Savings Speak Out Under Glass

Transparent R&D facility provides flexible, efficient workspace and high-tech image to help attract and retain the best and the brightest
August 11, 2010

For network communications giant Avaya Inc., attracting and retaining top research and development talent is of the utmost importance. The Lucent Technologies spin-off, which employs 23,000 worldwide, relies on its 3,000-person R&D arm to design voice and data networks and software for clients in 90 countries.

Most of Avaya's R&D work is concentrated at the company's Westminster, Colo., campus, where more than 1,200 R&D staffers are focused on developing the next generation of communication technologies, including Internet protocol and unified communication solutions. While the work there is state-of-the-art, the existing offices at the 25-year-old, 1.3 million-sq.-ft. campus were less than spectacular, admits Dave Gustavson, senior project manager with Avaya.

"Our R&D people were working in a converted factory, and the environment was pretty challenging," recalls Gustavson. "We wanted to build a new facility that could accommodate their needs, as well as present a new high-tech image for the company."

In July 1998, Lucent commissioned architect Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates (KRJDA), Hamden, Conn., to design its new R&D complex. What the firm created was an all-glass structure that tested the coordination skills of all project team members, which included general contractor Swinerton Builders, San Francisco; mechanical/electrical engineer Swanson Rink, Denver; and structural/civil engineer Martin & Martin, Wheat Ridge, Colo.

Working closely with the client, the building team successfully delivered the facility on time and within budget, while meeting the rigorous requirements of Avaya's R&D staff — earning it a Merit Award in BD&C's 2002 Building Team Project of the Year competition.

Flexible, reliable workspace

Completed in January 2001, the 480,000-sq.-ft. building consists of two four-level office wings, each about one quarter lab space and the rest offices. The wings are arranged around a 118-ft.-tall steel and glass lobby topped by a 120-ft.-wide, sloped, concave skylight. Two 800-car parking structures are adjacent to the wings.

"The lobby serves as a place to receive customers and as a reference to the idea of communications, with its 'satellite dish' skylight," says Kevin Roche, partner with KRJDA.

During the design phase, the team met with employees to assess their work processes, patterns of interaction and ability to attract and retain talent. These criteria were considered during the design of the shell, core and interior.

"We created the best working environment possible," says Roche. "That includes both sound and visual privacy, good lighting and an opportunity for employees to get some relief. When they step out to go to the bathroom or get coffee, they walk down a glass-encased corridor that provides a grand view of the surrounding mountains."

Top priority, according to Gustavson, was creating flexible space. "Because the products and work groups are constantly changing, we wanted to be able to move offices and labs around," he says. "We utilized modular workstations that can be quickly reconfigured."

Mechanical and electrical systems were also configured to permit easy relocation of lab space. The area is wired with up to 40 watts per square foot, and vertical plug-in bus duct risers run throughout.

"We also installed a low-temperature HVAC ductwork system capable of supporting a number of fan-powered variable air volume box locations, so those boxes can be installed anywhere," says Bill Davis, project manager with Swanson Rink.

A reliable backup electrical source was crucial for the labs, which operate around the clock, performing simulations that can run for days. Davis says the team considered a standby generator plant, but instead specified dual electrical utility feeds because of space constraints.

Structurally, the floor is designed for a live load of 100 pounds per square foot, says Charles Keyes, principal with Martin & Martin. "This level of loading coupled with a minimum 5 Hz vibration criteria provides an excellent office/lab environment," he adds.

Designed by subcontractor Josef Gartner & Co., Gundelfingen, Germany, the building's glass exterior curtain wall and skylights use gray-tinted, ceramic-fritted glass. Twelve types of glass — defined by insulation values, shading coefficients, color, strength and ceramic frit — make up the façade. The orientation of each side of the building determined which glass was designated.

Value engineering

According to Gustavson, the project is one of four new transparent buildings across the U.S. designed by KRJDA for Lucent as part of the owner's national workplace transformation initiative. The other facilities, located in Allentown, Pa.; Naperville, Ill.; and Lisle, Ill., were all completed by different building teams.

"Our facility is pretty much identical to the Lisle facility," adds Gustavson. "This allowed cost savings by improving on the way the Lisle facility was designed and built."

For instance, the skylight system in Lisle utilizes more traditional construction framing: a structural steel system for the support frame and an additional substructure for the glass.

"We worked closely with Gartner to engineer a system that attached the exterior glass directly to the primary structure," says Keyes. "This technique improved the appearance, created a lighter load, improved fabrication and erection time, and reduced construction costs."

Dave Wermerskirchen, operations manager with Swinerton, says the building team submitted more than 130 value engineering items over the course of the job, which saved Avaya some $10 million. "This allowed them to save, as well as spend elsewhere on such things as granite flooring and other high-quality finishes in the lobby area," he says.

Close team collaboration also resulted in a creative fire proofing solution to a situation that would have detracted from the splendor of the glass lobby space, says David White, senior vice president with Swinerton.

"The entire area is sprinklered, but because of the height, that wasn't sufficient enough to meet fire code," says White. "The city wanted us to fireproof the exposed steel."

The team instead poured concrete into the 18 structural steel pipe columns that form the lobby walls, thus creating a heat sink to absorb temperatures and satisfy the fire protection requirements.

"The designers did a great job of sitting down with city officials and explaining their rationale for fireproofing the structure," says White.

Construction Costs

General requirement $19,604,048
Sitework 11,456,171
Concrete 10,621,457
Masonry 567,834
Steel/metals 8,115,049
Carpentry 554,327
Roofing 2,358,862
Doors/windows 15,787,671
Finishes 7,570,090
Specialties 741,308
Equipment 4,038,939
Elevators/conveyors 1,498,878
Mechanical/fire protection 16,723,873
Electrical 13,861,492
TOTAL $113,500,000