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Google's 'extraordinary' building

Ultra-green project on hold for now, but company already leasing Charleston East lot

As if conquering the Internet weren't enough, Google has a new wonder in the works: a space-age structure that could be the greenest office building of all time.

The building's informal plans, recently submitted to the Mountain View Planning Department, look like the stuff of science fiction: It's five stories tall with undulating surfaces, and stretches like a pretzel around three courtyards.

Google's submission to the city shows that major effort went into picking a concept after studying dozens of alternatives, with plans stating that the structure would "create a benchmark for sustainability and help define new standards for construction." Company spokespersons told the Voice the project is on hold for now, but city officials say that if built, it would surely become an architectural landmark.

In building it, Google wants to go beyond LEED platinum -- the highest standard for a green building.

"This is a living building that has no carbon footprint," said Yvonne Farrell, a LEED-certified architect on the city's Environmental Sustainability Task Force who studied the plans.

City staff members say they are eager to bring it to the City Council.

"The building design is extraordinary," said project planner Nancy Minicucci. "It is a defining building. All in all we're very pleased."

The 310,000-square-foot building would be located just east of the Googleplex on the northern nine acres of a former Shoreline Amphitheatre parking lot known as "Charleston East."

The design is based on a "courtyard circulation concept" which winds the hallways of the building around courtyards connecting to open spaces, including a park promenade between the building and the hotel-zoned site to the south.

The preliminary plan is the work of several architecture firms led by New York-based ShoP architects, which Google selected after a national search. The architects have created a physical model of the preliminary design, with people, cars and trees to show scale.

Some of the ideas behind the building, as described in the submitted plans, can sound fantastical. The plans claim, for example, that the building will "evolve" rather than degrade over time: "Typical building performance begins to degrade immediately upon completion of construction. In the Max Green model, monitoring and feedback allow the building to evolve as knowledge and information improve."

"That concept is how you are going to get the greenest building ever," Farrell said. "If you are around Googlers you know they are always striving. They do something, they get the feedback, they change it and they keep evolving. That's a very Googley concept. It's also a natural concept."

The site design, done by landscape architect Walter Hood, aspires to create a buffer between the Bay and the city's "industrial forest." So far, plans include an orchard just south of the building along Shoreline Boulevard. The green slope beneath the building not only hides a 20-foot-tall parking garage, where cars are stacked tightly on top of each other, but rainwater runs off the slopes into vegetated "bio-swales." From there it feeds green roofs, gardens and planters as part of a "run-off conveyance system that slows, cleanses and celebrates runoff prior to discharge."

The plans mention a design with consideration of the sun's path for natural light and integrated next-generation solar panels, as well as consideration of prevailing winds for a natural ventilation system.

A pedestrian bridge shoots off the building and across Shoreline Boulevard, providing easy access to NASA Ames and a huge new campus planned for 64 acres Google owns around Shorebird Way.

The package of information given to the planning department indicates that Google has ambitions beyond just building new offices. A map shows a mixed-use "urban center" and "transit node" surrounding the intersection of Shoreline Boulevard and Charleston Road (mixed-use developments usually involve housing on top of retail).

Google calls it the "McDonough Master Plan" after famous architect and designer William McDonough. Minicucci said the company hired him several years ago to come up with a vision for the area, along with work on the adjacent Shorebird campus.

Plans specify a maximum height of 88 feet -- just under the 94 feet of the former Alza building nearby. There are four stories in some areas above the 20-foot garage.

The building's cost would appear to be exorbitant, but Farrell disagrees.

"I don't think it's going to cost any more than it would to do a Class A style building for Google," Farrell said. "It's certainly going to cost less in the long run -- 10 to 20 years."

In an e-mail to the Voice, Dave Radcliffe, Google's vice president of real estate, said the project didn't make financial sense at the moment, even though the company reported unexpectedly high profits this quarter.

"We're focused on making the most efficient use of the space we have," he wrote, "and new construction at the site doesn't currently make the most economic sense."

But as Google reportedly grows by 100 employees per week worldwide, it's only a matter of time before a new building becomes a necessity. The company already has started leasing the nine-acre site from the city for $1.7 million year.

"Charleston East remains part of our local development plan," Radcliffe wrote. "No matter what, we are still committed to long-term growth in Mountain View."

Minicucci said that once Google re-submits more formal plans, the City Council will hold a study session within 30 days.

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3 people like this
Posted by Jon Wiener
a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2008 at 1:27 pm


3 people like this
Posted by its coming
a resident of North Whisman
on Oct 23, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Just one more step closer to Mountain View being renamed "GOOGLEVIEW"!!

3 people like this
Posted by M.H.
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 23, 2008 at 8:26 pm

Reminds me of 'Lost in Space'. Little 'air-cars' will fly through the chute someday. I would like to see the inside because the outside is amazing.

3 people like this
Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2008 at 9:20 pm

Over 1000 new cars a day into Shoreline-- how the heck is that going to work? The council has ZERO concern over traffic, and is absolutely in Googles pocket!

3 people like this
Posted by Some Guy
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 24, 2008 at 10:41 am

GoogleView is right. Is there anything that Google can do that isn't just the greatest thing ever?

3 people like this
Posted by Peter
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 24, 2008 at 12:57 pm

I would rather have Google in the City than not. Name recognition is synonymous with the Google brand and Mountain View is mentioned most times Google is. I certainly am glad that they are in Mountain View and glad that they are making such an effort to plant roots in Mountain View. Economically it is great for the City. If traffic is peoples' only concern, then so be it. Google heavyhearted in Palo Alto does not sound as good as Google heavyhearted in Mountain View.

3 people like this
Posted by Peter
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 24, 2008 at 12:59 pm

The latter line should read-- Google headquartered in Palo Alto does not sound as good as Google headquartered in Mountain View.G. ;)

3 people like this
Posted by Bernie Kosar
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2008 at 6:12 pm

I think Google should move their HQ to Cleveland...we would welcome you with open arms! we don't whine as much as bay area folks.

3 people like this
Posted by mary
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 26, 2008 at 11:24 am


Who cares what you think. Sounds like you are whining.


3 people like this
Posted by Jesse
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2008 at 3:07 pm

How could the world's greenest building be in the suburbs?

As long as Google is totally inaccessible by public transit there's no way they could conceivably build the world's greenest building.

3 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of another community
on Nov 2, 2008 at 4:42 am

The green building will be there to be close to their private airport at Moffett Field, where they keep all their green airplanes.

3 people like this
Posted by Mr. Snoid
a resident of Whisman Station
on Dec 22, 2008 at 8:59 pm


3 people like this
Posted by Mr. MV
a resident of Whisman Station
on Dec 22, 2008 at 9:02 pm

Google is MV's bread and butter, sugar daddy.

3 people like this
Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2008 at 12:57 pm

No, Mr MV, its not. Revenue generated in shoreline stays in shoreline. We get extra traffic on the west side of the freeway, and the payoff is newer paddleboats at the lake.

3 people like this
Posted by billy bob Jr.
a resident of Jackson Park
on Feb 2, 2009 at 12:58 pm

i think you guys are very intelligent for creating a wonderful web cast like Google. =]

keep up the good work!!

im doing a History Day project on you guys!


3 people like this
Posted by Bryce Clonch
a resident of Jackson Park
on Feb 2, 2009 at 1:02 pm

[Post removed]

3 people like this
Posted by Frank
a resident of another community
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:24 am

The claims that this building will have no carbon footprint are surely over stated. Every act of construction requires resources. A buildng of this size consumes a great deal of energy and material just in its construction. Additionally the character of this architecture has an arrogant and site dominating quality that is more about ego and monument than sensitive sustainability.

Be wary of the green smoke screen.

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