Secretly, you may want to add a few years to the projected completion date of a complex construction project, to help account for potential delays. But this was not the case for the construction of the new 275,000-square-foot hermo Fisher Scientific Niche Diagnostics Center of Excellence. A little over two years after project design began, a sustainable and large-scale research and development (R&D) building now stands just south of Tesla Motors. We at Landtech Consultants (the Thermo Fisher project civil and structural engineers) couldn’t be happier.

The Team Players and Timeline

The project presented significant challenges, including complicated infrastructure demands that required major public works improvements. However, the City of Fremont staff and other public and utility agencies helped us meet the completion time-frame goals of the developer, Geis Companies, and ultimately, of Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Project design began in April of 2012, and the initial application was submitted to the City a month later. After successive phases of permit approval, the project broke ground in March of 2013. A whirlwind of construction followed, first of the building shell, and then of all the intricate interior and facility components. Finally, at the end of August 2014, the facility was turned over to Thermo Fisher.

Project Highlights

We found a few civil and structural engineering features of the project significant:

Building Site: Minimizing Seismic Liquefaction Risk

The project site lies within zones designated by the State Geologist to contain seismic liquefaction risks. Therefore, significant site preparation was conducted for the building to be founded on suitable ground. The site was excavated, graded, and filled with a 5.5-foot-thick lime-treated soil layer that is present underneath the building foundation. This creates a raft-like structure that works with the building structural foundation and is designed to bridge over possible liquefaction pockets that could occur in an earthquake. Overall, about 200,000 cubic yards of soil had to be moved and graded to accommodate the project.

Building Structure: Special Steel Frames for Seismic Resistance

The steel building frame is clad with exterior concrete walls, and special steel frame systems are integrated within the building. Elements within these braced frames are designed to absorb earthquake forces and dissipate seismic energy. Additionally, innovative special truss moment frames are used in the office wing of the building to allow for an open-space design. Overall, the building contains about 2,500tons of steel and 14,000 cubic yards of concrete.

Infrastructure Demand: Looped Water System for Fire Safety

The existing water service to the site was woefully inadequate and presented a fire service safety issue. The closest water source was a “dead end” connection, one-half of a mile away on Kato Road at the southern tip of the Tesla property. In order to provide adequate fire service safety, a looped water system was constructed to join the “dead end” connection from the south up along Kato Rd and across highway 880 to a looped water main on Landing Parkway. Of the total 3000-plus feet of pipe that were required, about 400 feet had to be installed in a bored steel casing about 14 feet below the level of the freeway pavement.

Storm Water Quality: Pioneering State-of-the-art Measures

This is a flagship project for meeting new storm water quality requirements. On this project, all drainage is directed to large bioretention gardens that allow treatment of the water organically, filtering into special soils and out through perforated pipes into the storm drainage system. With such a large building, the roof drainage is directed into a specially designed metering weir system that limits the volume of the peak flow for larger storms into the bioretention areas.

Fremont is showing the rest of the Bay Area that it knows how to get commercial construction projects done — -sustainably and safely. This project is a welcome addition to the Warm Springs Innovation District. It was a privilege to have worked with top-tier public and private partners to master this complex project.

Below are photos of the cafeteria and lobby.

Sonia Easaw is the Marketing Coordinator for Landtech Consultants.