RICHFIELD, Minn. - Rising up out of the landscape around Interstate 494 is the new headquarters for electronics superstore chain Best Buy Co.

RICHFIELD, Minn. - Rising up out of the landscape around Interstate 494 is the new corporate headquarters for electronics superstore chain Best Buy Co. The $19 billion company is moving to a sprawling, 37-acre complex from its current headquarters in Eden Prairie, a Minneapolis suburb.

The new 1.6-million-sq.-ft. structure is described by Best Buy officials as a "corporate campus," and will include two six-story and two eight-story office buildings, arranged around a central hub. This 100,000-sq. ft. common area connects the structures and includes an employee training area, conference space, childcare facilities, a wellness center and 250-seat auditorium. A connected, five-level, 6,800-car parking deck is also being built for the thousands of employees expected to use the facility when it opens later this year.

The campus buildings' hvac system includes 56 Trane air handlers, 21 Trane rooftop units (4,000 total tons), and 1.5 million pounds of ductwork and 100,000 sq. ft. of Linacoustic" duct liner, supplied by Johns Manville. Total airflow for the units will be 1.6 million cfm. More than 100 hours of crane time would be needed to put the hvac units into place.

Golden Valley, Minn.-based General Sheet Metal Corp. was selected by Opus Northwest, the general contractor, as the sheet metal contractor for the job. The construction schedule would be tight: 18 months. Work began in July 2001.

"You went into this job knowing that it was going to be moving fast, and you'd better keep up, or there were going to be problems," said Tom Huro, General Sheet Metal's manager for the project.

General Sheet Metal Corp. employees on the job. Jerry Allemani (left), Wayne Anderson, Ray McCarthy, Jeremy Jensen, Danna McCutcheon, Dan Vinge, Jim Pepin, Jim Ludescher, John Peterson and Dan Beckius.

A tight schedule

To keep up with the work schedule, 50 of General's 180 union employees (members of Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 10) were used for the Best Buy project. It took six workers about three weeks to rough a typical floor.

General Sheet Metal fabricated the galvanized rectangular duct itself, installing it with a four-bolt TDC system. For the spiral pipe and round fittings the hvac system required, Minneapolis-based Sheet Metal Connectors Inc. was contracted. SMC supplies contractors with pre-fabricated sheet metal products produced at its fabrication plant in Minneapolis. Pre-fabricated duct often saves field labor costs and eliminates the need for contractors to invest in new equipment or technology.

SMC was also tapped to make the E-Z Flange used on the exposed round duct featured in the complex's main entrance. The E-Z Flange system with barrel clamps has a flange on both ends of the spiral pipe and fittings. The installer can simply put a gasket on one flange, slides the spiral pipe together and attaches the barrel clamp. No screws or external caulking are needed to create a self-sealing system.

General Sheet Metal officials said they were happy with the results.

"It has worked out really well as far as sealing, and it helps visually," said Jim Wiggen, company president.

The size and speed of the job required approximately 500 workers to be on-site on any given day. Workers go to lunch in shifts and parking can be a challenge, workers say. Several nearby retail businesses tried to capitalize on the crowds by hosting lunches with live music and door prizes.

Best Buy Co. is the U.S.' No. 1 consumer electronics retailer, with more than 90,000 employees worldwide and 1,900 retail stores in North America. The company was founded in 1966 by Richard Schulze as Sound of Music, a Minneapolis area audio stereo equipment store. In 1983, it changed its name to Best Buy, going public in 1985. Two years later, it was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1989, it became one of the first electronics and appliance stores to pay its sales staff a straight hourly wage, eschewing the common commission-based pay structure and promising customers a pressure-free shopping experience.

An early stage of construction.

Facts about the Best Buy project:

Property owner: Best Buy Co.

Architect: Opus Architects & Engineers, Perkins and Will

Mechanical engineers: Bruce Lorentson/Bill McKoskey

Construction managers: John Williams/George Spevacek

General contractor: Opus Northwest

Sheet metal contractor: General Sheet Metal Corp.

Location: I-494 and Penn Avenue, Richfield, Minn.

Size: 1.6 million sq. ft.

Ductwork used: 1.5 million pounds

Liner used: 100,000 sq. ft.

Airflow: 1.6 million cfm.

Hvac units: 56 air handling, 21 rooftop units

Weight: 4,000 tons