RTI International’s new six-story office tower will be the ‘public face’ of the company

RTI Chief Executive Officer Wayne Holden described the new office tower as the “public face” of the organization as members of the public will be able to visit the building.
RTI Chief Executive Officer Wayne Holden described the new office tower as the “public face” of the organization as members of the public will be able to visit the building. RTI International

The office campuses in Durham’s Research Triangle Park are often monolithic and uninviting, but nonprofit research giant RTI International is aiming to make its campus more accessible to the public with its newest office building.

Already under construction, the new office building will be the largest on RTI’s campus, standing six stories tall with 190,000 square feet of space. The organization officially completed the steel framing of the building Wednesday and used the occasion to detail its plans for the building, which will provide workspace for around 670 of its 2,200 employees based in RTP.

RTI President and Chief Executive Officer Wayne Holden described the new building as the organization’s “public face.”

“This building is going to help us not just bring our staff together on this campus, but also interface with the public and other organizations,” he said. “... There is going to be a heritage area that allows the public to come interact with what RTI is and learn more about it.

“We are also going to change the way you get into campus, so that there is a public access road that people can come in on and have that experience of interacting with us, so we can be part of a facilitator and a magnet for the park.”

The first two floors of the building will be used as interactive space, including areas for meetings and collaborations as well as a coffee bar and a 300-person cafeteria. A four-story parking deck is also being built with 650 spaces.

The sprawling campus, which will have 22 buildings upon the completion of the newest construction, has not had a centrally-located area for employees to collaborate previously and a goal of the building is to create more creative interactions between RTI employees.

Duda Paine Architects is designing the building and interiors, and DPR Construction is constructing the building. Stewart Inc. is providing the civil engineering and landscape designs.

The building is expected to be finished in early 2018, a year that coincides with the 60th anniversary of the founding of the organization. RTI was started in 1958 with support from the North Carolina government as well as education and business leaders, and the research nonprofit still maintains close ties with N.C. State University, Duke University, N.C. Central University and UNC-Chapel Hill.

It’s been an active year for RTI, which started off 2017 by acquiring two different firms: Washington, D.C.-based International Resources Group (IRG) and Colorado-based Riverside Technology Inc.

Holden told The Herald-Sun in January that RTI was likely to make more moves in 2017 — a testament to the organization’s steady growth over the past few years.

“Over the last five years, in comparison to some of our competitors across the country, we have continued to grow at a pretty good rate,” Holden said. “We have done pretty well despite some of the challenges that we have had to deal with. ... We've got resources and we are able to use those resource pools to do acquisitions (and) to bring in other groups.”

Part of those challenges stemmed from decreases in federal funding that occurred during the U.S. budget sequestration in 2013. RTI gets a large majority of its funding from research contracts with the U.S. government — though it has been working to diversify its revenue flows, especially as more cuts are expected under President Donald Trump’s administration.

“I think it is starting to become clearer which parts of the federal government are going to have more significant cuts across time,” Holden said. “What helped us over the last several years is we have a very diversified federal portfolio across lots of different parts of the government.

“We are figuring out what parts of (the federal government) are going to prosper — and also how we can continue to diversify our partnerships and resources outside of the federal government in the commercial sector, in foreign government funding ... and the foundation and (non-governmental organization) sector as well.”

RTI employs around 4,700 employees around the world and had $885 million in revenue in 2016, which was up 6.4 percent from 2015.

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes