Apple's Campus 2 repeatedly delayed by emphasis on perfecting small details, profile says

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2017
A Tuesday profile of Apple's upcoming Campus 2 headquarters -- said to be lining up for a spring opening -- suggests that much of the reason for the project's delay was Apple managers' insistence on refining small, normally inconsequential details.




The company's insistence on perfection created a "domino effect" pushing back other parts of the project, according to Reuters, citing former construction managers. In one example, Apple managers told construction crews that the main ring's polished concrete ceiling panels had to be perfect both inside and out. This translated into each of the thousands of panels involved having to be approved both by Apple's team and the general contractor.

Apple was also reportedly obsessed with doorways, insisting that they should be completely flat without any threshold -- the argument being that if staff had to change their gait, it would risk distracting them.

"We spent months trying not to do that because that's time, money and stuff that's never been done before," one of the construction managers said.




The company also envisioned minimalist signage, but this ran into trouble with the Santa Clara County Fire Department, which noted that a building has to be easily navigated in an emergency. The SCCFD's representative on the project, Dirk Mattern, commented that he attended some 15 meetings on the signage issue.

Apple's obsession with detail even came down to the door handles for offices and conference rooms. Having already spent months developing one, construction crews presented a sample to an Apple manager who rejected it, claiming a small bump. Despite the construction team double-checking measurements, Apple demanded another version, and the issue was supposedly still ongoing after a year and a half.

The company also appears to have demanded too-strict tolerances in measurements, treating architecture like its electronics. Whereas most construction projects max out at 1/8th of an inch, Apple often pushed for even smaller figures, which conflicted with real-world limits.

"With phones, you can build to very, very minute tolerances," a former architect said. "You would never design to that level of tolerance on a building. Your doors would jam."

Much of Campus 2 was conceived by former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who made the project one of his last efforts -- indeed one of his last public appearances involved pitching the idea to the Cupertino City Council.

Jobs originally anticipated the complex being finished in 2015, but that was delayed until 2016, and then this year. The project has also been subject to cost overruns, and is now estimated to carry a $5 billion pricetag -- more than many large corporations make in an entire year.

Even if the campus is finished in time for a spring move-in -- the main ring alone should hold up to 14,200 people -- work will still be ongoing outside. While buildings are nearly complete, landscaping is in a rough state, with grass and many trees still unplanted.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 51
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,318member
    One of Steve Jobs’ favorite stories was about his adoptive father, Paul Jobs. Steve said his father taught that him if he truly wanted to make something good it had to look as good on the inside, where no one could see, as it did on the outside. Hence his legendary attention to detail and those iconic, beautiful innards of Apple products. I know that’s anathema to those who value function above all and don’t care about appearance.
    tmayedredrepressthiscornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 51
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,768member
    Well God forbid that anyone insists on perfection!

    Though I don't remember ever being distracted by a change in gait. Or perhaps I was and I just didn't realise it. 
    tmayrepressthiscornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 51
    neilmneilm Posts: 640member
    Emphasis on perfecting small details — ya think? This is Apple, after all.

    BTW, I don't see anything unreasonable in insisting on zero height thresholds. This would also be an accessibility issue.
    dysamoriaRayz2016viclauyycppartekimstanhoperepressthiscornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 51
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,285member
    Rayz2016 said:
    Well God forbid that anyone insists on perfection!

    Though I don't remember ever being distracted by a change in gait. Or perhaps I was and I just didn't realise it. 
    Haven't you ever forgotten why you went into a room? It's that damned threshold! :-D
    king editor the gratetomkarlpatchythepiratecornchipbaconstangxiamenbill
  • Reply 5 of 51
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,768member
    dysamoria said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    Well God forbid that anyone insists on perfection!

    Though I don't remember ever being distracted by a change in gait. Or perhaps I was and I just didn't realise it. 
    Haven't you ever forgotten why you went into a room? It's that damned threshold! :-D
    Yeah, now that has happened … a lot!

