketing plan people implemented in the first ten years. As appropriate, this program should be continuously modified and updated to reflect on-going changes impacting the field and to adjust target audiences as conditions warrant.

6. Institutionalize the public sector real estate certification program and evolve the certification program as appropriate to address the impact of new challenges, opportunities and technologies

This action step builds off the design and initial implementation of the certification program during the first ten years of the planning cycle. It involves ensuring that the certification program is institutionalized and widely accepted as a credential tooling within the public sector real estate community. The goal of this recommendation is to ensure:

In addition, it is essential that the program be viewed as dynamic. Processes must be put in place to ensure the program and its requirements changes as appropriate to reflect changes in the role and function of the public sector real estate professional going forward.

7. Establish continuing education program that leverages technology to rapidly provide information on evolving trends to public sector real estate staff

Change is eminent and it is essential that we are able to provide information on these latest changes to public sector real estate professionals as rapidly as possible. To this end, this action step envisions implementation of a continuing education program to provide mid-career professionals updated training on the latest tools and methods.

As is the case with many professions, a certain amount of continuing education credits or training on an annual basis should be established as a requirement for maintaining the public sector real estate certification. The continuing education programs required to meet these requirements could take many forms including seminars at national meetings, special topic distance learning classes and/or webinars. The key is the content must be current, adapt to, and provide information on the latest changes impacting the profession.

Updated: 9/5/2014
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