updated 10:30 am EDT, Thu April 4, 2013
Project may exceed cost of new World Trade Center
The budget for Apple's upcoming "spaceship" campus in Cupertino has ballooned by $2 billion to a massive $5 billion, say five Bloomberg sources described as close to the project. Architectural firm Foster + Partners is reportedly looking to slash $1 billion from that budget, but that could still make the new campus more expensive than the new World Trade Center in New York City, which is expected to cost $3.9 billion. The attempt at cost-cutting is said to be behind the delay of the campus' opening until mid-2016.
Another source says that crews will start demolishing the 26 buildings currently on the construction site in June. Apple has yet to finalize agreements with all of the subcontractors it will need for the campus, but at least some of them are expected to submit bids by May. A problem is that two sources say Apple is only offering cost-plus contracts, paying half the profit percentage of some other large-scale projects. Even once the land is cleared, though, dirt excavation alone is expected to take six months, and require a round-the-clock truck convoy, according to a former Apple manager who allegedly heard a presentation by Foster + Partners.
Once the building is finished, it should be able to accommodate between 12,000 and 13,000 people, up from an original plan for 6,000. Many other factors will contribute to its expense; the exterior, for instance, is set to be ringed with curved glass windows, and divert most vehicles into an underground network of roads and garages. Some of the extra above-ground land will be covered in newly-planted grass and some 7,000 trees, including 1,000 trees already on the site that will be transplanted back. Even the campus' courtyard will be covered in vegetation, featuring apricot, olive, and apple orchards as well as an herb garden.
The campus will also generate its own energy, thanks to a roof covered in 700,000 square feet of solar panels, and plans to contract for wind and solar power. Additional "climate responsive" measures meant to keep consumption lower may include windows that automatically adjust to let in the right amounts of light and air.
The campus' originator, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, is also said to have demanded extreme fit-and-finish touches, with no seams, gaps, or other imperfections. One source says that Jobs asked that interior wood be collected from a particular species of maple, insisting also that only the heartwood be used. The curved windows are being manufactured by Seele, which has had to double the capacity at its Gersthofen plant to meet Apple's demands. The firm is best known for the glass staircases in Apple Stores, and the Fifth Avenue cube.
Three sources indicate that much of the inside of the campus will be constructed using 26-foot-long prefab modules for things like offices, bathrooms, and utility closets. The process is expected to increase the precision of construction, require less onsite labor, and finish construction in two years instead of three. One thing that will require extra work is the ceilings, since two sources say that Apple is planning to cast concrete ceilings in molds on the floor and lift them into place, as opposed to using a standard method that can leave ruts where scaffolding has put extra pressure.