MOUNTAIN VIEW -- In a far corner of a former Navy base near the edge of San Francisco Bay, construction crews have embarked this summer on building nine brand-new Google (GOOG) "noodles" -- a collection of long, oddly curved buildings that will be a new workplace for several thousand employees of the Internet search giant.
Google's planned Bay View campus, sitting on 42 acres of the former Moffett Field in Mountain View, represents the company's first effort to build its own offices from the ground up, instead of taking over buildings from other companies.
And while Google has kept a tight lid on many details, company officials promise the new campus will have the outlandish amenities Google is known for -- including gourmet cafeterias, an elevated bike path and maybe a zip line -- and a design that's friendly both to workers and the surrounding baylands, with lots of windows for natural light and optimum views, native landscaping and a cutting-edge water treatment system.
"We love our existing home, but it's an office park," said Anthony Ravitz, a civil engineer who oversees environmental issues for Google's real estate division. The new complex is designed "to give us a better sense of place," he added. "The idea is for there to be a very different look and feel."
Google has a long-term lease on the site from NASA, which is operating the old Moffett property as a federal research park. The new campus is just east of the current Googleplex, a sprawling assortment of buildings scattered on both sides of Shoreline Boulevard that Google has leased or bought over the years.
Some Mountain View residents worry it will disrupt the natural surroundings and draw more commuters to clog local roads. Since the site is on federal land, Google didn't undergo a city planning review, but the company says it's sensitive to environmental and traffic concerns.
"We're encouraging people to leave their cars at home," Google Vice President David Radcliffe told city officials at a meeting about the project. The company says 7 percent of its 12,000 Mountain View employees ride bicycles to work, and it hopes to triple that figure. At another meeting, Google real estate executive John Igoe vowed that half the Googlers on the new campus will arrive on bikes or company shuttle buses.
Google won't say which business units or exactly how many workers will occupy the new structures, although sources estimate 3,500 to 5,000 people. Google initially talked about building employee housing on the site when it announced the NASA lease in 2008, but a spokeswoman said there's no housing in the current plans. She declined to elaborate.
Company officials also wouldn't disclose the cost of the new campus, slated to open in 2015. But at heights ranging from three to five stories, the buildings amount to 1.1 million square feet of office space, which Google hopes will earn top marks from the LEED certification program for energy and environmental design.
All the buildings will be connected by an elevated pathway for walking or bicycling, said architect Ryan Mullenix, who described it as an "infinite loop" that will let a worker on any floor of any building get to a meeting in any other building in less than five minutes.
The nine buildings will use radiant heating and cooling from a system of pipes that circulate chilled or heated water from a central plant on the campus, said Peter Rumsey, a design engineer on the project. A separate ventilation system will bring in fresh air from outdoors, instead of recirculating what's inside.
And because the buildings are long and narrow, with plenty of windows, Google says more than 70 percent of the interior space will use natural light during the day. The buildings are arranged at various angles and each structure is "bent" rather than shaped like a perfect rectangle. Ravitz said that's why designers have been calling them "noodles."
The alignment of the buildings is designed to provide optimal views of the bay and surrounding landscape, according to Ravitz, who said designers also studied air patterns so the structures will serve as wind breaks for a series of outside areas where Google hopes workers will picnic, stroll or even hold meetings.
"We want to create a transparent campus, where people will feel connected to what's outside," he said, "so the buildings almost to some degree go away."
Google is planning mostly natural landscaping for the campus, with trees and native plants that are favored by local butterflies and other wildlife. It also will create eight acres of new wetland habitat on the site, said Cheryl Barton, a landscape architect on the project.
At least one of the buildings will have a "green" roof with live plantings and open-air space for meetings or informal gatherings, Barton said. Google says the other roofs will have environmentally friendly features, but the details have not yet been decided.
Google representatives have hinted at other amenities: A company fact sheet lists a "rooftop vineyard" on one building, along with zip lines and a "wind-driven music farm." A spokeswoman declined to give details, saying they are "ideas in the works."
Contact Brandon Bailey at 408-920-5022; follow him at Twitter.com/BrandonBailey.