Technology is the “New Plumbing” in the Information Economy
August 18, 2015

Plumbing. We take it for granted. We turn the tap—and expect water to come gushing out. Plumbing wasn’t always part of our communities, but once introduced it changed everything about how we build buildings and cities.

High speed broadband technology is today’s “new plumbing” and it is dramatically changing how we at Westlake build our projects. The most recent case in point is our San Leandro Tech Campus which will enjoy the fastest Internet speeds in the country thanks to San Leandro’s state-of-the art fiber optic loop.

San Leandro Tech Campus

Photo: Lusardi Construction

On September 29, 2015, Westlake Urban will celebrate the topping off of Phase I of the San Leandro Tech Campus (SLTC) with an event that will include the presence of community and business leaders. Once completed, the LEED Gold, transit-oriented project immediately adjacent to the Downtown San Leandro BART station will demonstrate the power of high-speed connectivity and sophisticated building technologies to attract innovative companies that are transforming San Leandro into a center of innovation.

OSIsoft, a global leader in operational intelligence with annual sales in excess of $275 million, is one of these companies—and in 2016 they will relocate their world headquarters to SLTC. The reason? Access to San Leandro’s unparalleled high-speed broadband infrastructure. It is the company’s “plumbing”—they can’t do business without it.

What does it mean to build a tech campus in today’s world?

The technology revolution is reshaping our physical and cultural landscapes. It’s changing where we live, how we get around and how we innovate. These changes are creating a world that advantages well located, connected ecosystems and cities like San Leandro. Knowledge workers are in high demand and they require changes in the workplace. As companies seek to attract and retain these highly productive employees, they are beginning to understand that urban, transit-oriented locations are highly desirable. In addition, flexible hours, collaborative work spaces and access to outdoor space, bike parking, gyms and a wide variety of amenities are more important than ever.

When it comes to building design, SLTC was created with integrated, efficient, cost-saving operational technologies that include smart utility services and HVAC systems, remote monitoring and control, improved security systems and responsive lighting. These systems allow companies to reduce overhead costs with offices that leverage technology, telecommuting and design to provide maximum flexibility for space. SLTC’s smart buildings will support a company’s business as a key asset that increases productivity, profitability and the ability to recruit and retain key talent. Smart buildings are becoming commonplace, and like plumbing in the 20th century, a competitive imperative in today’s technology-driven economy.

Truth is Beauty

Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane.
Photo by Barry Toranto

SLTC is also being designed to embrace sustainability, using custom LED lighting, natural lighting, bike racks and indoor and outdoor public spaces. One of the most innovative architectural features of SLTC is View Dynamic Glass, a glass technology that allows natural light in while blocking unwanted solar heat. This technology will reduce air conditioning and lighting costs and adjusts throughout the day to optimize the indoor climate and the outside view. Each window has a separate IP address that can be controlled via smart phones or the building’s integrated management system. This will allow building occupants to tint their windows on command without having to pull down the blinds and block views.

And what a view it will be! Truth is Beauty, a magnificent sculpture by Marco Cochrane, will be placed in a public plaza on the east side where it will be visible to campus occupants and San Leandro BART riders.  The high-tech sculpture will have 2,500 separately controlled, multicolored LED lights that will create infinite combinations of color and movement. Truth is Beauty is expected to be an important destination icon that will enliven the space and challenge viewers to ask the question,“What would the world be like if women were safe?”.

Bandwidth and Connectivity is key—SLTC Has Much More

All of these smart-building and artistic innovations require bandwidth. Lots of bandwidth. And connectivity. However, in most of our cities this bandwidth and connectivity isn’t available. The U.S. overall ranks just 31st in the world  in terms of average download speeds and 42nd for upload speeds, with most businesses serviced by an Internet infrastructure that consists of mostly outdated copper wires that weren’t designed to carry massive amounts of data. Only fiber optic cables—thick twists of ultra-thin glass or plastic filaments that allow data to travel at the speed of light—can reliably handle that bandwidth. They’re also both easier to maintain and more secure than copper.

Enter San Leandro’s fiber loop. The Tech Campus will be connected to San Leandro’s state-of-the-art fiber optic cables and will provide tenants upload and download speeds up to 10 Gbps—equal to 10,000 Mbps. The average U.S. broadband speed is only 10 Mbps.

San Leandro’s fiber loop

After partnering with industries to build its own fiber loop, San Leandro now hosts an Internet connection with speeds that are thousands of times faster than the average U.S. Internet connection.

Fiber Loop

Photo: LIT San Leandro

City leaders partnered with Dr. J. Patrick Kennedy, founder of local software company OSIsoft, to modernize San Leandro’s communications infrastructure. They formed a public-private partnership to build a fiber optic loop for high-speed Internet. The fiber loop is part of the foundation to attract a new generation of companies to San Leandro, which now boasts the fastest broadband in the nation.

The city has already become home of the world’s largest 3D printing coalition housed under one roof at The Gate, 350,000 square feet of work spaces on the second floor of a former auto factory. Other recent developments include a Kaiser hospital, conversion of a lumberyard into a state of the art cold-storage warehouse, and 21st Amendment, a 200,000 square foot microbrewery that recently modernized and repurposed a former cereal plant.

With forward thinking and strategic partnerships, San Leandro has anticipated the needs of this new economy, and is positioning itself as a center of innovation and technology.

Getting to know the pipes

At Westlake Urban, we understand that technology is driving changes that dramatically affect the way we design and build. We are engaged in collaborative partnerships with cities like San Leandro—cities that are leading the way in creating visionary solutions—to create smart buildings, flexible workspaces, inspiring open spaces and access to amenities. By connecting with communities and embracing technologies that innovative, cutting-edge companies need and want, we hope to enhance local economies and create beautiful, inspiring places. And while creating these places, we appreciate that much of the change is driven by what is unseen, in the “plumbing” just below the surface.

What are your thoughts about the challenges and opportunities of the knowledge economy? Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and let us know what you think. And make sure to subscribe to our newsletter. We would love to have you join the conversation.

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