"Let me begin by showing you the sea of asphalt,'' Apple's chief financial officer said, pointing to the husk of the former Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) campus in Cupertino, site of Apple's proposed new spaceship-shaped headquarters that goes before the City Council Tuesday for an initial vote.
The plan: flip a 175-acre site that's now 80 percent asphalt and buildings into one that's 80 percent open space and parkland, then drop a spectacular ring of polished glass into the middle of it all.
Perhaps channeling his former boss Steve Jobs at one of his high-anticipation product launches, Oppenheimer quickly went into full Apple pitch mode.
"You see the energy and the love and the attention to detail that we've put into this,'' he told this newspaper during a sneak peek of a top-secret, living-room sized model of the building. "We have treated this project just as we would any Apple product. And this will be a place for the most creative and collaborative teams in the industry to innovate for decades to come.''
Oppenheimer had every right to be gushing. With its jaw-dropping design from architectural superstar Sir Norman Foster and team, its stellar environmental credentials, and a tax-revenue windfall promised for Cupertino and the region, Apple Campus 2 promises to bring a world-class real-estate project -- along with a lot of traffic congestion -- to the heart of Silicon Valley.
During a recent and rare 45-minute visit with Oppenheimer, who most often appears publicly as the disembodied voice beside CEO Tim Cook on Apple's quarterly-earnings conference calls, the message was as crystal clear as Gorilla Glass: This particular Apple product -- dreamed up by the late Steve Jobs and massaged with the help of company design guru Jony Ive and the same folks who brought us the iPhone and iPad -- is all about green and all about innovation.
"The concept of the building,'' Oppenheimer said, "is collaboration and fluidity. It'll provide a very open-spaced system, so that at one point in the day you may be in offices on one side of the circle and find yourself on the other side later that day.''
He said that urgency for working side by side, much as Jobs and Ive once did, led naturally to the design of the building. "We found that rectangles or squares or long buildings or buildings with more than four stories would inhibit collaboration," Oppenheimer said. "We wanted this to be a walkable building, and that's why we eventually settled on a circle.''
And, said Dan Whisenhunt, Apple's director of real estate and facilities, that circle has been placed within a greenscape that's planet-friendly. In fact, designers have shown an almost obsessive-compulsive take on the project's ecosystem: a naturally ventilated space with radiant cooling that avoids the need for air-conditioning 70 percent of the year; LED lighting and smart-control systems adapted to the site's microclimate conditions; on-site recycling of all excavated dirt into berms, eliminating dust-heaving trucks rumbling through the neighborhood during the three-year construction expected to begin later this year.
"This will be one of the most environmentally sustainable developments on this scale anywhere in the world,'' said Whisenhunt, pointing to the model filling an entire room inside a high-security workshop located in the footprint of the new campus. "A building like this will use 30 percent less energy than a typical corporate building in the Valley. And that's 100-percent renewable energy, which is unheard of on this scale, with most of it produced on-site.''
Along with "innovation'' and ''collaboration,'' there's one other word that comes a lot when Oppenheimer talks about the project: trees.
With award-winning arborists and landscape designers already hard at work around the state growing and grooming many of the 7,000 fruit, oak and olive trees that will eventually grace the site, Apple's CFO said that that arbor passion may have "started with Steve, but it's embedded in all of us. We love California, and by adding over 2,500 new and indigenous trees that truly belong here, we're bringing back the beautiful orchards that once made up this valley.''
Jobs, who died in 2011 of complications from pancreatic cancer, loved the area and especially Cupertino, Oppenheimer said. "It's always been and always will be Apple's home. And in addition to bringing the best office building ever, we wanted to return this beautiful piece of land to its natural state. That's part of the Apple culture.''
Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689 or follow him at Twitter.com/patmaymerc.
April 2006: Apple begins buying land in the area.
June 7, 2011: Steve Jobs presents project to City Council.
Aug. 9, 2011: Apple submits proposal documents.
June 4: Apple releases Economic Impact Report.
June 6: City releases draft environmental impact report; public comment period opens.
July 22: Last day of public comment period for draft EIR
Sept. 23: Final EIR available
Sept. 26: Environmental Review Committee Meeting
Oct. 1: Joint City Council/Planning Commission Study Session
Oct. 2: Planning Commission recommends approval.
Oct. 15: City Council will take an initial vote on approval.
Nov. 19: City Council's final vote