    :-D
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 51
    Wow that's nuts.  I can appreciate attention to detail in their devices, but applying that mentality to construction is a bit overboard imo.  Congrats to Apple for delaying the project by months and jacking up the cost I guess.  
    viclauyyc
  • Reply 7 of 51
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,768member
    lkrupp said:
    One of Steve Jobs’ favorite stories was about his adoptive father, Paul Jobs. Steve said his father taught that him if he truly wanted to make something good it had to look as good on the inside, where no one could see, as it did on the outside. Hence his legendary attention to detail and those iconic, beautiful innards of Apple products. I know that’s anathema to those who value function above all and don’t care about appearance.
    Oooh, just imagine though. If they cared less about internal aesthetics they could squish everything up a bit and have room for a blu-ray drive. 
    edited February 2017 glynhcornchipbathurstst
  • Reply 8 of 51
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,768member
    I hope I get the chance to visit this place someday. I mean, I've heard sooooo much about it. 
    repressthiscornchip
  • Reply 9 of 51
    dr. xdr. x Posts: 186member
    I too would like to visit as well. 
    repressthis
  • Reply 10 of 51
    ...a 1/8" tolerance on a 1/4" reveal may produce a gap that varies by 150%... Could that be rather problematic, both visually & in performance...? Obviously context plays a role, and yet I cannot understand the standards so many seem to rationalize... Does a 'low bidder' tendering approach also suggest a quality disconnect, setting up the need for large financial buffers, potential conflict & inevitable disappointment...? There is a saying 'measure twice, cut once...' The same might apply to design, and it all takes time... There are some great trades out there, but they can be tough to find, and it will be interesting to see how 3D printing may improve construction tolerances on a broader scale...
    edited February 2017 dysamoria
  • Reply 11 of 51
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,979member
    Wow that's nuts.  I can appreciate attention to detail in their devices, but applying that mentality to construction is a bit overboard imo.  Congrats to Apple for delaying the project by months and jacking up the cost I guess.  

    When you're spending $6+ Billion on a building over the course of 5+yrs  you better get everything exactly as you want it. You only build it once. Apple isn't gonna have the contractor tear half the building down and rebuild it because it wasn't like they wanted it. Its like buying a Ferrari and not caring about the options, color or build quality of it. 

    Rayz2016 said:
    I hope I get the chance to visit this place someday. I mean, I've heard sooooo much about it. 
    I wish we could start getting sneak peeks inside it like we could the outside on a monthly basis. I really hope Apple does some kind of documentary on the entire building from design, breaking ground, building it, and a final walk-through. That would be so cool! I would pay money for this!
    edited February 2017 dysamoriaStrangeDaysrepressthispatchythepiratematt2
  • Reply 12 of 51
    Total hit piece with the intent of making Apple employees look like they don't understand the construction business and were making ridiculous demands of the contractors. Nothing I hate more than people under an NDA blabbing to the media.
    StrangeDaysrandominternetpersonpatchythepirate
  • Reply 13 of 51
    neilm said:
    Emphasis on perfecting small details — ya think? This is Apple, after all.

    BTW, I don't see anything unreasonable in insisting on zero height thresholds. This would also be an accessibility issue.
    I have to agree with the Architects on this one. Construction is not like electronics. Wood, concrete and drywall expand and contract over the years due to the temperature and moisture in the air. It would be foolish to have a zero height threshold knowing that sometime down the line either the floor or the door will expand or contract creating an issue.
    bigpicscornchipavon b7
  • Reply 14 of 51
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,979member
    While buildings are nearly complete, landscaping is in a rough state, with grass and many trees still unplanted.
    I'm sure a lot of this has to do with the copious amounts of rain they've gotten this winter. Its hard to landscape with everything flooding and staying under water for weeks on end.
    repressthis
  • Reply 15 of 51
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,449member
    big8ce said:
    neilm said:
    Emphasis on perfecting small details — ya think? This is Apple, after all.

    BTW, I don't see anything unreasonable in insisting on zero height thresholds. This would also be an accessibility issue.
    I have to agree with the Architects on this one. Construction is not like electronics. Wood, concrete and drywall expand and contract over the years due to the temperature and moisture in the air. It would be foolish to have a zero height threshold knowing that sometime down the line either the floor or the door will expand or contract creating an issue.
    Yup. And that's not even taking into account Bay Area earthquakes. As an amateur carpenter myself, I learned some of those lessons the hard way, thinking that I could be so much more precise than those more experienced than myself, just because I cared more than they did. 
    bigpics
  • Reply 16 of 51
    nhtnht Posts: 4,496member
    big8ce said:
    neilm said:
    Emphasis on perfecting small details — ya think? This is Apple, after all.

