AT&T Alabama Operations Center
The AT&T Alabama Operations Center (AOC, originally the South Central Bell Alabama Operations Center) is a 3-story, 450,000-sqaure-foot office building for AT&T located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 280 and I-459. The $42 million building, designed by Crawford, Giattina & Partners and completed in 1981, is a notable early example of an energy-conscious large-scale office development.
In 1978 South Central Bell commissioned the center in order to consolidate departments working in numerous leased spaces around Birmingham and to further its company-wide interest in reducing energy consumption. A total of 50 firms were contacted, from which 10 were Six Alabama architecture firms were invited to submit entries in a design competition organized by Auburn University dean of architecture E. Keith McPheeters. Of those, 10 were deemed qualified and six chosen as finalists, given 60 days and $10,000 to prepare a design proposal. Their presentations were judged blindly by three company executives and three out-of-state architects. Their unanimous choice was Giattina & Partners' scheme which called for a low-slung building spanning an artificial lake and topped with a green roof.
The lake was created by damming a small stream on the 50-acre site, with a channel running between the foundations of the building. It is stocked with catfish and bass, but no fishing was allowed. The water is used in the center's cooling system, while solar collectors on the roof's edge produce hot water for the heating system, keeping offices at a constant 78° temperature with low humidity. The roof is covered with a 2-foot layer of sand and sawdust with sod growing on top. Originally the company piped in "ocean-like" sounds to foster a calm environment.
The project won an Honor award from the American Institute of Architects Gulf States Region and was featured in a Progressive Architecture issue on energy-conscious design.
The utility's offices originally included a teleconferencing center with special closed-circuit cameras to enable instant face-to-face communication with the BellSouth Tower downtown and other facilities across five states. Three $20,000 battery-driven robotic mail carts, dubbed "ALEC" for "Automatic LEtter Carrier" were purchased from Bell & Howell to carry interoffice mail. 1,500 parking spaces are accommodated in a terraced, 3-story deck.
The preservation and enhancement of natural amenities on the center's site attracted wildlife. Ducks and geese were brought by an employee and happily took up residence on the artificial lake. One of a family of bobcats that took up residence during the building's first year attacked Patricia Powell, a security guard who was working at night. She suffered minor injuries and the animals were trapped by Jefferson County animal cruelty officials.
AT&T moved most of its workforce from the operations center to other locations in the 2010s. It made plans to vacate the building in 2016 by moving remaining staff to the AT&T Data Center at 1876 Data Drive in Hoover. The 125-acre site was sold to Bayer Properties, developer of the nearby Summit shopping center, in 2016. The property was subdivided and became the site of Tributary Rise apartment community and Overture Vestavia senior living apartments.
- Holthusen, T. Lance, ed. (1981) The Potential of Earth-Sheltered and Underground Space: Today's Resource for Tomorrow's Space and Energy Viability. Proceedings of the Underground Space Conference and Exposition, Kansas City, Missouri, June 8-10, 1981. Pergamon Press ISBN 0080280501
- Murphy, James A. (April 1982) "Southern Bell". Progressive Architecture. Vol. 63, No. 4, pp. 162-66, ""
- "South Central Bell's unique new home" (May 14, 1982) UPI/Times-Daily
- "New Bell system futuristic" (June 24, 1982) The Tuscaloosa News
- "Officials hunting for wild bobcats" (July 30, 1982) UPI/Times-Daily
- Knight, Carleton (July 1983) "Significant Clients: Ma Bell Builds Big." Architecture. Vol. 72, No. 7, pp. 62-74
- Godwin, Brent (July 24, 2016) "Bayer Properties plans to buy 125 acres across from Summit for major project." Birmingham Business Journal
- AT&T Alabama Operations Center at gastudio.com