The GlobalFoundries Fab 8 chip fab project has changed ownership once and names twice since Advanced Micro Devices and state leaders announced it in 2006.
What’s been consistent has been the involvement of M+W Zander, the high-tech architecture, design and construction firm that has designed the plant and is now overseeing construction.
Zander — which changed its name to the M+W Group in January as part of a corporate rebranding — is one of the leading construction firms in the world for high-tech facilities. Headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, it has 5,000 employees worldwide, with about 800 in the United States. About 300 of those work in Tech Valley.
Rick Whitney, president of U.S. operations, is based in Plano, Texas, but has been a frequent presence in the Capital Region for years, personally involved in many of the decisions about the AMD-GlobalFoundries project.
M+W Group has a corporate office on Fuller Road in Albany, as well as a construction training facility in Watervliet. Earlier this month, it announced it will be moving its North American headquarters and about 190 workers to vacant space in the Watervliet Arsenal.
Whitney, who has been with M+W since 1997, agreed to answer questions via e-mail about the construction process for Outlook 2010:
Q: What is the time frame for completion of future phases of construction at GlobalFoundries?
A: The substantial completion of the Fab 8, Module 1 construction is scheduled to occur at the end of 2011. However, on Sept. 9, 2011, a milestone called “Ready for Equipment” will be met. That is the point when GlobalFoundries will start installation of $3.2 billion worth of processing equipment over the following 12 to 18 months. At this time, M+W Group is only contracted for the design and construction of the facility. GlobalFoundries will be selecting their tool install suppliers over the next several months.
Q: What sort of employment numbers are expected at the construction site over the next year or so, and what work will be performed?
A: Currently we are working under winter conditions with a work force of roughly 250. As spring 2010 breaks we will be rapidly increasing the work force to 1,000 to 1,200. Through next fall, work will include construction of the building exterior, roofing, HVAC, plumbing, fire protection and electrical systems. We will also break ground on the administration building in the early spring. As the year progresses into the fall and winter, the building closure and weather-proofing will be completed and transition into the initial installation of the process piping systems, interior partitions/finishes, and installation of the high-purity systems to support the production. All grading and rough paving should be complete at that time.
Q: A number of local contractors are involved in work at the GlobalFoundries site. Can you say how they were selected?
A: Contractors are selected through a rigorous pre-qualification and competitive bid process. Potential contractors and suppliers are prequalified based on their experience and success completing the specific tasks required on the project, their financial strength and their safety record. The selected vendors receive a complete bid package to quote on. The bids are then returned to M+W, which reviews them with GlobalFoundries. A series of followup meetings and interviews occur to ensure that the best-qualified supplier is selected. Factors affecting that selection include price, of course, but also the quality of the suppliers’ work, safety record and the project team proposed.
As overall construction manager, we are supervising other general contractors on some of the heavy construction areas of the project. For all the cleanrooms, technical spaces and utility systems we are functioning as the general contractor.
Q: Who are the lead M+W team members on the ground in Malta, and what are their backgrounds?
A: Project director Alan Asadoorian is executive vice-president and director of construction. He is a professional engineer with 35 years of experience. He joined M+W Group in 2005, and lives in Massachusetts. He has worked on high tech semiconductor, biotechnology and science and research projects in all regions of the United States.
Commercial director Werner Greyling is responsible for project controls: managing the finance, cost control, estimating, procurement and scheduling departments. A native of South Africa now living in Saratoga Springs, Greyling has worked for M+W Group since 2000. He has previously worked on fab construction projects in China and Malaysia.
Q: What are some of the other projects the M+W Group is involved in around the United States and worldwide?
A: Some of our domestic projects have included designing research labs at Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee, and involvement on other semiconductor manufacturing facilities in Arizona, California, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington. Globally, we designed and constructed the GlobalFoundries Fab 1 in Dresden, Germany, photovoltaics manufacturing plants in Malaysia and Germany, display technology flat screen manufacturing in Taiwan and pharmaceutical plants in Singapore and Shanghai, China.
Q: What are some of the other projects M+W has done in the Capital Region?
A: Besides GlobalFoundries, M+W has worked with IBM, the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, the Arsenal Partnership, Tokyo Electron, SEMATECH and GE Healthcare. Our projects have included cleanroom design and construction along with a major lab and office building program at Albany NanoTech, design and construction management for IBM, the Visitec renovation at the Watervliet Arsenal, and the installation of over $4 billion worth of semiconductor process equipment throughout the region. We will also be part of the team to redevelop the Harriman campus in Albany.
Q: What are the complexities involved in constructing a computer chip manufacturing plant?
A: In consideration of the sensitivity of the manufacturing process, wafer fabrication plants are constructed to the highest quality standards possible. Special structural systems are put in place that limit any potential vibration. The use of chemicals and gases in the production of the wafers requires the air supply, process abatement and ventilation to be very well-tuned. Application-specific fire protection and safety systems must be fail-safe since there is the utmost concern for human safety and protecting the sophisticated manufacturing equipment whose cost far exceeds the cost of building construction.
Layered on top is the need for flexibility to accommodate ever-changing wafer manufacturing technology. During the useful life of a fab, especially one that serves as a foundry, tools are constantly refurbished, upgraded and replaced by new tools to accommodate new product requirements.
Q: Has the recession made the job M+W is doing in Malta any easier or more difficult?
A: In many respects, the economic downturn has provided an environment very conducive to building a high-quality factory on-time and on-budget. Most of the selected sub-contractors and manufacturers are local and able to keep their forces employed on a “home-based” project, which is more efficient and cost-effective. With regards to materials, the economic downturn has significantly reduced commodity material costs for steel, copper, aluminum and cement.
Q: Based on your experience with building in other communities, what do you expect the short- and long-term impact of the GlobalFoundries plant to be?
A: Unlike many other communities, both short- and long-term plans have been developed successfully in the Capital Region and Tech Valley to address change and growth related to the emergence of high tech industries.
The short-term effects are becoming evident already with the development of HVCC’s TEC-SMART program, the growth of Albany NanoTech and the increased presence of international high-tech companies such as Tokyo Electron, Vistec and International SEMATECH.
Over the next five years with GlobalFoundries Fab 8 becoming operational, there will be population growth from not only this project but from support businesses that provide goods, services and personnel in support of this industry.
From a long-term perspective, I see the Capital Region as a consolidated design and manufacturing center of high-tech goods and services, whether it be in the electronics, energy, pharmaceuticals or life science fields, complete with vibrant world-class colleges and universities. I predict that our high quality of life here will not change but will rather be enhanced.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 885-6705 or [email protected].