    BTW, I don't see anything unreasonable in insisting on zero height thresholds. This would also be an accessibility issue.
    I have to agree with the Architects on this one. Construction is not like electronics. Wood, concrete and drywall expand and contract over the years due to the temperature and moisture in the air. It would be foolish to have a zero height threshold knowing that sometime down the line either the floor or the door will expand or contract creating an issue.
    None of our interior doors have thresholds in our building with the exception of the bathrooms and ESD rooms.   The floors are largely 10" concrete slab and no thresholds required or desired. Requiring zero thresholds is a complete non-issue.  Even fire doors have no thresholds in the stairwell and the corridor.  

    Evidently the construction manager never built a hospital either.  Huge buildings where you can roll patients everywhere.

    Heck, there are no thresholds in my house except for the exterior doors and the bathrooms.
    dysamoriaksecradarthekatStrangeDaysrandominternetperson
  • Reply 17 of 51
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,285member
    There's Apple obsessiveness, sure, but there's also another thing I suspect going on: contractors that just don't want to do detailed work. Or are unable to.

    When I had my house worked on a few years ago, it was a county-sponsored rehab. The contractor was chosen on a basis of lowest bidder. Obvious problem is obvious, right? One of the contractors not selected said "they never pick me because I give them the right estimate to do the job correctly". The guy they chose, however, was all about claims of doing quality work. When he was motivated, indeed the work was pretty good, but his ignorant arrogance stuck out in numerous places (such as when he poo pooed my request to not attach water pipes to the cement foundation for energy issues; I should've made it a direct instruction because it ended up just as I expected and the hot water line is constantly chilled by the cement, wasting water and fuel to get hot water upstairs).

    Then there was the subcontractor. He and the jerkass guys working for him, did my drywall and painting. They just came in and slapped shit together. The guy's son was the laziest drywaller I've ever seen, going so far as to explicitly ignore instructions given him by his father (when his dad saw the huge gaps between horribly cut pieces of drywall he left, he told him to fix it... I know he didn't mean to slop huge portions of plaster on it and call it fixed). One of the guys I started talking to, who seemed to be more intelligent and thoughtful than the others, ended up solving an incoming telephone line on a wall by cutting it and drywalling over it, as well as skipping the glue in most of the panels he hung. So much for being the better worker. In the same room, they drywalled over a smoke detector box, causing the main contractor (who did all the electrical) to have to hunt for and open it up to install the detector.

    There were a number of instances where things had to be redone, repeatedly, because they'd been done badly the first time. Lots of sloping things that should be straight, failure to make corners meet, lacking 90° angles, and an entire ceiling that was warped and anything but flat and straight. The subcontractor himself came in a few times to fix these things that his employees left shitty and watching him work showed that he wasn't great either.

    The subcontractor was a jerk, his workers didn't have the slightest bit of professionalism. They even went so far as to start attaching bingo chips to surfaces in some kind of jerkass rebellion against complaints of their work quality. Their first painting job looked less than a primer coat, and there were all kinds of unpainted surfaces they presumed would get hidden by trim and wall plates (didn't). There're a ton of bad plastering spots, drywall replaced by gobs of plaster, lots of booboo plates used to cover badly cut drywall around switches (and several places that the holes are still exposed), and dropped plaster messes I'm still cleaning up today, six years later. Awful work overall.

    The primary contractor himself ended up losing interest in the job near the end, making me wait months for completion, claiming it wasn't profitable anymore (because he didn't estimate the job correctly; not my fault). I was informed that, due to his subcontractor, he would no longer get work from the county.

    So that was government work. Ok. What about other contracting scenarios for private business?

    My parents had a number of rooms redone in their house. The contractor was chosen carefully. The end result included things needing to be redone, argument over how to do things, a bathroom tiled by a worker who's first experience with tile was this job (the grout was awful and there are decorative border tiles put in backwards and cut badly). There's a wall space cabinet built by a guy who clearly knows nothing about woodwork, level surfaces, 90° angles, or straight lines, and apparently has no sense of self respect in doing a job that looks half competent. It takes a pro to see imperfections, but it takes pretty much anyone to see how badly built this cabinet is.

    The contractor became kind of a bully to my mother on the job (my dad would be at work; after a while, he had to order the contractor to stay out of the house when he wasn't there to supervise). In the end, the contractor was told not to come back and that he wasn't getting his last payment. I think some task was finished by yet another contractor.

