Teaming up for a quality stone installation

March 10, 2004
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The design for the “Sprint Experience” within the Sprint World Headquarters campus in Overland Park, KS, was two-fold. On one hand, it needed to reflect the tradition of the company, which has been serving the telecommunications industry for more than a century. But on the flip side, the corporation wanted to project a sleeker more contemporary image -- illustrating that it is projecting towards the future and further advancements in technology. Stepping up to the challenge, the design team at Rafael Architects, Inc. specified a palette primarily consisting of several different types of limestone and marble, which set the tone that its client desired for the building.

“The purpose of the building was for it to be used as a product demo and briefing center for Sprint customers -- big corporate clients -- as far as their newest products and series, and to demonstrate how they work,” said Adam Cohen, AIA, project manager with Rafael Architects, Inc. in Kansas City, MO. “That was the primary use of the facility.”

The architect went on to explain that the building provides a first impression for VIPs, government officials and other important clients visiting the campus. Additionally, it was meant to serve as a recruiting tool for prospective employees as well as a place to hold internal events. “It's a really nice multi-purpose room where Sprint can peddle its wares,” said Cohen. “First and foremost, though, it's a sales tool for Sprint customers.”

The 20,000-square-foot facility is part of the Sprint World Headquarters campus, which encompasses 200 acres in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. The college-like campus includes 21 buildings and 14 parking garages, which accommodate over 14,000 employees.

“Aesthetically, we had two different approaches,” said the architect. “First, we wanted to express Sprint's tradition and history of over 100 years in the industry. A traditional look meant to evoke Sprint tradition -- particularly in an industry and time where a lot of companies are coming and going. It wanted to establish itself as a company that has been around and will be around for a while. Inside the rotunda was a more contemporary look that was meant to portray Sprint's leading role in the telecommunication industry. We wanted to show that it's looking towards the future, but still rooted in tradition. We tried to combine the two, but have distinct differences.”

Selecting materials

When choosing the stone for the new building, the design team wanted to match existing architecture on the corporate campus, while also introducing a fresh look. “From the beginning, we knew that we would have stone incorporated into the design,” said Cohen. “We continued the theme of stone used on other buildings on campus, but had to determine how it would be incorporated. We did use some similar types of stone and also some new types.”

Two varying types of limestone -- Massangis Roche Jaune Claire from France and Biancone Teseo from Italy --in 16- x 16-inch tiles create a checkerboard floor pattern in the facility. To add a subtle contrast to the pattern, a darker and larger diamond-shaped design was formed with Rosa Girona Marin marble from Spain. The pieces used in the pattern measured 4 x 8 inches with a thickness of 2 cm. Additionally, 16- x 16- and 24- x 24-inch tiles of Nero Assoluto Zimbabwe granite from Africa were also used as accent floor pieces.

“We did look at a variety of limestone,” said the architect, explaining that the French limestone was chosen because it was used in other buildings on the campus. “We were interested in a Buff color. We ended up with [Biancone Teseo] because of its color and durability as a flooring material. Some others that we looked at were on the soft side. This one we were really happy with.” The Italian limestone was also employed for the wall base and columns. All of the stone products were supplied by AllianceStone International of Santa Ana, CA.

In the restrooms, Rojo Toro marble -- extracted from the same quarry as the Rosa Girona -- formed the countertops. The material, which has a polished finish, has 3-cm-thick decks with a custom front edge profile with 5 cm thickness. Biancone Teseo limestone was employed for the wainscot, door trim, baseboard and wainscot cap, while the floors were a continuation of the checkerboard pattern.

Rojo Toro with a polished finish was also used for all of the workstation countertops. The pieces have 3-cm-thick decks with a custom 5-cm-thick Ogee roundover profile. “One type of marble was actually used elsewhere on campus,” said Cohen. “The second type was recommended by Tom Richardson [of AllianceStone International]. He was in Spain looking at the slabs for the countertops. Originally, we were going to use the floor material, but he said, 'You're not going to be happy with some of the larger slabs that I've looked at. There's some color variation.' He took some digital pictures of other marbles and showed us. He hit the nail on the head. We were pleased. He was the key for everything going as smoothly as it did.”

On-site inspection

As a stone broker for Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French stone producers, Richardson focuses on attention to detail. “On projects that I do like this, I always do on-site inspections,” he said. “We coordinate the shop drawings and go over to Europe. We try to have one trip before fabrication begins and one during the fabrication process. We try to coordinate everything.”

For this project, the bulk of the fabrication took place in Spain, according to Richardson, who explained that some processing was also done in Italy and France. “The reason that most was done in Spain was because it was easier to coordinate with one company -- especially for all the profiling pieces.”

