Why are the building numbers on Microsoft main campus so erratic?

Carrie complains that the building numbers on Microsoft main campus are completely random. Why is building 22 near buildings 40 and 41, far, far away from building 24?

Because the Microsoft campus evolved.

Many many years ago, the space on which the central Microsoft campus resides was a mill. Eventually it became an office park, and when Microsoft decided to move its headquarters there, it carved out a little wooded area and constructed four buildings, logically numbered 1 through 4.

Later, the campus expanded, and plans were drawn up for three more buildings, logically numbered (and placed) 5 through 7. Two of those buildings were constructed, but the third was not built for reasons shrouded in mystery. When the campus expanded a third time, the new buildings were numbered 8 through 11. Presumably, at this point, there were still plans to construct Building 7 someday, so the number remained assigned to the planned-but-not-yet-built building. (Even if the Building 7 plans had been abandoned, the number had already been used in the plans submitted to the City of Redmond, and revising them would have entailed additional paperwork for no real benefit aside from satisfying some anal-retentive compulsion to ensure that every number was used. People who worry about this probably are also waiting for DirectX 4.)

The campus grew, and each time new buildings were added, they received the next available number. The result of this was that buildings with consecutive numbers could very well end up far apart on campus.

When the Microsoft main campus expanded across highway 520, the people in charge of assigning numbers decided to assign numbers starting at 100 for buildings on the other side of the highway. Mind you, they didn't stick to that plan rigidly, as there are some buildings numbered in the high 90's on that part of the campus.

Once the idea of assigning non-consecutive numbers was breached, the number-assigning people went to town. There is a cluster of buildings in the 40's, another in the 50's (with Building 50 being an outlier), and another in the 80's.

So at least the numbers for newer buildings are a bit less crazy. But if you're looking for an older building, you're going to have a rough time of it.

Maybe if the original building-numbering people had had the foresight to name the buildings after their GPS coordinates.

Bonus chatter: In 2009, the building-numbering people tried to rename Buildings 116 through 119 to Studios E through H, presumably because they were across the street from Studios A through D. This "Rebranding Project" was largely mocked. (And of course, just to make things confusing, the new names appear to have been assigned randomly.)

Bonus chatter 2: The original Building 100 was demolished to make way for The Commons. The soon-to-be-displaced residents of Building 100 had a "demolition party" on their last day in the building, wherein they went around spraying graffiti, smashing walls with sledgehammers, that sort of thing.

Comments (21)
  1. Dan Bugglin says:

    I would imagine it's common to tell new employees to report to building 7?

  2. ChuckOp says:

    I always enjoyed the code names for the new group of buildings.  In the 90's it was golf courses.  I recall "(St.?) Andrews", "Pebble Beach", and there were others.

    I worked in 12 different buildings between 1994 and 2009.  Some stays less than a month, with the longest around 18 months in building 17.  I usually had one or more boxes that didn't get unpacked before the next move would occur.

  3. Nawak says:

    A BASIC programmer would have been more cautious in the numbering, starting with buildings 10, 20, 30 and 40! New buildings close to older ones could have used the units… but eventually it would have fallen apart and either a GOTO-pneumatic-tube should have been built or a big RENUM would have to be run!

  4. Rick Schaut says:

    And let's not forget the first April edition of the Micronews after building 26 was built, in which it was announced that the numbers were going to be changed to the corresponding letters of the alphabet and that we were all going to be reassigned to buildings corresponding to the first letter of our last names. 'Course, the lack of a building 7 meant…

  5. I got to demolish a lab wall with a sledgehammer once, that was fun.

  6. Roland says:

    My dream comes true and Raymond links to my site, but by the time the blog post goes live, my site is broken. :( Anyway, it's fixed now so the wasteaguid joke will make sense again.

  7. Joshua Ganes says:

    That demolition party sounds like great fun — especially if it's your old office. I fondly remember adding all kinds of decorations to the insides of walls when I was working construction. This would be a whole new level.

  8. My suggestion to ditch numbers in favor of GUIDs did not, I feel, receive proper consideration.

  9. SimonRev says:

    Uggh, Nawak, I had completely forgotten about renum.  Now I am going to start having nightmares again.

  10. James Schend says:

    If you want to ramp up the confusion, there's more than one business park also. When I was at Microsoft Games, I worked in Millennium-E. There's also RedWest, which its own numbering scheme.

  11. Nick says:

    Pretty interesting.  I can understand frustration at trying to navigate an "unordered" campus with buildings named after items that have an innate ordering.

    For the curious, there's a bit more background in the first couple chapters of Mystic Microsoft (http://www.kraigbrockschmidt.com/mm) where he also talks some about building construction, numbering, and his bouncing around buildings.

  12. says:

    There are infinite numbers between any numbers. No biggie.

  13. Aakash Mehendale says:

    So *this* is why Victor Stone's "Corporate Runs" stuff had all those Building 7 references!

  14. steveg says:

    "What, stop with the sledge? Why I'm here for the Building 100 demolition party. Oh. Really? Across 506! Boy, is this embarrassing."

  15. Anonymous says:

    Wonder what the old mill processed.

  16. JustSomeGuy says:

    Just a thought, but maybe it would be a good idea to have some sort of diagrammatic representation of all the buildings in a grid with, … umm, let me think, … yes, letters down one side and numbers across the top? Then you could include some ordered list of the buildings (in an order useful to people looking for building 92 or RedWest-12, for example) which also gave the grid co-ordinates so you could navigate your way to the building.

    Yes, I think that may work. I just need to contact our patent attorney.

    Sorry, that took a while, it seems my brilliant invention has quite a bit of prior art. It appears that PEOPLE HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR QUITE SOME TIME!!!

    [end humour, such as it was].

    [And what happens when a building is built further north than any previous building? Use negative numbers? "I'll meet you at building B-3." "Hey, I'm at B3 and I can't find you." "No, not B3. B-3. That's letter B, number negative 3." And good luck finding letters less than A. -Raymond]
  17. Venkat Chandra says:

    Extrapolate this "system" to an entire city, nay, a country and you get South Korea. http://www.theworld.org/…/south-korea-revamps-complicated-street-address-system

  18. Worf says:

    I thought Studios E-H got renamed back to numbers sometime in 2009. The reason I ask is because I attended a meeting at Studio E in 2008, but in 2009 it was Studio 1xx. But knowing Studios A-D were different buildings makes me understand why the Xbox team had such nice buildings. After all, Studio E was rather drab inside, other than being a maze or a Halo level or something.

    (FYI – Entertainment and Devices used to be in those buildings. I think the Windows Phone team is there now. Microsoft Studios has moved out though… as has Windows Embedded)

  19. David Walker says:

    Why would Carrie assume that the building numbers would be in some kind of order?  Did she think they were all built and numbered at once?  That's a silly assumption for a large company that has been around a while…

  20. Yikes, a post from my ingnorant anti-Microsoft days!  I've wisened up folks.  I'd rather set a TCM on Google and all the data they've mined from their unsuspecting users.  Anyway, I now understand the numbering system is a result of Microsoft's growth. Glad to have provided you a opening to your post.

  21. Jon Wiswall [MSFT] says:

    I'm not sure the STU-E/F/G/H rename was random. Like Studios A-D, they're named counter-clockwise anchored at the northeastern building.

    Long-running meeting request series persisted the old building names, contributing to the confusion. Fun!

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