Gilbane Building Co. finished the complete renovation of El Paso Corp.'s 32-story, 45-year-old headquarters in downtown Houston in September 2011.

Photo by Fitlow
El Paso Corp. Tower Renovation.
Photo by Fitlow
El Paso Corp. Tower Renovation.

More than 1 million sq ft of this state-of-the-art, LEED-Gold high-rise was renovated.

However, despite the fact that El Paso Tower is located in downtown Houston, and the streets surrounding it could never be completely shut down, no exterior material or man hoists were included on the project, resulting in $1.5 million in savings. Instead, all materials were fed through the basement loading dock and then up through the freight elevators.

"Early collaboration and buy-in between the owner, development manager, architect and subcontractors is what made the project so successful," says Charles Nelson, Gilbane senior project executive on the project.

"Working in a fully operational building with 2,000 employees, safety was a top priority for the team," Nelson adds.

The existing data center supported 44,000 miles of gas pipeline, so it was imperative that those operations not be interrupted, he adds. A completely modernized data center was constructed on the floor above the existing data center. Operations were transferred piece by piece to the new center, all while remaining 100% online.

An added complexity was that the entire building contained asbestos that had to be removed. This hazardous operation was performed in the entire building, while occupied, without a single exposure problem.

"A 24-hour schedule calendar for workers handling demolition and new construction as well as Hurricane Ike striking while we were one-third of the way through the project presented a number of concerns, but our team overcame every challenge that came our way," Nelson says. "Safety planning for every activity on site, constant communication and regular updates at weekly meetings—and a strong working relationship—helped us not only meet the schedule and budget for the project but achieve 1.5 million man-hours without a lost time accident in the process."

Key Players

Owner: El Paso Corp., Houston

General Contractor: Gilbane Building Co., Houston

Lead Design: Gensler, Houston

Structural: Ingenium Inc., Houston

MEP: IA Naman, Houston

Submitted by Gilbane Building Co.