Due to the drastic variations that can occur in natural stone products, Richardson went to great measures to ensure the quality of the materials. “The architect really wanted to have a strong contrast between the Massangis Roche Jaune Claire and the Biancone for the checkerboard pattern in the hallways, rotunda and bathrooms. To insure this, it was necessary to hand cull and select the Massangis Roche Jaune Clair to get the darker selection that the architect liked. We had six control samples that we sent back to France for matching during selection. My friend and business associate in France, Marc Taffoureau, did the hand selection himself. It was most difficult, as the pieces we had to work with came off of the line wet, and the weather was so cold in France that most of the pieces were almost frozen by the time we packed them for shipment to Kansas.”

Precautions were also taken to control the waterjet-cut pieces in the rotunda, which included Rosa Girona, Massangis Roche Jaune Claire and Biancone Teseo. “We not only sent AutoCAD files to the various suppliers, we also sent full-size templates printed off of the same plotter,” said Richardson. “I asked all of the suppliers to check that their waterjet-cut pieces matched the supplied templates, so as to be sure that everything fit perfectly on site. Everything did fit together perfectly.” All of the shop/fabrication drawings were completed by architect and licensed structural engineer Al Moore of A.J. Moore Associates in Napa, CA. “We have been working together since 1984,” said Richardson.

As the architect explained, he initially wanted to use Rosa Girona Marin for all of the counter surfaces as well as for the floor accent pieces. “When I was in Spain reviewing molding production, we found that the Rosa Girona 3-cm slabs were not of the best quality in terms of overall color. I called the architect, sent him some photos via the Internet, and we agreed to use a different material from the same quarry called Rojo Toro. I think that this was actually a better material to use, as it had movement and a richness of color that went very well with the wood stain used on the cabinets. Adam was very pleased with the final look.”

For the Biancone Teseo limestone, attention also had to be paid to the at least three color tone selections coming out of a block, explained Richardson. “We made a concentrated effort to color and tone match pieces used in production for the pilasters, so that the shafts, base and capitol plinths were color and tone matched,” he said. “It was a non-trivial effort, in that overall, there was a possible 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 = 243 possible color combinations per pilaster on just one face -- three shaft pieces, one capitol and one base plinth. Of course, it was impossible to prevent variation, so we mainly strove to minimize contrast in variation between adjoining face pieces of the pilaster shafts.”

All of the moldings were custom made to match the wood moldings on the project, according to Richardson. “To control the quality and workmanship, I had all of the shaped pieces produced in Spain at one factory, Cuellar Arquitectura Del Marmol. I have found Cuellar to be very responsive to the American business model in which time and quality matter.”

Meeting a deadline

Construction on the “Sprint Experience” building was completed in only 11 months, with its doors opening in August 2003. As a result, time was of the essence. “The biggest challenge we had was getting the stone delivered on schedule,” said the architect. “We did meet the overall construction schedule, but you can never get it fast enough. It's not an overnight kind of deal.”

The project was overseen by the general construction management of JE Dunn Construction Co. of Kansas City, MO, which also was the stone contractor for the job. “I went out to the site -- depending on the stage of construction -- once or twice a week,” said Cohen. “JE Dunn was fantastic to work with. We spoke daily. Having a lot of trust in their work put me at ease, and allowed me to not have to supervise on a daily basis. It was a great relationship between everyone. We were all very much on the same page -- to deliver a first-class facility.”

According to Spencer Jones, senior project manager with JE Dunn Construction, the timeframe weighed heavily on everyone's mind. “Sprint Experience is a very high-tech space,” he said. “Difficulties came about with audio and visual. We didn't want the stone installation to be a problem. We had to install it in a window of time -- where everything had to be delivered, and workman and materials had to be there. We hurried up to get in and out so that the other trades wouldn't fall behind.”

In total, a crew of 15 worked on the stone installation for about five to six weeks. “We were on a critical path,” said Jones. “We did the flooring first because that was the most critical part. We spent a lot of time in layout reviewing the shop tickets. The repeating pattern had to fit into an existing space. We had new cut tile on the one end, and we wanted to make sure that the same dimension was on the other end. We wanted it centered within the existing space -- a lot of time was spent taking field measurements.”

Approximately 14,000 pieces of stone were used to complete this project, according to Jones. “The flooring was the vast majority,” he said. “It was a quality installation.” In fact, JE Dunn Construction Co. and AllianceStone International received an award from the Industrialists of the Marble Producers in Macael, Spain, for its use of stone on the project. The award recognized overall quality of design, fit and finish of the stone materials in the Best International Commercial Project category.

End box

“Sprint Experience”
Sprint World Headquarters
Overland Park, KS

Architect: Rafael Architects, Inc., Kansas City, MO
Construction Manager/Stone Contractor: JE Dunn Construction Co., Kansas City, MO
Stone Supplier: AllianceStone International, Santa Ana, CA
Stone Fabricator: Cuellar Arquitectura Del Marmol, Macael, Spain (shaped pieces)
Shop/Fabrication Drawings: A.J. Moore Associates, Napa, CA

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