Project Case Study: High-tech land development

May 2006 » Feature Articles
Luther Forest Technology Campus (LFTC) is shaping up to be one of the largest economic development projects in the United States in decades.
John S. Munsey, P.G.

Collaboration lays the foundation for a regional transformation project

Project
Luther Forest Technology Campus, Saratoga County,N.Y.

Engineers and planners
The LA Group; C.T.Male Associates, P.C.; M+W Zander U.S.Operations; Creighton Manning Engineering; Abbie Gregg, Inc.; E/Pro;and National Grid

Project description
An extensive, long-term collaborative effort is transforming a former military installation into a business park suitable for large-scale nanotechnology research,development,and manufacturing.

Luther Forest Technology Campus (LFTC) is shaping up to be one of the largest economic development projects in the United States in decades. Planned especially for large-scale nanotechnology manufacturing, this secluded 1,350-acre site in upstate New York is ideally suited for the 300- mm semiconductor wafer technology from which the latest computer microprocessor chips are derived. The project is the result of eight years of tireless efforts by a dedicated team of planners, engineers, surveyors, architects, municipal officials, and development experts.

Luther Forest is located 25 miles north of Albany, straddling the Saratoga County towns of Malta and Stillwater. This man-made forest remains undeveloped today because, for more than a halfcentury after World War II, a portion of the site was used as a rocket engine test facility and later as a military munitions testing area. A 1-mile, no-habitation zone surrounded the facility, keeping out the fast-paced development that has characterized other parts of Saratoga County during the past 25 years.

The site is at the heart of New York’s Tech Valley, which stretches roughly from IBM’s huge chip fabrication plant in East Fishkill, N.Y., northward to the Canadian border. In the middle of this historic valley, Albany Nanotech, the University at Albany, and International Sematech North have combined to form a nucleus for nanotechnology research and development, education, and technology commercialization.

Planning began in 1998 toward development of the LFTC parcel to reach its "highest and best use," and to deliver the greatest benefit to the communities in the surrounding area. What has emerged is a dramatic example of what can be achieved by an integrated, multi-functional team whose members are committed to a common goal.

Eleven development "pods" have been designated for a number of activities. Pod 1 can accommodate four fabrication facilities as large as 3.2 million square feet total, including 250,000 square feet of clean room space per "fab" facility. Nearby pods have been designated for nanotechnology suppliers and support services, offices and convenience facilities, and a conference center.

At full build-out, Luther Forest Technology Campus could represent more than $18 billion in capital investment and employ 10,000 highly skilled, well-paid employees. An economic development project of this scale requires substantial public and private support, and state, federal, and local governments, as well as utilities and industry groups, clearly have demonstrated they want LFTC to succeed.

The project team

The Luther Forest project is spearheaded by the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), a public and private partnership that has generated more than 12,000 new jobs and $1.2 billion in investment in Saratoga County since 1978.

  • Ken Green, SEDC president, recognized the enormous opportunity, and he and Jon Kelley, senior vice president for LFTC, assembled the following team:
  • The LA Group, a nationally recognized land-planning firm, provided initial site plans;
  • C.T. Male Associates, P.C., a multi-disciplinary engineering company, followed with surveying, environmental and geotechnical analysis, infrastructure planning, and overall project management;
  • M+W Zander U.S. Operations, which, along with its German parent company, is the most experienced designer-builder of 300-mm chip fabrication plants in the world, was tapped for detailed master site planning, architecture, engineering, and construction;
  • Creighton Manning Engineering launched transportation studies and mitigation;
  • Abbie Gregg, Inc., clean room consultants, performed vibration, electromagnetic field, and RF measurements and site characterization;
  • E/Pro began planning the electrical transmission system; and
  • National Grid (formerly Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation) coordinated delivery of electricity and natural gas to the site, and played a key role in economic development.

A special forest

A former site selector for a major chip manufacturer called Luther Forest, "One of two places on the planet" that is so ideally suited to chip fabrication. Abbie Gregg, president of Abbie Gregg, Inc., explained, "The chip fab industry is on the threshold of nanotechnology manufacturing, and the next fab sites must be capable of bringing device geometries into this realm—45 nanometers and below—creating the need for larger, quieter sites." LFTC meets these requirements.

LFTC is very big and relatively flat, with few wetlands or other sensitive areas. Proximity to the world-class nanotechnology resources at Albany NanoTech, plus the political and financial support of New York State, places Luther Forest among a small number of greenfield sites in the world that could host this industry.

In the manufacture of semiconductors, massive economies of scale can be realized, leading to the evolution from 100-mm (4- inch) to 200-mm (8-inch) and now to 300-mm (12-inch) wafers.

This requires large facilities with clean rooms that are often 10,000 times cleaner than a hospital operating room. LFTC can accommodate as many as four of these massive facilities.

The nano-lithography process that forms the trillions of tiny circuits on each wafer requires absolute quiet—a total absence of vibration and other types of disturbance. LFTC is extremely quiet because the underlying geology—60 to 200 feet of glacial sand—greatly attenuates the transmission of vibration.

The report from Abbie Gregg, Inc., states that the most stringent NIST-A criterion is met above 4 Hz for all ambient datacollection locations across this site. Here, conventional spread footing foundations can accommodate expected bearing loads of 3,000 to 4,000 pounds per square foot, rather than much more expensive, deep-driven pilings. In addition, RF and electromagnetic field levels are among the lowest levels found anywhere in North America.

