For over 35 years, we have responded to fire, flood, mold, and weather damage to many different types of facilities. Along these years, we have learned the many differences unique to each facility. Embassies, are an example of buildings with a set of distinct needs, regulations, processes, etc. An embassy promotes its own home culture, economy, and science in the host country. Many embassies have a consular section exercising the functions of a consulate, as well as an ambassador’s residence. Our very own Lauren Penn has had a chance to sit down with the Engineering and Operations Manager of a high profile embassy in Washington, DC to learn more.
Lauren: Thank you for the chance to chat with me. How long have you worked for the embassy?
Guest: My pleasure! I’ve worked for the embassy for about 13 YEARS now.
Lauren: In your words can you describe the relationship between an embassy and its host country?
Guest: With this embassy it’s a friendly relationship, its considered a sovereign territory which means that it does fall under control of a foreign embassy.
Lauren: How big is your facility?
Guest: Our facility is approximately 332,000sq ft.
Lauren: Is the facility and land considered part of a foreign country?
Guest: Since it’s a sovereign territory, the facility and land are owned by the foreign country.
Lauren: Can you describe the contractor vetting process of individuals supervising and performing construction projects within the walls of high performance, diplomatic facilities such as yours?
Guest: It’s an interesting dynamic within our embassy because facility management staff are a third party contractor ourselves. Sometimes, we will contract projects ourselves that will go through our vetting standards of meeting certain criteria, such as insurances regulations, code compliance, and workman’s comp. Other times, the foreign embassy staff vet their own contractors. I can’t really speak to their vetting process, but I know for larger projects, like major renovations, they have a process they apply to all projects throughout the world. They follow an RFP process, in which they accept bids.
Lauren: Does it involve security background checks?
Guest: All of our employees (third party management co.) go through security background check.
Lauren: As a contractor coming to do work on site, what type of information do they need to provide?
Guest: Typically they need to show ID. Specifically speaking, if they are working in the area in which we house diplomats, it’s a more rigorous process. If it’s just in the general offices space they don’t require as much advance notice or as much information. If they are working in the diplomatic offices they need this information a week ahead of time. If we are bringing a vendor in, they will want the vehicle information and the employees information 48 hours in advance of when they are supposed to arrive onsite. They must have photo ID when they arrive onsite. That ID must be matched with the information that was sent ahead of time.
Lauren: Are the same construction/reconstruction guidelines followed at the ambassador’s residence? Is there a difference between that and the embassy? The consulate?
Guest: The ambassador’s residence falls within the us boundaries and within the city boundaries. They are supposed to “reasonably comply” with local jurisdictional codes. So it’s at their discretion as to which ones they want to comply with and which ones they don’t.
Lauren: What factors are you weighing when you entrust a company to provide restoration services while upholding safe, secure, and functional foreign facilities?
Guest: We have a standard we use for vetting contractors. Really for us, it doesn’t matter that’s a foreign facility or not. We have strict standards that we put vendors through. The differences you see from building to building is what the ownership requires and insurance requirements for that specific facility. So those are dictated by ownership.
Lauren: In this case the ownership is a foreign country?
Lauren: When there is a need for restoration work, who makes the decisions? Someone onsite or someone back in the country of origin?
Guest: Both. At this facility it depends on the scale of the work. On a large project whey will work with their foreign counterparts . When it comes to work here locally, we do have a property manager that’s employed by the government and project managers onsite. The project managers are housed out of this facility but they deal with consulates and residences all over North, Central, and South America.
Lauren: Does work performed within an embassy require a US building inspection?
Guest: They are not required to pull a permit for everything. It’s up to the scale of the project. When we did a major renovation we pulled permits because of the tie-in to the city sewer system and the streets. But generally speaking, no, they are not required to pull permits.
Lauren: Are embassies required to perform code upgrades?
Lauren: When contractors do business with your embassy, are they contracting with a foreign country?