Case Studies

Adobe Technology Campus – Okland Construction

Realizing Adobe's Vision of Sustainability in Utah

Collaboration and teamwork has remained the key to innovation at Okland Construction (Okland) since Norwegian carpenter John Okland founded the Salt Lake City Utah-based construction group in 1918, so it’s no surprise that Okland was chosen as the general contractor for a new high-tech campus for Adobe Systems Inc. (Adobe) in Lehi, Utah. Okland has made a name for itself over the past 90 years by aligning with the vision of its clients and developing creative approaches for each and every project, adjusting swiftly to challenges along the way.

The #78 general contractor in the nation in 2011 and the #48 green building contractor in the nation for 2011, according to Engineering News-Record (ENR), Okland has completed projects in 27 states. An expert in mitigating potential surprises in the construction process thanks to its problem-solving strategies that keep even the most complicated jobs within budget and schedule, Okland proved the perfect choice to bring an equally innovative company to its home state. “Adobe didn’t have a presence at all in Utah before its acquisition of Omniture,” explains Jonathan Francom, director of global workplace strategic programs at Adobe. Adobe acquired the web analytics and digital marketing unit in 2009, but Omniture had been exploring its options for a new space for some time before the acquisition. Adobe decided to move forward with the plans even after the acquisition and brought Okland on to the team shortly after beginning the design process.

“This is real legacy project,” opines Aaron Hall, project director for Okland and project manager for the Adobe project. “Not only is it an amazing space and design, but [Adobe’s] aggressive approach to sustainability makes this a really exciting project.”

Adobe consistently ranks amongst the greenest publicly traded companies in the country, as well as one of the best companies to work for, so it’s no surprise that sustainability would become equally important as attractive amenities in its design. The company currently has five LEED Platinum buildings in its portfolio that have been certified under the Existing Buildings criteria for operational and maintenance. With the Utah campus Adobe is making a 10- to 20-year investment in innovative expansion, so energy-efficiency and employee well-being are of the utmost importance.

Unifying Spaces

The new tech campus is situated on a long, narrow 38-acre site flanked along one side by Interstate 15 and with stunning panoramas of the surrounding mountains and valleys. A four-lane public road splits the site into two equal halves, which presented Adobe with an unusual design challenge of connecting the northern and southern parcels in a meaningful way.

“We knew we wanted to make that connection in a meaningful way that didn’t make it seem like an afterthought,” adds Francom. The team explored possibilities like using a walkway or sky bridge to connect the two sites, but ultimately scrapped the idea in favor of building a four-story building straddling what has since been renamed Adobe Way.

San Francisco-based WRNS Studio partnered with locally based GSBS Architects for the core and shell design, with Pollack Architecture (now Rapt Studio) supplying the interior design. The strategic plan for the site will be to have a number of office buildings on both sides of the site, but current plans are limited to one 200,000-square foot office building with an 80,000-square foot amenities building connected by a 43-foot, glass-walled atrium. Both buildings feature floor-to-ceiling windows, made of high-efficiency glass, to capitalize on the site’s sweeping panoramas of the surrounding mountains and valleys and bring the outdoors in.

“There’s really not a bad seat in the building,” adds Francom. “The six-foot perimeter around the exterior of the office building is actually held sacred as circulation space, meaning no offices, workstations or conference rooms are built in that space to preserve the views.”

The project was officially announced in 2010 and broke ground in mid-2011. The campus could be expanded to house over 3,300 employees down the road, but initial projections estimate the campus will start with around 1,000 full-time positions. And construction is on-target for completion before the end of 2012 despite a number of logistical challenges.

Moving Quickly

It became clear early on that the design was very much in tune with what Adobe wanted to do with the site in the long term, but Hall notes that rough construction costs were increasing quickly. “One of the critical things we did early on was break up the early stages into smaller bid packages and prioritize those that were critical to further progress,” adds Hall. The project officially broke ground on the civil and site work package and foundations were put in before the project’s design was fully finalized. Okland also made the critical decision to put the building’s exterior skin out for bid early to secure good pricing on the striking zinc, glass and aluminum components.

“We also moved to put the structural package out for bid on a unit-price basis for the rebar to secure some of the best market pricing we have seen in years,” adds Hall.

Adobe ultimately increased the project’s budget to provide for 1,100 seats versus the original 1,000 plan, but the aggressive completion date remained firm. Work progressed overnight and through the weekends in some cases. Okland provided its experience as construction manager to the project, and the company’s in-house professionals also oversaw all of the concrete activities, including forming, placing, finishing and structural concrete work. Hall estimates that the company poured roughly 18,000 cubic yards of concrete during an eight-month period, including sections molded with natural textures to evoke native surroundings, and that Okland’s team has numbered over 100 professionals at points.

One of the most memorable moments so far was when the structures on either side of Adobe Way were officially connected. The finished building spans 90 feet across the road from wall to wall. “I can remember standing on the deck as the crane lifted up the 120-foot beam to swing across the road and bridge the gap,” recalls Hall. “We had to shut the road down for a few minutes and it took teams of steel workers to guide this 18,000-pound beam into place, but they got it and I consider it a real milestone.”

Thinking Ahead

Once the two halves were connected teams jumped back into action to convert the empty shell into the icon of sustainability and harmonious work space Adobe envisioned. The campus is expected to achieve either LEED Gold or Silver certification for new construction through the use of ample daylight and passive solar design elements like sunshades to reduce thermal heat transfer.

When extra help is needed the building can turn to state-of-the-art mechanical systems to heat and cool the building and excess heat generated by servers will be captured and reused to heat occupied spaces during colder months. The design includes a sweeping indoor/outdoor café leading out into the large atrium and during the warmer months outside into a large recreational lawn area for employees to enjoy. Additional amenities include a full-size basketball court featuring a floor-to-ceiling glass wall with panoramic views of the surrounding valley, fitness center, locker rooms, yoga rooms, a climbing wall and easy access to public transit routes. The first phase of building will provide enough space for 1,100 employees, but future needs could easily pave the way for the design to be replicated on-site.

“It’s an iconic building by design of course, but Adobe is actually not spending more money per square foot than it has on other spaces,” adds Francom. “We feel Adobe is putting those dollars in very meaningful places on this building to maximize the employee and visitor experience.”

Construction crews will continue to wrap up all the loose ends for an on-time construction date, and Hall and the Okland team will continue to live up to the company’s mission of building to a higher standard. Yet again exhibiting the integrity, quality and vision that have garnered an 80-percent repeat clientele roster, Okland Construction is on track to deliver yet another amazing structure with the Adobe Systems Inc. campus, one which will further cement the company’s position as a leader in sustainable innovations and successful construction that’s win-win for all employees, firms, associates and clients.

Published on: August 20, 2012

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