In the Face of Adversity

Engineering

Despite the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, the new Bayer HealthCare USA headquarters was completed within a mere 14 months. This was due entirely to the supreme commitment of all concerned.

The new Bayer HealthCare U.S. headquarters in Whippany
Built in just over one year: the new Bayer HealthCare U.S. headquarters in Whippany, New Jersey.

It does not bear thinking about. At the end of October 2012, Hurricane Sandy swept through the state of New Jersey at speeds of up to 150 kilometers per hour. It left many buildings destroyed in its wake, and close to one million homes without electricity. Sandy also left its mark on the construction site for the new Bayer HealthCare U.S. headquarters in Whippany, just west of New York City. Work had only begun two months previously and now the power was down, the cement mixers fallen silent. In addition, many of the workers on the site had lost their homes, and were forced to live temporarily in tents as their neighborhood had been severely damaged. And of all the times for this to happen, it had to be at a stage when construction was meant to proceed quickly. After all, the building was intended to be opened and occupied one year later, in October 2013.

For a project costing 300 million U.S. dollars, one year of construction is extremely short. Fortunately, the two people leading the project at Bayer Technology Services, Rob McElhany and Egbert Heinze, were supported by a highly motivated team – not only their Bayer colleagues, but also the many employees involved from other companies. “Although many of them were living in temporary accommodation after the hurricane, they continued working at top speed while adhering to the safety requirements – and with no less enthusiasm,” recalls Heinze, still visibly impressed.

The project has long since been completed for Heinze. Despite all the difficulties, the building was finished according to schedule – and within budget. The first employees began moving in at the end of June 2013, with the rest following by October, after a construction period of just 14 months. The headquarters provides office space for some 2,400 Bayer HealthCare staff over a total area of around 65,000 square meters. The open-space layout is spread over two separate buildings, linked by a glass atrium. With its 25-meter-high ceiling, the atrium proved to be a particular structural challenge for the engineers. “The design was completely without pillars, meaning it had to be self-supporting,” Heinze explains. “In the end we solved this with huge sheets of glass weighing over 350 kilograms, which were joined together using a special adhesive.”

The project team also paid constant attention to such aspects as energy efficiency and sustainability in terms of the architectural design itself as well as the building materials used. This is reflected in the many LEED certificates issued for the new building. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is commonly used in the USA to evaluate environmental friendliness and ustainability within the construction industry.

With its new U.S. headquarters established in Whippany, Bayer HealthCare has closed down and merged some of its locations in Morristown, Montville, and Wayne (all in New Jersey), as well as in Tarrytown (New York).

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