United Launch Alliance
The Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin combined their Delta and Atlas rocket programs in 2006 to form United Launch Alliance (ULA). Management, engineering, test and mission-support functions for this new enterprise were scattered in multiple buildings in Denver, with some locations being as much as 40 minutes apart.
When ULA decided to unify this dispersed network of 2,100 employees together onto a single campus, it turned to DLR Group.
“ULA is a relatively young company and this was a unique opportunity for DLR Group to help them lay the groundwork for a brand new culture,” said DLR Group Principal Angela Castleton.
Three buildings were identified in a Centennial, Colo., commercial property. A fourth building on a separate property but within easy walking distance completed the new ULA campus.
“The challenge was to create a campus feeling across four different buildings,” said Castleton. “Except for the lobbies, the majority of spaces required a full demo and renovation. Our challenge was to move 2,100 employees into 478,000 square feet of office space in four different buildings across 15 floors over the course of 24 months.”
To begin, DLR Group conducted a workplace discovery process, which included immersion workshops; visioning and goal setting; workplace assessment surveys; interactive workshops; benchmarking; workspace standards development; and an image study.
The design team visited existing locations to observe people at work and how space was utilized. To ensure everyone, from executives to administration, had a stake in the final result, they developed a decision-making structure consisting of an executive review committee, a ULA project manager, a core team of 20 (facilities, finance and procurement), and an extended team of approximately 50 that included at least one representative from each ULA department.
“These teams provided a very effective way of communicating to all employees about what was going on and making them feel a part of the design process,” Castleton said.
The design team ultimately developed an organizational concept dubbed Neighborhood Fringey. This scheme was applied to each building to fulfill ULA’s vision for a unified workspace. This concept allowed for smaller neighborhoods within each spaces that promote the sense of team they valued. The sea of workstations often seen in highly open office environments was diminished by strategically placed, high-walled support areas.
The DLR Group team also learned a little something about the process of building and launching rockets. “It’s a very exact science that requires a lot of coordination between various departments,” said Castleton. “Every project requires ERBs—engineering review boards. These are meetings where the different disciplines present where they are in the launch process. Everyone else has to pay close attention as this information affects their own area of expertise. These meetings occur frequently with a large number of people and can be very time consuming. To enhance the experience, we placed large conference rooms in the center of each the floor in every building. Meeting rooms are adjacent to elevators so attendees don’t distract other employees as they move through the space for the ERBs.”
Once its go-time for a launch, everyone involved gathers in the Denver Operations Support Center – mission control – to communicate with the launch pad. ULA’s core client list included the Department of Defense, NASA, the U.S. Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office. Security and access control was a priority. There are four different Sensitive Compartmental Information Facilities) totaling 10,000 square feet on the campus, each with its own set of security specs.
Once the planning and design were completed and build-out underway, phased approach was used to move ULA staff into their new facility. Phase One comprised three floors of one of the buildings and a total of 110,000 square feet. This included general office space and a 40,000-square-foot avionics lab. The design team solicited feedback from this first group of employees in terms of workspace and finish standards, and made tweaks as needed during later phases.
During the first 18 months that we were moving people in there were probably 14 launches,” said Castleton. “When we started moving the Operations Support Center, which has a launch-critical function, there were two launches during the first months of trying out the new space, one being to Mars. That was intense. But, from the start of design to the end of construction, as we moved 2,100 people in six moves into the four buildings, ULA never missed a launch.”