    I'm sure some people will read this and say "people like you and your parents are why contractors can't get jobs anymore and why they have to fear their customers" or some such thing. No, it isn't us. It's the contractors in these cases.

    I read the diary of a new construction Victorian house built in 2002. The owner described numerous cases where the contractors had to redo tasks and be babysat to finish jobs the right way. When these houses were originally built in the 1800s, they were done by people with skills that have died off over the decades as ugly boxes, McMansions, and lowest bidder work became the norm.

    I'm not saying there aren't jerkass customers but the number of lazy, unskilled contractors isn't insignificant. They give a bad name to all general contractors in house work. They damage the reputation of the business by being the worst examples of the business and they then spread BS about how their customers demanded unreasonable things (which often simply means requesting jobs for which they lacked the requisite skills).

    I've seen the clients blamed many times in my own workplace: tech geeks slandering their customers to offset their image as being jerkass kids who don't give a damn about their clients (I've known many coworkers like this in my decades of IT). And when it's your home you're spending tens of thousands of dollars on, where you'll have to live with the work (and consequences) for decades, you really want it done right. You also don't want to be bullied by the guy you've hired, especially not in your own home.

    Apple can afford whatever they want. There are still quality workers out there with a sense of pride, for whom professionalism means more to them than "I get paid". But I know that the skills have been dying off. It's being talked about by plenty of other people. So I wonder whether the skill issue is involved here in the Apple story. The real artisans are few these days. They supervise jobs, but they're not necessarily ON the job for every contract.

    The one contractor was quoted in the article as saying "this hasn't ever been done before". Really? Never? Maybe not in your experience so far. As I've seen with programmers, when someone tasks you to do things differently from how you're used to doing them, the tendency is to resist; to reject differentness and claim impossibility or "incorrect" methodology... only to be sometimes proven wrong as you get used to the new techniques and supply exactly what was ordered, in exactly the way your client is paying you to do it, and it works well.
    StrangeDayscornchip
  • Reply 18 of 51
    ...a 1/8" tolerance on a 1/4" reveal may produce a gap that varies by 150%... Could that be rather problematic, both visually & in performance...? Obviously context plays a role, and yet I cannot understand the standards so many seem to rationalize... Does a 'low bidder' tendering approach also suggest a quality disconnect, setting up the need for large financial buffers, potential conflict & inevitable disappointment...? There is a saying 'measure twice, cut once...' The same might apply to design, and it all takes time... There are some great trades out there, but they can be tough to find, and it will be interesting to see how 3D printing may improve construction tolerances on a broader scale...
    You can make a door that perfectly fit. 2000mm door and 2000mm frame. But can you open it, it is another story.
  • Reply 19 of 51
    nhtnht Posts: 4,496member

    ...a 1/8" tolerance on a 1/4" reveal may produce a gap that varies by 150%... Could that be rather problematic, both visually & in performance...? Obviously context plays a role, and yet I cannot understand the standards so many seem to rationalize... Does a 'low bidder' tendering approach also suggest a quality disconnect, setting up the need for large financial buffers, potential conflict & inevitable disappointment...? There is a saying 'measure twice, cut once...' The same might apply to design, and it all takes time... There are some great trades out there, but they can be tough to find, and it will be interesting to see how 3D printing may improve construction tolerances on a broader scale...
    1/8" tolerance over 150' is decent.
    1/8" tolerance for trim is really loose.  

    The trim folks that did my remodel were anal and worked to 1/32" where most trim folks worked toward 1/16".  That's working with 16' lengths.

    With lasers, digital transit levels and both the budget and time to do things right then exceeding 1/8" tolerances on even long runs isn't terribly onerous for anyone that isn't a half assed.  The Egyptians built the pyramids 4500 years ago to insane tolerances.  3 arc minutes out of true or a deviation of only 0.015%.
    StrangeDaysai46realjustinlongcornchip
  • Reply 20 of 51
    neilm said:
    Emphasis on perfecting small details — ya think? This is Apple, after all.

    BTW, I don't see anything unreasonable in insisting on zero height thresholds. This would also be an accessibility issue.
    While not zero I was trying to find at least a flat threshold (even for ease of cleaning) for a new Patio Door and no once carries such a thing.. Everything is raised, mutual-grooved and designed to either trip one or make a cleaning nightmare when used hourly by kids/dogs/etc...
    patchythepiratecornchip
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