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IBM Services Center to Spur Construction in Baton Rouge

The new IBM Services Center complex is expected to spur additional construction in the area.

Tue April 14, 2015 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

As the first high-rise riverfront residential and office project in downtown Baton Rouge in more than half a century, the new IBM Services Center complex is expected to spur additional construction in the area. The $55 million, mixed-use development will feature two towers connected by a 24,000 sq. ft. (2,229.6 sq m) private terrace overlooking the Mississippi River.

“It will change the Baton Rouge skyline and help to bring a critical mass of residents to the downtown area,” said Tina Rance of Commercial Properties Realty Trust, which manages and develops property holdings of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF). “The transformation has been amazing to watch. Baton Rouge was really missing the opportunity for riverfront development, and now the IBM/525 Lafayette residential tower serves as a catalyst for many other new projects.”

The software development center will employ college graduates and professionals with backgrounds in computer science, engineering, mathematics and science. With operations in more than 170 countries, the New York-based globally integrated technology giant had been considering bringing a major facility to Baton Rouge for quite some time.

“IBM Services Center Baton Rouge is the result of an innovative, public-private partnership between the state of Louisiana, city of Baton Rouge, IBM, LSU and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation that will include expanded higher-education programs related to computer science, as well as a major new riverfront development that will accelerate the revitalization of downtown Baton Rouge,” Rance said. “In addition to the 800 jobs that will be created at the center over the next four years, LSU estimates the project will result in approximately 542 new indirect jobs, for a total of approximately 1,342 new, permanent jobs in the Capital region.”

The complex is being built on the former site of The Advocate newspaper, and is bordered by Main, North, Lafayette Street and River Road. The ten-story residential tower will offer 85 river view apartments that embrace smart-home technology. The nine-story office tower will be the home of the new IBM Services Center. Two of the floors will be multi-tenant, of which 95 percent is leased. IBM will move in to the building in early May. Residents will follow in the fall.

“Move in is October, and we are approximately 15 percent leased,” said Rance. “We are getting lots of inquiries from people who are ready to move in now, so we anticipate as we get closer to completion, occupancy will rise quickly.”

During the official groundbreaking ceremony, Colleen Arnold, senior vice president, IBM Global Business Services, said, “today represents an important step in demonstrating the power of public-private partnerships to build the next generation workforce and drive economic growth. As IBM continues to grow in Baton Rouge, we will continue to meet our client’s evolving needs around big data, mobile, social business and cloud.”

The Lemoine Company Inc. of Baton Rouge is serving as general contractor on the project.

“We had an aggressive construction schedule, which made the coordination of work activities very critical to the pending success of the project,” said Bryan O’Connor, project manager. “We are currently tracking to have substantial completion by May 1, 2015 for the IBM tower and August 1, 2015 for the residential tower.”

Multiple tasks are ongoing for crews, including the demolition of sidewalks; interior finish work such as hard tile, carpet, millwork, paint, hanging of doors, stairwell handrails and MEP trimout; along with construction of elevators. Numerous components of the exterior envelope also are being completed, such as the metal wall panels, window wall system, TPO roofing and the exterior insulation foam system.

Cast-in-place concrete structure work has already been completed, along with the structural steel roof top screenwall, the exterior façade of cast stone and the startup of roof top units that will provide conditioned air throughout the IBM building.

A 158-ft. (48.1 m) Liebherr 200 HC freestanding tower crane with 22,045-lb. (9,999.4 kg) capacity was used on the IBM tower for erecting concrete form work and related construction picks, while a 181-ft. (55.1 m) Liebherr 200 HC freestanding tower crane was utilized on the residential tower. A KVM 52 Schwing concrete pump truck was needed to pump concrete up to 170 ft. (51.8 m) vertically, and a 300X Link-Belt excavator was required for digging foundations. Other heavy equipment included a Komatsu PC210 excavator, a John Deere 550J dozer and a Skytrack 10054 forklift.

A total of 30,000 cu. yds. (22,936.6 cu m) of dirt was moved on the project. Materials used during construction have included more than 22,000 cu. yds. (16,820.2 cu m) of concrete, more than 1,100 tons (997.9 t) of reinforcing steel and in excess of 200 tons (181.4 t) of structural steel.

O’Connor said a terrace will connect the two buildings.

“The terrace is located on the fourth level, and it will provide as a connection level between the buildings. Terrace level will have landscaping, along with benches and grilles. There will be a stainless steel pool, which includes a trellis, and it will be for the residents only.

“Logistically, there was a challenge of jobsite deliveries, as the project is located in downtown Baton Rouge, which made on-time deliveries more critical than usual. The Building Information Modeling (BIM) coordinator assisted in the clash detection of the HVAC, plumbing, electrical and fire sprinkler layouts in the building to minimize issues between the respective MEP trades. The residential structure was more challenging, based upon the increased amount of penetrations through the concrete slabs.”

Like many projects of this size, construction has not been without setbacks.

“During our tie-in of the underground sanitary sewer, we kept encountering an obstacle,” said O’Connor. “We had to open cut a heavily traveled public road to uncover the obstacle and remove so we could complete the tie-in, which is done.”

Demolition of the existing deep foundations of bell bottom piers was a key component for crews to commence deep foundation work. The deep foundations consisted of pre-cast concrete piles ranging from 55 to 75 ft. (16.7 to 22.8 m) in length.

“Sheet piling was required around the eastern and northern part of the project to bench back the existing roadways,” said O’Connor. “All new underground utilities were required, such as domestic water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, natural gas, etc. The IBM office building has a diesel generator for backup emergency power and the residential tower has a natural gas generator.

“Erosion control was a challenge, due to the project being in a downtown setting, so hay bales, erosion socks, filter fabric, etc. were having to be maintained constantly, along with daily street sweeping to keep the adjacent public roads clean.”

The project consisted of a 198,000 sq. ft. (18,394.8 sq m) parking garage, 96,000 sq. ft. (8,918 sq m) of IBM office space, 48,000 sq. ft. (4,459.3 sq m) of leased office space and 93,000 sq. ft. (8,639.9 sq m) of residential space.

Antunovich Associates of Chicago, Ill., is serving as architect on the project.

“Our vision was to create a modern, dynamic mixed-use design that incorporated the needs of the major tenant into a design that was appropriately scaled for the site,” said Chuck Kennedy, principal. “The building also needed to celebrate the revitalization of downtown Baton Rouge, and its adjacency to the Mississippi River.

“The main challenges were to coordinate all the uses of the building, including office, rental residential, retail, parking and townhomes, while respecting the security and privacy of each user.”

Sustainability played an important role in the design process. For the interior, a focus on providing a healthier indoor environment was crucial. Common man-made interior finishes tend to off-gas noxious fumes during their life cycle. Each finish for this project was reviewed carefully to limit or eliminate off-gassing. Materials are selected based on certification, such as green label, green label plus, floor score and CHPS, which are third party tested.

Emerging technologies are being used to provide energy conservation and limit extensive maintenance. LED-driven lighting fixtures are utilized throughout the open office spaces, coupled with a sophisticated light harvesting control system. LEDs require virtually no maintenance, with a life expectancy of at least a decade.

“The built-up, roof-top air handling units are powered by high-efficiency, variable drive and frequency motors, minimizing the energy demand on the air distribution system,” said Kennedy.

“With potable water being a valued resource in the region, it was important to utilize low-consumption faucets and toilets. The project will save a minimum of 22 percent over typical fixtures.”

The shell calls for a high-efficiency, insulated aluminum window wall system with thermal breaks and low E coating, reflective white roof membrane, low VOC water proof membranes. The rooftop terrace will feature vegetated planters and full-size trees. Both buildings’ continuous insulation exceed building code requirements.

The project also includes a naturally ventilated garage, sun screens on the south façade of the office building and bicycle storage for residential and office use.

“We were fortunate enough to have an excellent site that not only has incredible views of the river, but also have terrific views of the capitol,” Kennedy said. “The project has two towers that sit on a podium that houses parking and retail. The towers were positioned perpendicular to the river, so that almost all spaces in the office building or the apartment building have views of it.

“The project is a modern design using a mix of glass and aluminum and cast stone at the office tower, and a softer, more traditional detailing at the residential area. The biggest challenge linking the two buildings was security. While the project needs to look cohesive, the individual users have very different security needs. For instance, the plaza garden is physically linked to both buildings, but can only be used by IBM. To further complicate the arrangement, exiting from the terrace is through the residential building. This is all accomplished through the use of electronic access control systems, along with other security equipment.

“It was rewarding to be involved in this project, because of the great team partnership. This partnership was made up of the state of Louisiana, city of Baton Rouge, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and IBM. All of these groups came together to develop a marvelous mixed-use project that will not only benefit the immediate area, but the entire state of Louisiana.

BRAF President and CEO John Davies agreed the IBM project is an important one for the area.

“It continues to diversify the economic underpinnings of the region. More importantly, it is a knowledge-based enterprise. The IBM Center in Baton Rouge will be the largest development site in North America, with at least 800 program developers working there. That number of young, bright people will have a huge positive impact on the human dynamics of our city center.”

“The Wilbur Marvin Foundation’s participation was central to the success of this project, because it has a real estate company in its portfolio,” said Davies. “And because it has a charitable mission, it can undertake projects that other companies would consider financially unappealing.

“Diversifying the economic drivers of our region is central to economic vitality. Also, knowledge-based employees tend to be creative and engaged in the communities they occupy. All in all, these attributes suggest a most promising prospect for Baton Rouge.”

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