Despite idling shortly after groundbreaking, construction is shifting into high gear on Porsche's new North American headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. Situated on the former employee parking lot of an abandoned Ford Motor assembly plant, the $100 million glass and steel facility is the first business to build at “Aerotropolis,” a new 130-acre mixed-use development near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
“The location will take up 27.7 acres, including corporate offices for Porsche Cars North America (PCNA), Porsche Financial Services, Porsche Business Services and Porsche Consulting,” said Steve Janisse, public relations general manager of Porsche. “In addition, there will be a technical service and training center, as well as a leading-edge Porsche experience center that will feature a test track and handling road course.”
Moving into new headquarters was the logical choice, according to Janisse, because the luxury brand carmaker's current lease was running out.
“The leases on our Lisle facility and our Atlanta training center are also expiring in 2013,” said Janisse. “Therefore, the timing is right to achieve our goal of having an integrated U.S. headquarters to enhance the strength of our brand, improve the collaboration among our entire workforce and improve our visibility.”
“The Porsche Headquarters, Training & Driving Experience Center and track are located in the corner of three jurisdictions — the cities of Atlanta and Hapeville and Clayton County,” said Mark Kilby, civil engineer of the design consulting firm Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc.
“PCNA, Jacoby Development and Kimley-Horn and Associates worked diligently with all three jurisdictions to reach agreements as to which jurisdiction will supply services and which jurisdiction's regulations would govern the various elements of the project.”
During demolition of the former assembly plant, below-ground utilities and features were abandoned in place. The utilities that interfere with proposed improvements are being removed as part of the earthwork operations. Other improvements include 1,300 linear ft. (396.2 m) of water main and 2,230 linear ft. (679.7 m) of sanitary sewer main extension onto One Porsche Drive. Whiting-Turner of Atlanta serves as general contractor for the high-profile project.
“Whiting-Turner is focusing on critical path tasks such as erosion and sedimentation control, excavation of the headquarters building footprint and preparation of building foundation,” said Kilby. “Progress appears to be on schedule.”
Application for LEED Silver certification was important to the project, and Kilby said there was a direct focus to obtain as many site development credits as possible.
“Stormwater reduction through green site design and storm water collection and re-use needed to be implemented,” said Kilby. “The storm water runoff will be collected and stored for use on the track wetted surfaces where Porsche owners can learn handling conditions of a Porsche on wet pavement. The wetting systems will recirculate most of the water demand with make-up water provided from storm water runoff storage.”
The finished floor of the lowest level of parking was located above the recorded natural groundwater levels to preclude long-term groundwater intrusion and simplify permanent foundation drainage system design. This begins setting subsequent building floor elevations that drive grading of the site around the periphery of the building, according to Kilby.
The northern-most track loop extends under the headquarters building and through an open-air courtyard providing an opportunity for a low-speed parade of cars during special events. This portion of the track, as well as most of the track, can be viewed from the headquarters mezzanine levels. The track profile had to be carefully coordinated with the headquarters building ground floor level and associated open-air courtyard, according to Kilby.
The formal plaza drop off area in the front of the headquarters building is at first-floor level, while the parking deck entrance and loading dock are located one floor below. The driving experience track access is located at the parking level 2 elevation, two floors below. Porsche Drive was designed to provide a comfortable ride while meeting these three access levels that span approximately 30 ft. (9.1 m) in elevation difference.
The new building's concrete frame completion date is March 2014, and the exterior skin should be finished by July. HOK, one of the largest architectural firms in the nation, was responsible for the overall design.
“Our initial vision included developing a unique landmark design that would create an inviting facility and integrated driving training track, with a high level of visibility at ground level and from the air during approach and take-off from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport,” said Michael Katzin, vice president of architecture at HOK. “The goal was to achieve a dynamic visual and functional experience of integrating the corporate office, training and experience center functions of the building with the unique drivers' training track.”
Other challenges for HOK included selection of the building envelope systems and materials to correspond to building height and acoustical parameters associated with the site's proximity to the airport.
“Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology allowed us to inform the design and engineering team of concept decisions, confirm them and present ideas to the client team early in the design process for review and endorsement,” said Katzin. “Some of the sustainable features include a partial green roof, recycled content and energy efficient mechanical systems. The design also exhibits and demonstrates the pure, elegant and highest quality design always associated with Porsche.”
The plans call for a 1.6 mi. (2.6 km) track with a handling circuit, two off-road playgrounds and a kick-plate element to simulate rough roads.
“This will be a place where a person can go and learn how to utilize the many different features of their car and improve their driving ability,” said Todd Hoisington, associate director of IBI Group/Giffels LLC. “It's not a test track or race track, nor is it limited to Porsche owners only. There are a number of different components to the track, including the 0.8 miles long handling course, which is designed to mimic a country road with a number of corners and undulations. A driver would learn how to choose the correct line when negotiating the curves and the proper braking points.”
The kick plate allows a driver to learn how to control a car in a skid or spin. The kick plate device is a flush-mounted hydraulically actuated plate placed before a wetted epoxy surface. As a car travels over the plate, sensors move the plate to put the car into a slide. The ice hill is designed to mimic a descent on an icy slope, according to Hoisington.
Hoisington said the biggest challenge was incorporating all the elements within the site and offering a safe facility with enough appeal for customers to return.
“The preliminary design phase started when IBI Group traveled to Germany and spent a week working with Porsche and Tilke GmbH & Co. developing layouts for the site and critiquing each,” said Hoisington. “Each concept was rated on a number system and the best rated layout moved forth. From this point IBI Group took the approved layout and started developing the design, working out the road profiles and refining the layouts. This phase was approximately five months. The next phase moved into final design, developing final grading, etc.”
The existing site is currently being stripped of existing pavements, and other elements. From there, the site will be graded, but track paving will not start until next spring and will take approximately four to six months.
“The track itself will have guardrail between opposing roads, grade changes and physical obstacles,” said Hoisington. “Along specific areas such as curves, the pavement edge will be extended with rumble strips as a warning device. There are also a number of specialty items that differ from a road project. The kick plate, along with the wetting system and specialized controls, are from an Austrian and German firm. The low friction wetted surfaces will be concrete with a special epoxy coating. Other low friction surfaces will be a polished concrete, while the roads will be a highway standard asphalt mix.”
PCNA will receive more than $3 million in economic incentives from Atlanta and Georgia to relocate the headquarters from Sandy Springs, Georgia, where 300 workers are currently staffed. The Porsche deal is considered crucial for the future development of Aerotropolis, the 6.5 million sq. ft., aviation-intensive business district. The district is expected to include office, retail, restaurant and hotel space.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Porsche CEO Matthias Muller and Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, grandson of company founder Ferdinand Porsche, were among those on hand when ceremonial shovels met dirt last November. Officials stressed more than 100 new jobs would be added as a result of the project, bringing the total number of U.S. employees to 400.
The facility will be located at the southwest corner of Porsche Avenue and I-75. Its neighbors include Delta Air Lines' world headquarters, Wachovia Bank's principal processing center and numerous hotels, parking facilities and warehouses. PCNA, the exclusive U.S. importer of Porsche sports cars, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Porsche AG, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany.