Project Feature | Victory through teamwork: BorgWarner’s new technical center  

For many Hoosiers, the name BorgWarner conjures visions of the coveted Borg-Warner Trophy, the symbol of victory for the annual Indianapolis 500 race. For the design and construction of BorgWarner’s Indiana Technical Center in Noblesville, speed and accomplishment went hand-in-hand, as well.

Procured through a design/build delivery method with a long-term lease, the new facility was a collaboration between Great Lakes Capital as developer and owner, Hagerman Inc. as contractor, and MSKTD as architect. After a robust request for proposals process, BorgWarner chose the team based on design, location, and overall value. The result is a $20 million, 100,000-square-foot, two-story building that embodies effective teamwork and sets the stage for future success.

Accelerating progress: Community collaboration

BorgWarner’s technical center focuses on propulsion system solutions for combustion, hybrid, and electric vehicles. With a high-tech lab and expanded capabilities for prototype building and testing, the center helps increase BorgWarner’s research and development capacity.

“The City of Noblesville is intent on bringing in firms focused on innovation and research, so we were thrilled to welcome BorgWarner to the community,” said Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear. “We’re excited to have a futuristic manufacturing company bringing high-wage jobs to enhance our local economy.”

The center is located at the southeast corner of 141st Street and Olio Road along the I-69 corridor, providing a catalyst for future development in the area.

“The site had a nice appeal and presentation,” said Dan Stewart, project manager, BorgWarner. “We felt like it was important to have a visible location to increase BorgWarner’s name recognition in central Indiana. In addition, the City of Noblesville played a key role in bringing us to the community.”

Noblesville fit the needs of BorgWarner’s workforce while offering infrastructure and amenities. Along with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the City helped accommodate the important employer through incentives.

“Two things were critical to this project: the budget and the schedule,” said David Arnold, director, Great Lakes Capital. “Noblesville came in as a problem solver, filling the gap that was critical in making the project a reality.”

Speed and style: Designing for culture and brand

BorgWarner’s new technical center allows the company to bring engineering, prototyping and testing/verification functions under one roof, streamlining processes and increasing collaboration opportunities.

“The center is cohesive and efficient,” Dan said. “Having engineers on-site for the building and testing phases will ultimately shorten the time it takes to launch our products.”

BorgWarner also wanted to introduce a more collaborative office layout with their new building. Martha Avery, corporate marketing, BorgWarner, said the company brought in a change management firm to think through those decisions. “In addition, we toured other companies’ facilities to get ideas,” she said.

The design process included significant input from BorgWarner employees.

“Offices are both visible and personal spaces, so you don’t make those kinds of decisions independent of others,” Dan said. “We wanted to create an environment where people want to come to work, and it paid off. You see people working together, communicating, and being productive in the new facility.”

“We had discussions about BorgWarner’s goals and the interaction that needed to happen between engineers and other staff,” said Bob Harmeyer, AIA, NFPA, principal, MSKTD.

That focus on people was evident to the entire team.

“The employees were instrumental in making choices for the layout of the facility,” said Mayor Ditslear. “I was impressed with how BorgWarner respects their people.”

“From the beginning, BorgWarner made it clear that they wanted a state-of-the-art facility to retain and attract talent,” David said. “It wasn’t about the building, it was about the people, so that made it special.”

David also noticed that BorgWarner invited employees’ families to the open house. “I appreciated that they acknowledged the importance of showing family members where their spouses and parents work,” he said.

From an aesthetics perspective, the facility ties into BorgWarner’s brand. External panels match their corporate colors, and the interior features a palette of complimentary shades.

“There were a lot of unique, fun touches we added,” Bob said. “The social hubs have unique pendant light figures that look like gears used in their starter motors.”

The deliberate design approach is reflected in the resulting space.

“I love it here,” Martha said. “It promotes communication and collaboration, and with all of the windows and light, it’s a beautiful, welcoming place to work.”

“We made hundreds of decisions over 10 months,” Dan said. “When we saw everything come together, it was very fulfilling.”

The pit crew: A committed team

As part of the agreement with the City of Noblesville, construction started in June of 2017 and was set for completion in 2018, requiring a fast-track approach. The project’s successful delivery can be traced back to the formation of its team.

“We engaged Great Lakes Capital and MSKTD based on the successful relationship we’ve enjoyed over the years,” said Bruce Molter, president, Hagerman Inc. “The delivery method allowed us to team with companies we knew would expedite the project. We appreciated their responsiveness and how everyone worked together.”

According to David, “This was a true design/build-to-lease, so when we closed on it, the design wasn’t finished. The team had to trust each other to design what BorgWarner needed within the committed budget.”

Bob noted that the Hagerman-MSKTD relationship goes back nearly 40 years. “A team with experience working together always helps the outcome,” he said. “In addition, we liked the process of having all the team members at the table at the beginning.”

That focus on teamwork was mirrored from the City of Noblesville, as well. During the site selection interview with Great Lakes Capital and BorgWarner, Mayor Ditslear wanted to communicate that the city had a great team that worked well together. “I took my whole team—lawyer, engineer, planning, economic development director—so they could see who they’d be working with,” said Mayor Ditslear.

As the design and construction progressed, effective communication and coordination was key to accomplishing the project goals.

“Everyone had an interest in the project’s success, and that goes a long way in providing a nice end product,” Dan said. “We all made sure we didn’t hold someone else up. If someone needed approvals or information, we reacted quickly. Hagerman worked hard to keep us on track, adjust, and bring in resources to stay on schedule. We each did our part, and the result was very satisfying.”

Greg Delagrange, senior project manager, Hagerman, said the initial plan was a two-phased project, but “we were able to coordinate with team members and vendors to accelerate the process and virtually eliminate the phasing concept.”

For some of the building’s components—furniture, server room and sound masking system—BorgWarner was performing the installation. “It all had to be coordinated with Hagerman because the installation had to start before construction was complete,” Dan said. “Our subs were working with their subs, and that’s an accomplishment you don’t always have in construction.”

The team’s spirit of collaboration included being flexible and creative to meet the schedule. The building was originally going to include precast concrete wall panels that were poured off-site. However, the demand for precast meant the turnaround time would have delayed the project. Considering the team’s experience with tilt-up panels that are cast on-site, they decided to pursue that option, with Hagerman self-performing the work.

John D. (JD) Taylor, PE, principal at CE Solutions, said the tilt-up walls were designed to be load-bearing shear wall. Their construction consisted of a three-layer sandwich wall system—an exterior face shell, insulation layer and the primary structural wall component.

The sandwich system added complexity, with multiple layers and numerous colors of concrete for the façade. To prepare for the panel construction, Hagerman built mock-ups at the Fishers office and invited the team to review them.

“Hagerman did a great job working through issues proactively,” JD said. “The walls went up quickly and turned out fantastic.”

The solution met the requirements and overall vision of the project while positively impacting both schedule and cost.

Finish line celebration

All team members agreed that the project was a victory.

“In my 35 years in construction, this was one of the most successful efforts I have experienced,” Bruce said. “It took the whole team of professionals and rewardingly, all the pieces fell into place.”

Greg added, “From the groundbreaking in June 2017 to the construction wrapping up in April 2018, it was fulfilling to look back and see what we accomplished.”

“This couldn’t have been a better project,” said Mayor Ditslear. “It went smoothly, and in terms of schedule, Hagerman made it happen. I have a lot of respect for them, and we’re proud to have worked with them on this project.”

“We had a great team, from Hagerman to the subconsultants,” Bob said. “We all knew we had a goal to work toward, and our approach allowed us to address the needs of BorgWarner and the budget and schedule requirements.”

“Even though there were multiple firms involved, it felt like we were one cohesive group,” JD said. “MSKTD brought a thoughtful approach to the design, and Hagerman wasn’t afraid to try something new to help the client meet their goals.”

“This project affirmed an important principle—that on a fast-track design-build project like this, good communication is essential,” said David. “The team worked together seamlessly, and Hagerman’s performance was fantastic, successfully hitting the target date even when weather conditions made it very difficult.”

“Early on, we talked about how we wanted an environment that—when visitors walk into the building—the first impression is, ‘wow,’” said Dan. “I stand at the entrance when guests arrive, and that’s the first thing they say. It’s a building that catches the eye and provides a great first impression for our customers.”

For more background and details on the project:

Team Members and Sources:

  • Dan Stewart, Project Manager, BorgWarner
  • Martha Avery, Project Governance Team Member, BorgWarner
  • David Arnold, Developer, Great Lakes Capital
  • Mayor John Ditslear, City of Noblesville
  • Bruce Molter, Project Executive, Hagerman Inc.
  • Rob Young, Client Liaison, Hagerman Inc.
  • Greg Delagrange, Senior Project Manager, Hagerman Inc.
  • Matt Davis, Project Engineer, Hagerman Inc.
  • Derek Hagan, Project Superintendent, Hagerman Inc.
  • Robert Harmeyer, AIA, NFPA, Lead Architect, MSKTD
  • Kyle Barnett, Project Architect, MSKTD
  • John D. Taylor, PE, Structural Project Manager, CE Solutions
  • Bryan Sheward, PE, Civil Design, Kimley-Horn
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