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The 2013 IB Commercial Design Awards

The commercial construction industry continues its gradual climb back to pre-recession activity, and the number of projects in this, the sixth annual Commercial Design Awards, reflected that measured comeback. 

The value of nonresidential construction put in place in February of this year (the month for which the most recent data were available as of this writing) had climbed to $309.6 million, roughly halfway between the pre-recession peak of $414 million in January 2008 and the low point of $226.8 million in January 2011. 

Despite the continued recessionary drag, our panel of judges – Bob Greenstreet and Geoff Hurtado of UW-Milwaukee and Mark Fenton of Leopardo Companies in Chicago – remained impressed with the quality of the submissions, the skillful design of the architects, and their attention to detail. 

“We haven’t lost the commitment of the clients, the skill of the designers, or the craft of the contractors,” noted one judge.

Their winning choices for Project of the Year and other categories are a tribute to the state of architecture and commercial development in Madison and Wisconsin. With that, IB presents the 2013 Commercial Design Awards.

– Joe Vanden Plas

The Stream

Project of the Year, Best Medium Project, and Best Green-Built Project

It might sound trite to call The Stream a state-of-the-art arts facility, but the new crown jewel of the Edgewood College campus fits the bill. CDA judges admired its elegant form, the way it takes advantage of the campus site, and the way it blurs the distinction between indoor and outdoor surroundings.

How much did CDA judges love The Stream? The new home of Edgewood’s Visual and Theatre Arts department was not only selected as Project of the Year, it was also voted the Best Medium Project and Best Green-Built Project.

The 44,000-sq.-ft. structure will provide a place for community artists to grow. Among its unique features is a two-story, sunlit atrium, which provides a common gathering place for relationship building and unobstructed views of the nearby woods. Its spacious, industrial interior mimics that of a theater loft with a mix of concrete floors, large windows, exposed pipes, bare ceilings, and suspended light fixtures.

The Stream was originally conceived to house only the fine arts department, but the building program changed with the addition of the 7,000-sq.-ft. Black Box Theatre, which brought the fine arts and theater programs together under one roof. The acoustically isolated, energy-efficient theater includes a full catwalk system and functions as both a teaching theater and a venue for public performances. The building is also home to the new Edgewood College Gallery, with its 1,000-piece permanent collection of works by local and international artists. 

“Overall, when you factor in the green features, the new technology, and the aesthetics, which were phenomenal, and what it’s being built for, it hits the mark in all phases,” remarked one judge. “I like the use of glass to bring in nature, the trees. It is a theater arts building, and I think they incorporated the arts into the design.”

Since the site is located in an environmental corridor along the shore of Lake Wingra, and several surrounding Indian effigy mounds and a 100-year-old oak tree affected its layout, designers faced several interesting challenges. To preserve the oak tree, a small outdoor amphitheater was designed to circle the tree and create a point of interest. The building, which is on track to receive LEED Gold certification, actually splits into a “Y” shape that straddles the oak, leaving enough room for root preservation. 

Designers went with a geothermal system complete with 42 geothermal wells to reduce heating and cooling loads and to remove the noisiest components of a traditional mechanical system, which improves the acoustics of the theater space. Storm water from the roof and parking areas is collected in bio-filtration areas that filter the runoff before returning it to the landscape. Repurposed wood chips along the walking paths are from trees taken during construction.

To optimize natural daylight, the theater’s high-performance lighting is coordinated with daylight sensor controls in the public spaces, corridors, and classrooms. Use of low-flow fixtures should result in a 31% reduction in annual water usage, and annual energy costs are forecast to be 48% less than those incurred by a building built to code minimum standards.

“It’s a well-crafted, well-conceived project,” noted one judge. “It’s a nice integration of architecture and the natural environment.”

Project Credits

Location: 1000 Edgewood Drive, Madison, WI 53711
Owner/Developer: Edgewood College
General Contractor: J.H. Findorff & Son, Inc.
Architect: Potter Lawson, Inc.
Interior Design Architect: Potter Lawson, Inc.
Engineer: Arnold and O’Sheridan, Inc.
Consultants: Engineering 370, JDR Engineering, Ken Saiki Design, Bill Conner Associates LLC, Stan Roller & Associates
Photography: C&N Photography
Completion Date: August 2012



Summit Credit Union: Inspiration Branch

Best Retail Renovation and Best Small Project

“This has fun written all over it.” That statement pretty much sums up our judges’ consensus view of Summit Credit Union’s Inspiration Branch, which was designed with the purpose of helping credit union members visualize their dreams. Whether it’s the dream of a new home, vacation, or financing a college education, this first-of-a-kind branch, complete with dreamy 3-D visualizations, has both inspirational and motivational elements.

