The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, December 26, 2008

Delta Dental's HQ becomes bigger, greener with expansion

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

OKEMOS - Smile. An $85 million expansion of the Delta Dental headquarters is moving along nicely.

In its 51st year of business, the dental benefits provider is bursting at the seams in its existing headquarters building, which was erected in 1979. The expansion project will include a major renovation of the Delta Dental headquarters building, construction of a new 92,000 square-foot office building, as well as a new data center.

"We've had many years of success in this building, and our employees have been packed in here for some time," said Charles Floyd, executive vice president for Delta Dental. "We have people working in the basement, and in places that were never intended to be working areas for employees. We thought we would fix that by expanding."

Walbride-Aldinger is acting as construction manager on the all-union, multi-phased job, which began last summer. Approximately 50 Hardhats are currently working at the project, which is expected to ramp up to about 150 at peak employment. "We were looking for a Michigan-based contractor that's experienced with labor," Floyd said. "We give them high marks. They have been outstanding to work with, same with the building trades."

The most technical aspect of the project, ands the focus of much of the construction activity this month, is a new 20,000 square-foot data center being built at the far east end of the property. Currently located in the basement of Delta Dental's headquarters building, the new data center will be all about backups.

"It's really a complex building, unlike any other you're going to find around here," said Brian McCarthy, Delta Dental's manager of facilities and purchasing. The center will rely on electric power, then diesel generators and then batteries to back up the company's power supply and data. "The idea is to avoid that hard system crash," Floyd added.

The data center is off the beaten track on Delta Dental's 57-acre property at 4100 Okemos Rd. near I-96, which will provide more room for nature elsewhere. The expansion project will include a number of environmentally friendly aspects, including the addition of a large pond for stormwater collection and management, and the use of native Michigan species of trees and plants. The land will include walking trails for employees and the community.

A green roof on the expansion will minimize stormwater runoff and filter pollutants. Another part of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification sought by Delta Dental on the expansion includes other aspects, like the use of recycled materials, maximization of natural light, and the re-use of the headquarters building itself. Tearing down the building would have been less environmentally friendly.

The final portion of the expansion will include a renovation of the west side of the interior of the headquarters building, then the east side. "At that point, our challenge is to keep our business operating while playing musical chairs," Floyd said.

When the project was announced a year ago, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said "this expansion by Delta Dental of their headquarters sets in motion the company's growth in Michigan and sends a message to the world that Michigan is a great state to do business in the 21st century. We applaud Delta Dental for their 50 years of leadership and celebrate their commitment to Michigan."

Delta Dental of Michigan, with affiliates in Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee, is one of the largest dental plan administrators in the nation.

AN ADDITION TO THE Delta Dental headquarters in Okemos is just coming out of the ground.
CLAMPING CONDUIT TO a wall inside the new Delta Dental data center is Jeff Sinclair of IBEW Local 665 and Swan Electric.