Speed meets sound under glass

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

May 01, 2002 |

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 in the company’s Westminster, Colo., campus, where more than 1,200 R&D staffers are focused on developing the next generation of communications tools, including Internet protocol and unified communication solutions. While the work there is state-of-the-art, the existing offices at the 25-year-old 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 work environment was challenging,” says Gustavson. “So we wanted to build a new facility that could accommodate their needs, as well as present a new high-tech image.”

In July 1998, Lucent commissioned architect Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates (KRJDA), Hamden, Conn., to design its new R&D facility. What the design 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, and local mechanical/electrical subcontractor Swanson Rink, Denver, and structural/civil engineer Martin & Martin, Wheat Ridge, Colo.

Working closely with the client, the building team successfully delivered an unusual facility on time and within budget, while meeting the rigorous requirements of Avaya’s R&D staff &m> earning it a Merit Award in our 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 office. The wings are symmetrically 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 each located adjacent to the office wings and are connected by elevated walkways. A two-story walkway links the facility with existing manufacturing buildings south on campus.

During the design phase, the building team met with more than 300 employees to assess their work processes, patterns of interaction, ability to attract and retain talent, and the capacity to a grow. These criteria were considered during the design of the shell, core and interior.

Top priority, according to Gustavson, was creating flexible space. “Because the products and work groups are constantly changing, we wanted the space to be flexible enough 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 accommodate the relocation of lab space to any part of the floor area. The area is wired with 40 watts per square foot for the lab equipment, and vertical plug-in bus duct risers run throughout.

“We also installed a ductwork system that is capable of supporting a large number of fan-powered variable air volume box locations, so those boxes can be installed anywhere,” says Bill Davis, project manager with Swanson Rink. He adds that the labs vary in size from 200 to 5,000 square feet.

A reliable backup electrical source was crucial for the labs, which operate around the clock, performing simulations that can run for days.

“We weighed the cost of using dual electrical utility feeds versus a standby generator plant, which would include multiple generators, switchgear and a large fuel oil capacity,” says Davis. “We concluded that there’s just wasn’t enough room for a true standby generator plant.”

Structurally, the floor is designed for a live load of 100 pounds per square foot, says Charles Keyes, project manager with Martin & Martin. “This is a high load for an office, and is actually low for a typical lab,” he adds.

To take advantage of the views afforded by the building’s all-glass exterior, circulation for the wings is located at the perimeter of each floor, and break areas are located to maximize views of the nearby Rocky Mountains. Service cores, which accommodate elevators, fire stairs, electrical rooms, rest rooms, maintenance closets and mechanical shafts, were placed at the ends of each floor so that the workspace is open and unimpeded by permanent elements.

“Only the telecommunications rooms are centrally located for efficient distribution,” adds Davis.

Designed by subcontractor Josef Gartner & Co., Gundelfingen, Germany, the building’s glass exterior curtain wall and skylights use a clear anodized aluminum frame and gray-tinted, ceramic-fritted glass. Twelve types of glass &m> distinguished by insulation values, shading coefficients, color, strength and ceramic frit &m> combine to make up the façade. The orientation of each side of the building determined which type of 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, except that it has five-story wings,” adds Gustavson. “This allowed us realized 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 methods: 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 some money, as well as spend elsewhere on such things as granite flooring and other high-quality finishes in the lobby and demo areas,” he says.

Wermerskirchen points to another example where the building team took a different approach to distributing the ductwork in the office wings.

“Due to restrictive floor-to-floor heights, the design in the Lisle facility had ductwork going through structural steel, requiring the contractor to box out the steel beams, which can be very expensive,” he says. “We were able to go with a more traditional design where the ductwork hangs below the structural steel, making the necessary adjustments, such as the use of smaller ductwork, to maintain the floor-to-floor height. It saved the client about $500,000.”

Teamwork also saves splendor

Close team collaboration 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 the fire protection code,” says White. “So the city wanted us to fireproof the exposed steel columns and the Vierendeel trusses.”

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 reduce the fire protection requirements. Concrete fills these columns to 25 feet above the ground floor.

“The designers did a great job of sitting down with city officials and explaining their rationale for fireproofing the structure,” says White. “It’s a fairly unique structure and Westminster never encountered anything like it before, so it was a learning curve for them.”

Construction costs

General requirement$19,604,048












Mechanical/fire protection16,723,873



Project Summary

Avaya Research and Development Facility

Westminster, Colo.

Building team

Owner/Developer: Avaya Inc.

Architect, interior architect: Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates

Structural engineer: Martin/Martin

Mechanical/electrical engineer: Swanson Rink

General contractor, construction manager: Swinerton Builders

General information

Area: 480,000 square feet

Number of floors: 4

Construction time: March 1999 to January 2001

Construction cost: $113.5 million

Delivery method/contract type: design/bid/build

Project suppliers

Stone: New England Stone

Roof system: Siplash

Roof insulation: Siplash

Heating: Cleaver Brooks, B&G

Refrigeration: York, M&I, BAC

Doors: Steelcraft, Blue Giant

Door hardware: Steelcraft, Best Lock, Von Duprin, LCN, Stanley, Pemko, Glynn Johnson, Wooster, Zero

Wall, floor tile: Crossville Ceramics, Crossville, Tennessee

Carpet: Interface Carpet Mill

Resilient flooring: Armstrong

Ceilings: Armstrong Building Products, Ceilings Plus

Interior walls/partitions: Wall Technology

Overlay Init