Adobe’s New Abode

Software giant Adobe Systems, Inc. has always had what could be called a quiet connection to the Beehive State. Company co-founder Dr. John Warnock is an alumnus of the University of Utah, and in 2009 Adobe purchased web analytics company Omiture, founded and developed by Brigham Young University student Josh James. In addition, each year thousands of digital marketing entrepreneurs, web designers and players in the digital design world descend on Salt Lake City for the Adobe Summit, a renowned digital marketing conference. But if all those were merely subtle announcements of the company’s Utah ties, its stunning new 280,000 SF campus just off I-15 in Lehi announced Adobe’s presence loud and clear.

Making an Impression

The current buildings on site mark the first of three phases for the Adobe campus. Owners put the price tag of this first phase at approximately $110 million, while various sources – including Forbes magazine – stated the firm was spending up to $5 million a day to complete the project on a rigorous 18-month schedule.

“Everything about this job was hyper-speed for the volume we were building,” said Aaron Hall, Project Manager for general contractor Okland Construction of Salt Lake City. “This building has a lot of innovative features and some things we hadn’t worked with before, so every day was a new challenge. At the peak we had about 500 people a day working on this.”

Innovation and challenge was precisely what Adobe was looking for during initial meetings with San Francisco-based architects NWRS Studio and GSBS Architects of Salt Lake City. Jonathan Francom, Director of Global Workplace Strategic Programs at Adobe, said the company had several goals in mind with design for the new campus.

“We wanted something that made a bold statement and that would embody what Adobe is as a company and culture. Our values are innovative, involved, genuine and exceptional and there are a lot of aspects of this building, inside and out, that speak to each of these values in meaningful ways.”

Because Adobe had never built a project like this from the ground up, it retained Gardner Company of Salt Lake City to serve as its construction management representative.
“Adobe acted as the bank, we acted as everything else, from finding the site to hiring the architect and general contractor,” said John Bankhead, Vice President of Development for Gardner Company.

Only Just Beginning

The first phase of the campus construction includes two structures; a 200,000 SF, four-story office building and an 80,000 SF amenities building that includes a basketball court, cafeteria, dining spaces, atrium and fitness center. Office buildings scheduled for the next two phases will join the amenities building, which will act as a central common space.

Hall said the site required considerable work prior to building, with crews moving roughly 100,000 CY of earth to configure the slopes needed. Phil Miller of Salt Lake City-based structural engineer Dunn Associates said two different foundation systems were needed for the buildings.

“We used cast-in-place concrete piers that go underground 40 ft. in some places,” he said. “We also used micropiles with rebar under the footings. There is almost a whole other building underground. On the amenities side we did soil improvements and geo columns.”

The amenities building is a steel-framed structure with a zinc skin and extensive curtain walls that afford views of Utah Lake, along with the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountains. It contains one of the building’s cantilever features that challenged builders. A portion of the building that houses the basketball court extends approximately 30 ft. away from the main building.

Miller said the team quickly realized the design would require five custom fabricated beams. “We had to have plate steel brought in from all over the country to have the beams made here,” said Miller. The customized girders are 50 in. tall and weigh 900 lbs. per foot.

Miller said engineers also created a system to join the two buildings together structurally, but allow for differences in how each would react to seismic forces.
“The trusses from the atrium rest on the concrete office building on Teflon pads to allow them to move separately in a seismic event and transfer very little force from friction,” he said.

Inverted, V-shaped king trusses spanning up to 100 ft. in some places over the atrium are covered with wood slats to dampen sound in the expansive space. Hall said the slats were hung from the trusses with a system of wires and proved to be a time-consuming feature.

“We had five different lifts in this space each with five different crews,” Hall said. “Some were putting cables in place, some were doing the sprinkler system, others the lighting. It took us six weeks to do.”

One rather obvious and unusual building feature is that the north end is built over a four-lane road used to access shops and homes in the Traverse Mountain development, including Cabela’s. The long, narrow building provides employees with copious amounts of natural daylight throughout the entire building. Open, clustered work spaces are separated on each floor by meeting rooms and common areas for impromptu meetings to help develop synergy among the nearly 1,000 employees.

The curtain wall is a product of Kawneer window systems. The panels were assembled and installed by Steel Encounters, Inc. of Salt Lake City. The atrium is highlighted by 44 ft. tall spans of glass. The multiple panels of glass were connected using aluminum mullions to minimize obstructions, according to Derek Losee of Steel Encounters. The panels were numbered and shipped to the site in exact order so they could be placed quickly.

“The challenge was keeping to the schedule with these large unitized curtain wall systems,” said Losee. Using a lift and power cups the sections were unloaded and “snapped into place like Lego blocks” said Hall, adding that crews could install up to 150 ft. of curtain wall a day at the peak of operations.

In addition to the unique glass systems, concrete is the other prominent building material. Hall said nearly a dozen different mixes of varying colors and textures were used on the project. Much of the exposed concrete was mixed with slag, a by-product of steel production, to create the “warm” colors designers wanted. To create a texture to the concrete, designers decided on rough-cut cedar planks for the concrete forms.

Hall said the cedar forms could only be used twice, once on either side of the board, and then new, clean planks were needed. Hall said it was fortunate that Ogden-based Staker-Parson Companies, the concrete supplier, had several batch plants near the site including one just across I-15 to the west. The proximity of suppliers and concrete mixes utilizing waste products helped toward Adobe’s goal of LEED Gold certification for the building.

Project Team

Owner: Adobe Systems Incorporated
Architects: Site planning, programming and design: WRNS Studio, San Francisco; GSBS Architects, SLC. Interior design: RAPT Studio, San Francisco
Construction Management: Gardner Company, SLC
General Contractor: Okland Construction, SLC
Structural: Dunn Associates, SLC
Electrical: Spectrum Engineers, SLC
Mechanical: Colvin Engineering, SLC
Civil: Ensign Engineering, Midvale
Glazing/Curtain Wall: Steel Encounters, SLC


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