United Launch Alliance Headquarters
Design Achievement - A 50-50 joint venture owned by Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company, United Launch Alliance provides space launch services for U.S. government organizations such as the Department of Defense, NASA, and the National Reconnaissance Office. DLR Group's design collocates research, mission control, and workplace functions into a single campus fulfilling ULA's goals to increase their business effectiveness. In planning, key adjacencies between clients, customers, and business and technical functions enable interdepartmental connectivity, agile teaming, and a stronger sense of shared mission. In design, spaces integrate icons of ULA's launch programs with dignified, modern finishes to reflect the organization's aerospace identity and brand of reliability and cost-efficiency. Spaces are further organized to provide daylight and views to all workplace employees for health and wellbeing, enhanced productivity, and view connections to the surrounding mountains.
Scope Summary - The scope of work for this project encompassed master planning and site investigation, followed by design for a consolidation program into 478,000 SF of leased space on a single campus. Spaces in four buildings support approximately 2,100 employees, and include open office workspace and private offices; R&D, lab, and mission control environments; formal and informal collaboration areas; cafeteria and dining; fitness centers; and bike storage. DLR Group provided planning, architecture, and interiors services.
ULA engaged DLR Group to assist in creating and implementing a headquarters consolidation plan uniting teams from 11 different locations into one operational hub. DLR Group’s work with ULA explored options in both new construction and leasing. The team evaluated affinities, spatial needs and efficiencies, and scenario plans to help ULA make a confident decision to renovate and move into 478,000 SF of leased space on a campus just outside of Denver. The design enabled a successful workplace and critical operations center for the people who launched the Curiosity rover to Mars.
DLR Group worked with ULA to explore diverse siting options, including multiple potential locations for new build-to-suit construction. The effort, dubbed “45 Days to Green Light,” was a fast-track process where designers collaborated closely with ULA and their real estate consultant. A high-level program was paired with benchmarking to set construction quality expectations and size the buildings. The outcome of this effort provided sufficient financial and schedule intelligence for the ULA board of directors to be able to compare this scenario to leasing second generation space. Ultimately, in assessing all criteria, ULA determined that consolidating into a campus of leased space made the most sense. Analysis resulted in a total real estate reduction of more than 120,000 rentable SF through program and plan efficiencies.
Capacity and Utilization
While new construction would have yielded many opportunities to customize floor plates to fit ULA’s desired new working models, the team demonstrated how existing floor plates could be creatively programmed and planned to equally fulfill their goals. ULA’s program included not only modern workplace environments, but also advanced R&D, labs, and launch mission control center spaces. Our team’s evaluations of capacity accounted for staffing levels and spatial needs across this diversity of spaces, concurrently confirming that the leased spaces would support ULA’s projected headcount and very unique infrastructure needs.
"The avionics labs were challenging. It would have been easy to just wall these specialized spaces off, but the work going on in them is so cool! We worked hard to create visual connection to the labs so that they're integral to the spatial experience."
- Angela Castleton, Design Leader
ULA’s goals for workplace change entailed cultural change, improving on the ways that their employees interact and work together to develop cutting edge rocketry and launch products and services. DLR Group engaged their workforce immediately, conducting surveys during design to solicit input from staff and inform design decisions. Ongoing communications through design and construction from ULA leaders established expectations of staff in the course of making these changes, while post-occupancy surveys allowed all employees to have a voice in evaluating the process and what could be improved in the future.
"It was the first time my design schedule was surrounded by rocket launches! With rocket science, there are a lot of one-offs. One of a kind cabling, labs, a lot of pretty advanced things we had to do technically to make sure things work on launch day."
- Jessie Johnson, Project Manager
ULA’s previous locations predominantly comprised enclosed offices. Staff worked in relative isolation, with few provisions enabling collaboration and the types of informal meetings that generate valuable ideas and connections. For their new environment, DLR Group worked with ULA to program and plan a largely open working environment, and created three distinct organizational principles aligned with their goals for these new spaces. For each concept, DLR Group designers illustrated how it could work in each of the different building types on campus, enabling ULA to make an informed decision on the final design.
The new spaces are a dramatic change from ULA’s formerly enclosed environment. DLR Group’s design fuses open, airy, and refined workspaces together with aesthetics evoking both advanced rocketry and the natural heritage of the Rocky Mountains area. Floor plans enable clear views to the windows from all workstations, allowing every employee the opportunity to enjoy both natural light and outdoor views. Open workstations and available shared collaboration and amenity spaces functionally enable planned and impromptu worker connections. The openness of the atmosphere encourages people to get up from their desk and make personal connections.
To connect both workers and visitors to ULA’s brand, the design uses models and icons of products throughout ULA’s history. These signature elements are used both as integrated elements in a wide variety of spaces, and also in formal installations to narrate the ULA story. Immersed in the space, one can feel the excitement of space exploration, rocketry, and launch, and the pivotal role that ULA plays in the future of space exploration.
"I have been very impressed by the creativity, leadership and problem solving of the DLR Group team. They brought a disciplined approach and process to understanding our goals, requirements and desires, and contributed heavily to many project concepts beyond architecture. Design and construction schedules and cost goals have been met, a significant achievement on a project of this size and complexity."
- Michael Przekwas, Sr Manager, ULA