Luther Forest is close to major transportation corridors I-87 and I-90, as well as to Albany International Airport. But perhaps most important is its proximity to the new, $1 billion nanotechnology research and development hub in Albany, which has attracted Applied Materials, Tokyo Electron, and ASML, the largest semiconductor and lithography equipment providers in the world, to locate at the center.

"This is a critical enabler in the eyes of a chip manufacturer," said John Frank, senior vice president of M+W Zander. "To be this close to a center of excellence in nanotech research, development, and manufacturing can be a major factor in the success of a new plant." As if to punctuate his point, M+W Zander, in conjunction with New York State Assembly and Watervliet Arsenal, recently launched the $5 million Center for Construction Trades Training at the arsenal, offering hands-on training in setting up state-of-theart clean rooms and using measurement and production tools required for the near perfect conditions of nanomanufacturing.

Michael Ingersoll, R.L.A., of the LA Group, created the conceptual master plan for LFTC—an attractive, yet functional, technology park designed to appeal to a major semiconductor fabricator. Ingersoll said, "High-tech manufacturing today is practically an intellectual enterprise, and a forest is an ideal setting for a think-tank. The challenge was to create a brand new campus, from scratch, using contemporary smart-growth tools and standards." As local town councils and planning boards seek to integrate LFTC into their communities’ master plans, the LA Group has worked with them, also preparing the Planned District Development proposal for submission to Malta’s town board, the lead agency for environmental and other approvals.

C.T. Male Associates has overseen much of the technical aspects of the project since the beginning, planning for water, sewer, electrical, and natural gas service, while avoiding wetlands and potentially sensitive archeological spots. Chip plants are heavy users of both water and sewer facilities, with water use estimated at 3 to 4 million gallons per day (mgd) initially, and likely to reach 6 to 15 mgd at full build-out. Saratoga County is preparing a $76 million, countywide water system to draw water from the Hudson River near the northern tip of the county and deliver it to Luther Forest in Malta, serving towns and cities along the way. LFTC would be the largest consumer of water from the new system.

Raymond Liuzzo, project surveyor for C.T. Male, is responsible for the survey and mapping of the 1,350-acre Luther Forest campus. This massive project took six months and a few allnighters to complete before the August 2005 closing. The group refined the original U.S. Geological Survey topographical maps (10-foot contour interval) to the required 1-foot contour interval.

"Surveying the project presented some significant challenges," said Liuzzo, "and active military munitions testing meant that certain areas of the site were off limits for weeks at a time." The finished ALTA/ACSM survey comprises 72 pages of highly detailed drawings of the site.

Creighton Manning Engineering (CME) is charged with transportation planning and engineering. John Tozzi, CME partner, pointed out that the initial traffic study predicted minimal impact on normal traffic levels, because employees at chip fab plants typically work 12-hour shifts, from approximately 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. "But when you add the workers at the ancillary facilities, whose work day is more traditional," said Tozzi, "the impact is more significant." CME analyzed four distinct phases of build-out (one to four fab plants). Two major recommendations were proposed, one in the near term and one at phase 3. Both involve the Adirondack (Albany to Montreal) Northway (I-87) and the route from that highway to the Luther Forest campus.

The village of Round Lake, a picturesque community on the National Register of Historic Places, sits squarely in the path of a state road leading from Exit 11 of I-87 eastward to Route 9 and LFTC. The road makes several sharp turns around a cluster of historic houses on narrow streets. During the past decade, traffic through Round Lake has grown dramatically, and any further increase could degrade the quality of life for its residents.

CME’s first recommendation is a Round Lake bypass, to be built before the certificate of occupancy (CO) is issued for the first fab. Residents were delighted to hear that the proposed bypass would restore village traffic volumes to 1986 levels.

The second recommendation is a new Exit 11A on I-87 (completed before the third fab’s CO is issued) that would lead directly from the interstate to the entrance of the LFTC, reducing traffic levels and substantially softening the impact of the project.

National Grid (NG) has played an important role in the development of the LFTC. As a supplier of both natural gas and electricity to the proposed project, NG must construct a transmission delivery system that reliably provides as much as 160 MW of electricity and 360,000 cubic feet per hour of natural gas. Michael King, project manager for NG, said, "If power is interrupted, the chip manufacturer will sustain heavy financial losses in production. Accordingly, the primary electric service will consist of four 115-kV lines—two from the existing Malta substation, 2.5 miles west of LFTC, and two from the substation in Stillwater, 5.5 miles east." A switching substation at LFTC will maintain power even if a line to the campus is lost. "Luther Forest Technology Campus is a one-of-a-kind project that will represent one of the largest electrical loads in New York State," said King.

The utility became involved in LFTC eight years ago by providing seed funding for early planning efforts. Marilyn Higgins, vice president of economic development for NG, called LFTC, "a transformational project for upstate New York, representing a change from the economy of the past to a technology economy for the future." Higgins added, "The entire investment in the nanotech initiative in New York’s Tech Valley is by far the biggest in New York history." What’s next? Today, the Luther Forest Technology Campus stands at the launching pad. Thanks to intense coordination with local towns, the site is now pre-permitted for nanotechnology manufacturing, research, and development. With everything in place, Kelley said, "One of the most gratifying aspects of this project has been the close collaboration among the many professionals on the LFTC team. Their continuing peer review of each other’s work has not only expedited this huge undertaking, but has brought the very best ideas to the forefront quickly, resulting in the best possible solutions."

John S. Munsey, P.G., is managing scientist and principal, C.T. Male Associates, P.C. He can be contacted at j.munsey@ctmale.com.


Upcoming Events

See All Upcoming Events