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New Setting Suits Sun

Building a campus for a rapidly expanding computer giant requires up-to-the-minute planning and execution

May 01, 2002 |

In 1997, as the dot-com boom continued its madcap ride toward the heavens, computer giant Sun Microsystems Inc. anticipated doubling its work force from 30,000 to 60,000 employees to meet market need. Faced with a shortage of usable space, the company decided to migrate from 90 percent rental properties to 70 percent ownership of facilities it occupies. Today, the $76 million phased development of 635,000 square feet of office space on a 37-acre campus in Newark, Calif., is allowing Sun to keep pace with the current economic climate, and has won a 2002 Building Team of the Year Merit Award.

The task confronting the building team was formidable because of the logistics and timing involved. But with intense cooperation and a multipackage, fast-track design and construction scenario, the team met targeted delivery dates, allowing the company to move employees out of buildings where leases were expiring as well as to hire needed employees.

At the time, the dot-com boom meant there was no existing space for relocating or adding employees. "What we needed to do very quickly was add square footage and get it on-line in a timely fashion," says Richard Sheng, director, Kaplan McLaughlin Diaz (KMD) Architects, San Francisco. The pace slowed in 2000 when dot-com began to turn dot-bust. "The last two buildings were delayed in their construction for a year," says Sheng.

"We've been very happy with the results," says Russell Mauk, Sun's program manager, so much so that it is maintaining the same team for more work across the street from the five buildings in the awards competition. Sun's employment now stands at about 40,000, according to Mauk, with the planned expansion tempered by market conditions. The second development, originally designed to provide 800,000 square feet of office space, is now under construction to create 400,000 square feet. Construction of the remaining buildings has been put on hold until the economy improves.

In the first phase of the original campus development, the first 88,000-sq.-ft. building was needed in less than a year, with each successive building of 89,000 square feet to 167,000 square feet due online at six-week intervals. The company needed flexibility for future growth as well as a campus setting that allows workers to encounter one another. "That sort of interactivity is very important to Sun," says Mauk.

That tactic pleased the Building Team of the Year judges. "I like the real estate solution that Sun chose. Instead of building a massive corporate center, they went with a multibuilding real estate solution that gives them a lot of flexibility 10 years down the road," explained judge Dan Sullivan, a principal with OWP&P Architects Inc., Chicago.

Flexibility essential

Flexibility also was necessary for the building team. Mark Lanphere, project executive for contractor DPR Construction Inc., Redwood City, Calif., learned that the team would have to react to changes in user groups as Sun responded to the market. "One of our goals was never to change the end date," says Lanphere. Despite those changes, the contractor's and other team members' goal was still to deliver the buildings by deadline.

To meet the tight schedule, primary structural members of the first moment-resistant framed building were ordered "off the shelf" at the end of schematic design and before the structural steel permits were obtained.

"In order to roll out the buildings in sequence, we had to split the documents for each building into fast-track packages starting with the site, foundations, superstructure, etc. In conjunction with that, we had a relatively aggressive budgetary constraint as well," says Sheng.

The packages were divided into site work and site utilities, underground utilities and foundation, structural frame, steel details, architectural/plumbing core and shell and several tenant improvement packages. In sequence, each package was issued and permitted before the next package was completed.

Consensus improves speed

Agreement among the parties as to project standards allowed them to move faster and avoid changes.

For instance, Sun committed to a 32-by-32-ft. bay size and a core/shell design that would accommodate an interior layout using the standard Sun planning module. The contractor expected that further design and detailing would be accomplished with minimal changes to the construction and the schedule. The local building department allowed construction to be-gin with temporary permits with the provision that there would be no substantive changes from the preliminary package.

One of the first project tasks was to develop a schedule of all of the construction/permit packages so that the Newark Building Department could review them, allowing it to anticipate and provide appropriate staffing when needed to allow a quick turnaround.

Incentives based on meeting schedules, the quality of documents and additional performance factors helped keep team members on track since funds were awarded for on-time performance.

If the submittal date for any package was missed, the fee incentive for a portion of the category was forfeited. Incentives also were awarded if extra construction costs caused by errors or omissions in the documents were avoided. Performance was graded quarterly on such factors as professional competence, team attitude, effective and adequate on-site personnel and effective technology.

Communication was extremely important. "It is really a collaborative environment, everybody's open and straightforward and we just push, push, push," says Lanphere.

Lanphere says that the project brought home to him the importance of talking out the problems. "You should never delay delivering bad news. The sooner you can get an issue or challenge identified, you can respond to it or react to it better," he explains.

Construction Costs

Foundations $3,848,646
Superstructure 11,855,584
Exterior closure 9,075,410
Roofing 3,616,504
Interior construction/finishes 22,742,912
Mechanical systems 13,390,342
Electrical systems 11,253,214
TOTAL $75,782,612

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