When I graduated with a degree in journalism last June, the last place I thought I’d find myself a few months later was a 1.1-million-sf construction site amid the structural engineers who designed it.
Susie Smith, KPFF SF’s fairy godmarketer, picked me up around 9 a.m.– for which I thanked her by spilling my latte on her passenger’s seat. I was new to the industry and new to this project, but Susie had watched it grow from a Request for Proposal to where it stood that day. On our drive to the site, she told me she remembered assembling the qualifications package for the tech campus and how it felt when our team won the project. Years of flaunting the renderings of this gorgeous pair of buildings had led up to the moment she finally set her eyes on it.
The campus sprawls across a natural channel, so the design accommodates the site’s existing environment and future sea level rise. Each side of the channel hosts a 500,000-gsf office building—both with step floor plate solutions allowing visitors to walk from ground level to the top floor, 100 feet above-grade! The walkway is built to support the landscape, like a ramped park. The structures are constructed with flat-plate concrete and structural steel to maintain a sleek, minimalistic design while supporting the ramp’s heavy soil.
After a quick safety course (stop in your tracks and look up when you hear the safety horn!), we made our way to the first building on-site. From the outside, it looked nearly complete. Stepping inside revealed the skeleton of the structure that hadn’t been buried beneath glossy tiles and flashy finishes yet. John-Michael Wong and Sam Delwiche, two of our engineers on the project, gave us a tour of the building’s interior highlights including its massive grand staircase, a floating conference room on the second floor and sloping windows that peer onto the zigzagging pedestrian ramp connecting the ground to the roof. Sam and John-Michael made sure to show off the exterior draining system, certain it was as just as exciting as anything else about the state-of-the-art building.
“Site visits are a chance to see our designs come to life,” Sam said, emphasizing why time in the field is critical to project success for engineers. “They also give us the opportunity to verify implementation.”
One spooky crate elevator ride later, we reached the grand finale: The not-quite-yet-green roof. Where piles of dirt accumulated that day, a meticulously-designed landscape would flourish in a few months. Giant cranes propelled soil onto the landing. Concrete clusters marked where a bench or tree would be anchored when the time came. From the edge of the roof, we could see construction sites of two other projects we’re working on in the area. What a sight!
The second building on the site mirrored the first but had a few details of its own. The back of the structure had a patio cutting into its first three floors, the campus’ main entryway and welcoming gesture. Sam and John-Michael walked Susie and I through the structure. They pointed out the ways in which this office building echoed its twin, and emphasized how the window pane designs were delicately unique, the interior layout was designed to cater to different uses and the ground-to-roof ramp would provide a slightly different experience than the first building.
Seeing a structure in progress like I did that day made my impact as a KPFFer and a marketer tangible. As marketers, most of our exposure to projects happens in the proposal stages before anything’s come to fruition. After that, we may highlight construction photos and renderings on other quals packages or in social media posts—but we’re not very involved in the process of bringing designs to life. Nothing on the computer compares to experiencing a site in person, watching the construction crew literally build the structure from the ground up before your eyes as the team who engineered the building walk you through its skeleton. Here’s where I stick my call to action for everyone to pester your team to schedule a site visit today.
The campus is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year. Hopefully, Susie and I can see the final product of the project she helped win many years ago and the bare structures we just toured. Until then, I’ll sign my name on any site visitation list I can get my little marketer hands on!
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