Ford Innovation and Research Center
Palo Alto, Calif.
Best Project

Owner: Ford Land Services Corp.
Lead Design Firm: Harley Ellis Devereaux
General Contractor: XL Construction
Civil Engineer: Kier & Wright Civil Engineers & Surveyors Inc.
Structural Engineer: Paradigm Structural Engineers Inc.
MEP Engineer: Mazzetti + GBA

Ford Motor Co.’s plan to put a fully autonomous car on the road by 2021 inspired the creation of the Ford Innovation and Research Center in Palo Alto. The project turned two 75,000-sq-ft buildings built in 2001 into a complex designed to attract Silicon Valley recruits and seamlessly connect with Ford’s Michigan headquarters.

The design-build project includes a 5,000-sq-ft design showroom and auditorium and an audio laboratory. The showroom includes a reinforced structural slab with a flush curb for vehicles to drive through. The project team beat its aggressive deadline due to the design’s flexibility, a strong local subcontractor market and contractors’ use of Lean techniques. The eight-month project clocked more than 200,000 worker-hours with 140 workers on site on peak days with no lost-time injuries.

The project team managed the buyout process between preconstruction and construction with detailed instructions to bidders, avoiding re-work or scope-gaps (committing to a project before completion of requirements). A comprehensive buyout process contributed to the $1.5 million project savings returned to Ford.

The interior is organized as a racetrack scheme with an internal walking street that divides open spaces along the windows from enclosed spaces such as conference rooms and private offices within the core. Individualized “alleys” link the core to provide shortcuts and encourage spontaneous encounters.

The judges were impressed by the investment in technology that allowed the research and development center to establish close ties to its Midwest corporate parent. State-of-the-art conference rooms include high-definition video technology.

“The entire design was set up so Ford in Palo Alto can be online and connected to people in Michigan, with full-on meetings on a daily basis,” a judge said.

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