Grain and commodity trading firm Gavilon faced a challenge in 2012. Having outgrown its existing space at ConAgra’s corporate campus in Omaha, Nebraska, Gavilon could not find a suitable alternative. With a limited supply of new office space and increased demand in the market over the past four years, flexible office space large enough for Gavilon’s growing workforce was not available. Ultimately, Gavilon decided the best option to accommodate its 400 Omaha employees and allow for future growth was a new build-to-suit headquarters.
By building in downtown Omaha, Gavilon joined dozens of companies that have their national and regional headquarters in the heart of the city. Union Pacific Railroad has been headquartered in Omaha since the firm’s founding in 1862, and other major corporations — including Berkshire Hathaway, ConAgra, First National Bank, The Gallup Organization and Scoular Company — are well established in the city. With major industries including trade, transportation, utilities, finance, insurance and telecommunications, downtown Omaha spans approximately 300 city blocks. Other nearby attractions include the CenturyLink Center (home to the last two U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials), TD Ameritrade Ballpark (home of the College World Series), the Holland Performing Arts Center and Omaha’s Old Market, which features art galleries, restaurants and shopping. The site for Gavilon’s new headquarters was at one time occupied by an Omaha World-Herald printing facility, but had in recent years been vacant, making the Gavilon headquarters a key infill project for the downtown area. Opus acquired the site on Capital Avenue in fall 2012.
Located in the heart of downtown Omaha, the new Gavilon World Headquarters currently supports 400 employees, with room for future growth.
According to Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle, “Having the new world headquarters for Gavilon in the heart of downtown is a huge win for Omaha. Gavilon is a business that will provide the kind of economic growth and job creation vital to the future success of our city.”
Building the Project Team
When Gavilon selected The Opus Group to develop its new headquarters, the firm quickly assembled a team of developers, project managers, architects and engineers. Although it had no permanent presence in Omaha, Opus was able to rapidly assemble this team because the firm is internally organized by discipline rather than geography. It brought together team members well-versed in Opus’ design-build process — including individuals with extensive experience in large-scale office projects, urban development and parking ramp design and construction — from a variety of locations.
High-quality finishes and natural light can be found throughout the building. A cafeteria on the ground level provides added convenience for employees.
Opus’ Denver office managed the integrated team, which was comprised of members from its Denver, Minneapolis, Des Moines and Milwaukee offices. While most team members traveled to the job site as needed, two superintendents moved to Omaha for the duration of the 14-month project to ensure it remained on schedule and budget.
A Unique Feature
During initial conversations about the project, Gavilon shared one non-negotiable design element: a state-of-the-art trading floor. The company required a Class A office building with a large trading floor to manage agriculture commodities transactions for clients. The design solution was a two-story, column-free trading floor that gives employees clear lines of sight to communicate commodity trades quickly and efficiently.
Benefits of an Integrated Approach
The project could not have met Gavilon’s non-negotiable timeline without an integrated approach. The Gavilon and Opus teams collaborated closely from inception to completion and maintained an open dialogue throughout the development process. Opus provided menus of design options, including costs and benefits and a recommended approach.
Gavilon employees enjoy access to an on-site fitness center as well as close proximity to downtown entertainment options.
By making a single team accountable for development, design and construction, Opus was able to offer Gavilon a number of benefits and tradeoffs early on, so the team could work through options in an expedited manner. For example, while finalizing schematic design and the lease agreement, Opus evaluated numerous combinations of office and parking levels as well as various floor plate modifications to adjust the rentable square footage, depending on the final number of stories selected by Gavilon. Opus’ ability to provide quick turnaround on pricing and schematic design options during the development and execution of the lease allowed Gavilon to maintain flexibility as it finalized its vision for the future of the company, ultimately maximizing the long-term value and functionality of Gavilon’s headquarters building.
The Opus team also recognized the importance of dedicating ample time at the start of the project to studying mechanical and electrical systems, ensuring that proper redundancies were in place to keep systems online at all times. This due diligence allowed the team to adjust the building design before constructing this portion of the project.
The completed Gavilon World Headquarters features a two-story, column-free, 35,000-square-foot trading floor on the south side of the building and a three-story office tower on the north side. The entire building is situated above two levels of structured parking. Large generators provide the necessary redundancies, ensuring that Gavilon’s mechanical and electrical systems remain online at all times to support its commodity trading business.
An office mezzanine overlooks the trading floor and enables all employees to have access to daylight]
The side-by-side building design provides two key benefits. First, it maximizes the flow of natural light into the building. If the additional office space had been built over the trading floor, the center of the floor would not have had any access to natural light. The side-by-side solution is more inviting for employees. Second, it adds flexibility. Potential future tenants will be able to have both traditional office space on the north side of the building and a very open, collaborative space on what is now the trading floor.
Fulfilling Gavilon’s initial design request, the trading floor provides clear visibility among traders to help keep commodity transactions moving quickly. It features 20-foot-high ceilings, full-height glass walls and an open staircase that connects the two levels. The column-free space is equivalent in size to seven basketball courts and has the capacity to support 330 traders and ancillary employees.
The trading floor was designed with a raised floor system, which delivers air, power and data. To execute this design, Opus needed to sequence the construction carefully, since some walls go through the raised floor system while others do not. Opus therefore completed all of the “high work” — ductwork, sprinklers, light fixtures, drywall and the ceiling grid — first. With the high work complete, electrical work was performed, then the raised floor system was installed. The final phase of construction involved the completion of framing and drywall for the offices surrounding the trading floor.This sequenced approach, which required Opus to go through the normal construction process twice in some spaces, allowed the project to remain on schedule without impacting its quality and cost.
Another unique design feature is the trading floor office mezzanine. Because the trading floor is a two-story space with 20-foot high ceilings and the traditional office levels each are nine feet high, the second-level office space serves as a mezzanine within the trading floor space.
The building also includes a signature entry, ground-level cafeteria and fitness center. It was designed and constructed with sustainable construction practices and elements, including the use of regional and recycled materials, efficient mechanical and electrical systems and water efficient plumbing fixtures, but is not LEED or Energy Star certified. Its centralized location offers employees close proximity to retail and entertainment options in Omaha’s thriving downtown.
Opus’ integrated design-build approach enabled the firm to make and keep a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) commitment to Gavilon early in the design process. Close coordination between Opus and Gavilon enabled completion on time and under budget, with all of Gavilon’s desired design features. The company clearly was pleased with the results; according to Robert Jones, Gavilon’s chief administration officer, “the entire Opus team focused on delivering the highest quality and most efficient product to satisfy our company’s needs. In the end, Opus exceeded our expectations — not our budget or timeline.”
Throughout the process, Opus considered all aspects of the building, including how the large trading floor and traditional office space could be used by future tenants as well as the structure’s expansion capabilities. Lexington Realty Trust, a single-tenant real estate investment trust, saw the Gavilon project as a strong investment. On December 30, 2013, an affiliate of Lexington purchased the newly completed world headquarters, marking the sixth time Opus and Lexington have partnered. Gavilon leases the building under a long-term (more than 10-year) agreement.
For more information (including a time-lapse video of the building’s construction):