The University of Missouri-St Louis and pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts Inc. joined forces to construct a facility that links the university with the corporate market. They did it while also gaining LEED status. The facility, being leased by Express Scripts, opened the doors to its new headquarters at the University of Missouri-St. Louis in April 2007. Accommodating about 1,100 workers for one of the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits companies, the building is part of an experiment linking a corporate venture with the university and exchanging resources including students and personnel.

The $34 million building’s owner is NorthPark Partners, a partnership between McEagle Properties and the real estate arm of Clayco Construction. Sachs Electric Co. was chosen as the electrical contractor.

The facility, known as the ESI Building, is the first corporate business building on the UM-St. Louis campus and one of the few such cooperatives in the United States. However, the business and technology industrial park had been in the planning phase for about 10 years. The plan was for a corporate building used mostly, but not entirely, by Express Scripts.

The pharmacy company came from Maryland Heights, Mo., where its employees had outgrown the building. The company was seeking a larger home. In the end, it chose the vacant land at the UMSL campus and broke ground in November 2005.

The Express Scripts building sits on 16 acres of the land set aside for the building and parking lot. The company has first option to build a second building on seven more acres for approximately five years.

Sachs Electric Company took on all electric work for the 315,000-square-foot electrical design/build project, after bidding on the project in 2005, said Mike Robinson, preconstruction director for Sachs.

“Once we came on board, it was about a six-month effort,” in the design phase, Robinson said. “Early on in the project, we were really engineering as you go.” However, Sachs specializes in design/build projects such as this.

One of the challenges with this design was ensuring the building had flexibility, said Robinson, since Express Scripts expects to need further growing space.

“We had to make sure the main service points were where modifications can be done easily.” Throughout the project itself there were numerous changes as group sizes and needs within Express Scripts changed. What didn’t change was the fact that tenants would need redundancy for secondary power in the case of expansions.

This building also needed to be green, and owners accomplished Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accreditation with natural lighting, recycled materials and green power sources.

LEED buildings such as this one use more natural light to illuminate buildings, make use of low-flow toilets, high-efficiency shower heads and energy-efficient electrical lighting to reduce the impact to the environment.

They could also use 100 percent green power power, said Beth Cerrone, Clayco project manager, although they are not initially doing so. Sach installed spare utility power conduits for future expansion and power requirements that would allow the ESI building to do so.

When the project began in 2005, construction workers found waste material while digging the site, located on Interstate 70 west of St Louis. Crews had road and soil issues and existing utilities had to be moved before construction began. By the time construction began, winter hit.

They began erecting the three-story, three-wing building in December. The structure would extend out from a central core space and atrium, which would be the focal point of the building, something that would reflect the village philosophy the company espouses.

One of the wings included some additional lower-level space that would house the Express Scripts' dining area, which opens to an outdoor patio. It also housed a data center, cafeteria, atrium-lobby, modular work stations, supervisoral officers, emergency disaster center and areas for backup power.

The skin of the building was chosen in part to mesh with the buildings of the surrounding UMSL campus. Construction crews erected a steel-frame building with standard metal stud and sheeting, and a brick exterior with aluminum and glass in-fills.

Sachs installed the lighting system. Every room uses office lighting with occupancy sensors, Cerrone said. Sachs also put three electrical closets in each of two wings located near the stairwells at the atrium end of the wings and four in the third wing. They ran electric to the main electrical room in the lower level below the loading dock. They also put in raceways for low-voltage work related to the data center and security.

The office space was designed with cubicles on the perimeter of the building to allow as much natural light to those in cubicles as possible, reducing the need for interior lighting. In the core of the building are the offices, which have glass walls to allow natural light and outdoor views for office occupants.

“Everyone has an outside view,” Cerrone said. “Lighting levels are considerably less because they are utilizing so much outdoor ambient light,” she said. “Basically, it runs more efficiently than most buildings.” The building also includes a white reflective roof to keep the building cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Sachs ran cable in both floors and ceiling and connected a Detroit Diesel 1500 kW outdoor generator. This generator can power a good portion of the building’s disaster- recovery area in the event of an emergency.

Seventy-five percent of the building's footings were completed when the transfer of a main power line was made. The power line fed four communities to the west and two to the east, and it was important that the switchover be smooth.

Sachs also hooked up small pumps in a lake to keep water moving through the fountain and recycling it.

Keeping the job site as green as possible was another challenge. Sachs, like other contractors there, sorted all its refuse into different dumpsters to recycle as much trash as possible.

“Recycling with other projects we’ve worked on has always been part of our criteria,” Robinson said. “But the project especially highlighted that.” This was part of an ongoing effort to minimizing waste during construction including land clearing materials, such as branches and tree refuse. This material cannot be thrown away and an industrial wood-chipper at UM-St. Louis to recycle the materials into mulch. Sachs recycled metals, plastics, cardboard and paper.

Altogether Sachs had 35 men on the site at peak. Civil work was subcontracted out to Castle Contracting, St. Louis, and site lighting and the parking garage to BRK Electrical Contractors, St. Louis.

“We also provided site lighting for surface parking,” said BRK owner Marion Hayes III. BRK brought in power to the parking lot itself including an empty conduit for security. The temperature control work was also done by BRK, which ran low-voltage wiring to VAV boxes and thermostats for mechanical contractor Murphy Mechanical, St. Louis. Altogether, Hayes estimates they ran more than 20,000 feet of wire.

“We were very fortunate to get a general foreman who was very efficient and built relationships with other subs and superintendents keeping things flowing smoothly,” Robinson said. “We never did find ourselves behind the eight ball,” he said.

Robinson added, “There weren’t a lot of change orders because of the upfront design work. Everything was drawn out pretty well. The whole team worked very well together,” he said. Altogether Sachs installed approximately 450,000 feet of wire, cable and MC cable.

Visitors can learn about the building’s eco-friendly features at a computerized kiosk installed by the Green Committee, formed to encourage the university to become more ecologically friendly.

In keeping with the partnership theme of the new facility, Sachs also used university students on building construction. The electrical contractor employed an engineering student from the school as an intern who became a fulltime employee of the company.

Now occupying the new building, Express Scripts is working with the university to provide guest lectures in the building’s classrooms, along with internship and employment opportunities.

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at claire_swedberg@msn.com.