‘Over budget’ and ‘behind schedule’ are the two worst enemies of Tim Cook, Apple’s logistics expert turned CEO. However that’s what is happening with its new spaceship campus in Cupertino.
The huge building could fill a stat sheet on its own, and raise some eyebrows in the process: one building, 2.8 million square feet, two thirds the size of the Pentagon. Add to that the fact that it will be surrounded by 176 acres of trees (309 different species), 700,000 square feet of solar panels will be on the roof, and that 12,000 employees will be housed there, and you realise that the world has never seen anything like this.
The report from Bloomberg Business Week does make slightly worrying reading for Apple. The budget has gone from ‘less than $3 billion’ to ‘nearly $5 billion’, an unnamed source claims. The date has also been pushed back. Jobs wanted to move in by 2015, however Tim Cook at the annual meeting recently declared that it wasn’t happening before 2016.
Both are understandable though:
One reason for the new timetable, say three people who have spoken to Apple personnel about the project, is that the company has been working with lead architect Foster + Partners to cut $1 billion from the budget before proceeding.
There’s so much dirt to be removed, excavating the site will take six months and require a continuous, 24-hour convoy of trucks, says a former Apple manager who heard a presentation from Foster’s firm.
The main building will also be groundbreaking in how it’s assembled. While the structural shell will be erected on site, the glass that forms the exterior walls will be bent and framed by Seele in its factory in Gersthofen, Germany. “It’s something like 6 square kilometers of glass,” says Peter Arbour, an architect with Seele, who says that no company has attempted to use panes as large—certainly not curved panes—in anything approaching this scale. “Normally we talk in terms of square feet.”
In almost every aspect, this is one of the most complicated architectural and structural tasks around, but it should be worth it. No more keynotes in San Francisco – the press will be catered to with a mega underground auditorium, there is also a fitness centre and many other top notch facilities.
In the scale of things, $5 billion really isn’t a lot for Apple. With cash reserves of over $100 billion, it’s a drop in the water. The priority should be getting it finished, even if it does cost more than anticipated.
Steve Jobs’s last public appearance was before the Cupertino City Council lobbying for his new HQ. As he said, architecture students from around the world will come to Cupertino to see the facility.