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Two Views on Apple's UFO-Shaped Campus: It's a 'Stunning Representation' of Success and Sustainability

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Apple Campus II, a bold symbol of Apple's success, is also a visionary addition to the movement for green practices at tech corporations.

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Editor's note: This is one half of a two-part story on Apple's new super campus. For the flipside of the argument, see: Two Views on Apple's UFO-Shaped Campus: Focus on New Building Means Tech Giant Will Soon Fall.

In April 2006, Steve Jobs announced that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) had acquired nine contiguous properties in Cupertino, CA, with which to build its new Apple Campus II. It was rumored that the campus would be ready in 2010. But here we are, and Apple's UFO-shaped headquarters is still being talked about. Because of last minute alterations and the lengthy environmental checks that such a big building must go through (and Apple's getting a break here, too -- more on that below), the grand opening of the new Cupertino campus will likely be pushed all the way to 2016.

Who knows what new products and services Apple will be touting then? One thing we can guess: If this environmentally friendly and humongous ring becomes a model of continued success in uncertain times for Apple, other buildings like it will be popping up by 2016.

Going back to June of last year, California Governor Jerry Brown approved the planned facility for a streamlined treatment as it progressed through the standard environmental review process. Governor Brown said to The Mercury News:
Apple's state-of-the art campus brings at least $100 million in investment to California and generates no additional greenhouse gas emissions. On-site fuel cells and 650,000 square feet of solar panels will provide clean, renewable energy for more than 12,000 Apple employees on the new campus.

The design has a lot going for it. The new campus will be able to hold 13,000 employees, and it will have a 1,000 seat auditorium, a fitness center, an underground parking lot, and 300,000 square feet of space devoted entirely to R & D. Plus it will be run primarily by its own power plant, using fuel cell and solar technology.

Most of the proposed campus is to be built on the site of an old Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) campus. As of now, the building's footprint on the site follows a typical 80:20 ratio,meaning only 20% of the land is used for greenery, while 80% is occupied by buildings. With its unprecedented circular design, Apple plans to reverse that ration, meaning 80% of its new campus area will be park-like, including the middle of the great big circle. There will even be hundreds of fruit trees at the entranceway.

The building is definitely a vision from the future, the kind of thing only a company as cash secure and bold as Apple would do. But other companies, like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), for example, are setting a precedent for green corporate behavior as well. Google transports 4,500 workers per day to its San Francisco Bay Area offices with low-impact shuttles. Moreover, the company has the largest corporate car sharing program in the US.

All this being said, environmental groups have attacked the plan, claiming that the new campus will cut off current walking paths and cause more employees and residents to drive. That effect remains unclear, but certainly reversing the current ratio of development to plant life on the HP campus is a good move, or at least a good symbol.

What does the building project say about Apple's prospects as one of the major tech companies over the next couple of years? Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers, told me:

At a cost of roughly $500 million, it seems as though this portends not only good things, but great things for the future of Apple. Any firm that can afford that type of investment into a project with so many benefits will obviously be around long term. I don't think it's a vanity project. To me, it's a stunning representation of the success that company has achieved over the years.

Apple's plans to build Apple Campus II have generated buzz all over the Internet and in the media, but perhaps its environmental stability will also make waves and continue the slow shift to green technology on the corporate level, of which Apple and Google are vanguards. The building may be a good sign for the continued emergence of sustainable businesses that have not have no negative effects on the environment, but is also a sign of Apple's success and its confidence that it will continue.

See also: Is Apple In Its Sammy Hager Era?
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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