September 15, 2005

Sandia’s massive MESA construction continues on course

‘King for a Day’ exercise sharpens Weapons Integration Facility’s focus

Light Wizard This aerial image of the WIF construction site shows the recent state of construction of MESA’s final building.
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sandia National Laboratories’ half-billion-dollar MESA project is two-thirds complete, with its final building — the Weapons Integration Facility — “over a third done,” says construction project manager Bill Jenkins.

Construction should be complete by summer ’06 and personnel moved in by summer ’07, says Deputy Project Manager Bill Kitsos.

A recent construction safety success involved a $10 million specialty gas contract in the MicroFab that was completed with no accidents, one safety violation, and no DOE reportable occurrences, says Bill. Local construction company Big J earned all but $250 of its entire $25,000 safety incentive (money kept in escrow and dispersed in inverse relation to the number of accidents) for its strong performance.

The new MESA MicroLab, which will house 274 people, is 95 percent complete, with a fall completion date scheduled for the building. It should be fully occupied by next spring.

Employees will be located based on a kind of sociological experiment currently taking place in MESA TOP 1 and 2 in Sandia’s Research Park. Work at these small facsimiles of the larger MESA project is ongoing to gauge the effectiveness and creativity that result from mixing people from different Sandia line organizations — normally separate units — to form a more interactive workplace.

“Most innovation comes from putting disparate ideas together,” says David Plummer. “We’re putting together people who have reason to interact but haven’t, because they work on a campus a mile square. It’s a way to keep innovation going.”

Sandia managers were encouraged to be “King for a Day” to visualize the needs of the entire Center rather than merely advocating for their own projects.

The arrangement honors Sandia president Tom Hunter’s vision of using science and visualization to change the way engineering is done at Sandia, he says.

The main themes of WIF are expected to be microsystems-enabled guidance system fusing, future weapon architectures, and wireless systems.

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Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia media contact: Neal Singer,, (505) 845-7078