Team player Kevin Antonelli went from bidder on Google’s Bay View Campus in Mountain View, Calif., in its first iteration a decade ago to later becoming the revamped project’s biggest cheerleader from the owner’s side, helping to successfully and safely complete its ultra-sustainable, complex structures.
Growing up as an apprentice in a family of Italian stone masons in the Boston area, Antonelli decided at a young age that the backbreaking work wasn’t for him. After heading off to college and developing an interest in law, he served as a police officer for five years, but construction drew him back in after he began flipping houses with several former police officers. A chance conversation at a friend’s wedding led to an interview with Turner Construction’s Bay Area office, and Antonelli launched a nearly 25-year career with the contractor, beginning as assistant superintendent and working his way up to vice president and general manager of the contractor’s San Francisco Bay Area operations.
Under his leadership, Turner scored a spot in a joint venture to build Google’s new campus in Mountain View, but when Google co-founder Larry Page scrapped the original design as too conventional, the team was disbanded.
A few years later, Antonelli decided it was time for a career change. Google offered to bring him in house to lead the revived project, which now had a cutting-edge design by Bjarke Ingels Group and Heatherwick Studios. At first, Antonelli was hesitant to make the switch, but he soon realized he had the right skills to assemble the team to deliver the 1.2-million-sq-ft project spread across two office buildings, with elaborate canopy roofs, a 1,000-seat events center and 240 hotel-like employee accomodation units.
Bay View’s host of super-sustainable strategies—including water recycling, newly developed solar panels and one of the world’s largest geothermal systems—took years of research, development and permitting. The site is owned by NASA, as it is adjacent to its Ames Research Center, and the agency was both landlord and permitting authority. This meant some bespoke features of the project, such as fire suppression within the large canopied space, required delicate negotiation that Antonelli skillfully navigated, says Jeffrey Curry, Google’s director of construction process controls.
“Because he had been a general contractor for 30 years, it was incredibly helpful for him to have brought that perspective,” says Yayu Lin, president of the commercial division at Sares Regis Group of Northern California. “Kevin really laid a foundation of trust for our team because he knew the challenges that a general contractor has. He took the position to say, ‘How can I help the general contractor do their best in a fair way and mitigate risks for all of us?’” That included hands-on involvement in safety, with regular site walks. The project recorded more than 6 million worker hours with no serious incidents.
“Everyone had a voice” because Antonelli engendered trust and communication on the jobsite, Curry says. In one key step to boost teamwork, Antonelli brought in a coaching consultant that included former professional sports players. At first Curry thought, “I don’t need a coach,” but he quickly came to realize the value of having a feedback loop between team members and leadership to openly express and resolve issues, he says.
Antonelli’s openness to innovative ideas from the well-integrated project team also led to a record-breaking strand jack lift of more than 180,000 sq ft of roof structure that contractor Whiting Turner safely executed, Curry adds.