New York City is fast. New Yorkers walk fast, talk fast, and expect the rest of the world to keep up.
And it is not just the people; the city itself is constantly being reinvented, new buildings seeming to spring up everyday. In a fast-paced metropolis, the construction of 745 Seventh Avenue turned heads. With a 25-month schedule from start of foundation to occupancy, this super fast-track project is proof of the truly spectacular results new technology and excellent communication skills can achieve.
Driving the Process
Built on the northern boundary of Times Square, the 1.1 million-square-foot office building was constructed for financial firm Morgan Stanley, and later sold to Lehman Brothers. Morgan Stanley drove the need for speed. The firm was consolidating offices from around the city. “They had certain lease expirations that were driving the process,” explains Rob Blackman, executive vice president, Tishman Construction Corp., New York City, construction manager for the project.
This lead to a very aggressive schedule because of the extensive technology infrastructure the project demanded: The project had strident turnover requirements due to its computer rooms. There are four mini data centers in the building, so move-in dates were driven by the data centers’ ready dates (as early as seven months before final occupancy).
Before the foundation could be poured, the underground structures, including adjacent basements and subway tunnels, had to assessed. The foundation was reinforced with high-strength rock anchors, and a sheeting and shoring system prevented movement from the nearby Seventh Avenue subway. As soon as the foundation was in place, 12,000 tons of steel were erected in eight months. For a build-to-suit facility, this schedule was considered super-fast-track (on-site, the term was “slash-track”).
To facilitate this breakneck speed, the building team was assembled quickly, and good communication was essential throughout the process. Project meetings typically featured over 40 key personnel members. The project’s interiors were also fast-tracked. Therefore, the interior designer, Gensler, New York City, was designing interiors at the same time the base building was being designed by New York City-headquartered architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.
The team bundled as much of the interior work as possible with the base building packages. Amenity spaces, such as the cafeteria and fitness room, were designed early to speed the building process.
Wind tunnel testing was done in tandem with the development of the structural system for the lateral resistance. Testing indicated significant torsion effect due to the building’s location and wind direction. Today, strategically placed large steel column in the corners of the building’s core resist the torsion well.
In addition to the other time-saving methods, multiple same-trade crews worked on the project. “For example, we selected from the marketplace electricians that have certain expertise in the areas we needed – communication, IT, wiring, fire alarm and security, basic light and power, permanent power,” says Jeffrey Levy, Tishman, New York City. There was a very thorough script of turnover requirements and Morgan Stanley demanded a high level of quality. “I was very proud of the industry; the subcontractors were knocking the skin off the ball,” says Blackman. Adds Levy, “We made sure that we were thorough in describing the expectations not only in the scope of the work, but in the quality.”
Quality and Flexibility
The flexibility of this mission-critical building was also an important driver. Two separate sets of risers, as well as raised flooring, provide the necessary power redundancy. “A very high level of quality was instilled in us. The building was still being completed on the top, but these spaces were totally commissioned,” says Blackman. Careful attention was paid to the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems; the location of the numerous elevators; and the layout of the building systems. The final solution had to meet Morgan Stanley’s requirements, as well as allow the building to possibly serve as a future multi-tenant facility.
“What was key was that we continuously met separately with the major contractors and thoroughly audited where they were,” says Levy. At its peak, 1,500 workers labored on the project to meet manpower needs. Tishman set up a temporary office on-site, and key personnel practically lived there during the construction process.
Concurrently, the building team scheduled off-site retreats to enhance communication by allowing team members from every major user group to share their different perspectives. Half a dozen retreats were held over the course of the project with an outside facilitator. “It really gave me an appreciation about what was important to the different groups,” says Blackman. The retreats lead to lasting friendships after the project’s completion. “The value-added there by having [retreats] is they were therapy sessions, where you got a chance to tell all the members of the team what you actually felt,” notes Levy.
The tower’s elegant glass curtainwall is complemented by distinctive built-in LED signage. The unique signage, incorporated into the architecture of the base building’s spandrels, fits in with glittering Times Square while still providing employees with clear views.
Granite, metal, glass: 745 Seventh Avenue stands complete, a new addition to the New York City skyline. “On a job like this, it is easy to not look at what you are supposed to because you are looking at everything. I would say one of the best things we had going for us was our people,” says Levy.
745 Seventh Avenue is remarkable not just because of the incredible speed in its construction or its graceful, savvy design, but because of the hard work that went into its creation and the incredible relationships formed during its making.
Regina Raiford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.