The design also serves to remind the 14 staff members and approximately 100 credit union members who enter the branch each day of the dreams they once had – dreams that perhaps fell by the wayside as life unfolded. Showcasing 3-D features like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the airline fuselage in the middle of the lobby, and the cutaway section of a dream house reminds customers of different visions.

The inspiration façades were designed to be removable, like a stage set, without affecting the structure of the branch. While the use of economical, theater-set materials gives the branch a theatrical look, there is nothing make-believe about home ownership or a college education or a memorable vacation or any other dream it means to inspire. 

Summit Credit Union’s visual reminders of life’s goals struck one judge “as a heck of a gamble that was won” but that could have easily gone the other way. “It’s architecture that makes you smile,” noted another judge, “and architecture should cheer you up.”

“I love the way light is brought into the building interiors,” added another judge. “A fun place to be.”

Project Credits

Location: 2939 S. Fish Hatchery Road, Fitchburg, WI 53711
Owner/Developer: Summit Credit Union
General Contractor: J.H. Findorff & Son, Inc.
Architect: Strang, Inc.
Interior Design Architect: Strang, Inc.
Engineer: Strang, Inc.
Photography: Strang, Inc.
Completion Date: December 2012



The Moderne

Best Large Project

World class, sophisticated, and stunning. All are terms that have been applied to the Moderne, a 400,000-sq.-ft. high-rise that is considered the signature development in Milwaukee’s Park East Corridor.

The building does not derive its name from its modernity but from the fact that its design is a reinterpretation of the 1930s Art Moderne movement. One CDA judge admires its strong visual image, which lends an elegance to Milwaukee’s downtown. 

“Nice shot in the arm for the west side of downtown,” he stated.

Not only is the 30-story structure home to 325 residents, its proximity to the Bradley Center and local dining establishments make it a welcome social hub in an underdeveloped area. Contained within its streamlined façade are 14 luxury condominiums with private terraces, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, fireplaces, modular sliding walls, and European-style cabinetry. 

The remainder of the building consists of 203 contemporary apartment units with views of Milwaukee’s skyline, plus a state-of-the-art clubroom, a fitness center, and ground-floor retail spaces. 

“It’s a very crisp, elegant, modern addition to the Milwaukee skyline,” noted another judge. “The design quality of both the external skin and the interior layouts is very high. The most remarkable thing about it is the fact that it was built during the past three years. There is nothing like this in Milwaukee that has been built of this scale, simply because the economics haven’t been there. It’s a real exercise of not just skillful design but real determination and ability to get this done.”

Already a symbol of progress during tough economic times, The Moderne could become a catalyst for much-needed development in the Park East Corridor. The developer’s goal of building 30 floors in 300 days required more than 60 million pounds of concrete, but the result is the tallest building west of the Milwaukee River.

Project Credits

Location: 4811 W. Washington Blvd., Milwaukee, WI 53208
Owner/Developer: Rick Barrett
General Contractor: J.H. Findorff & Son, Inc.
Architect: Rinka Chung Architecture, Inc.
Interior Design Architect: Rinka Chung Architecture, Inc.
Engineer: GRAEF
Photography: Mark F. Heffron Photography
Completion Date: September 2012



Schwarz Insurance

Best New Office Development

Schwarz Insurance had outgrown its former Prairie du Sac building, and its new 18,000-sq.-ft. headquarters not only serves as a training center, it also connects employees with natural surroundings.

The facility is located on the west bank of the Wisconsin River. Employees can step outside onto the observation deck and watch eagles in their natural habitat, or simply enjoy views of the natural landscape from the east façade. The edge of the site features an exercise path with unique views of the river and nearby wildlife; the path connects to a larger development path and a local exercise trail.

The building also uses natural, regional materials such as Fond du Lac stone, which resembles the banks of the river below. The same stone was carried into the main lobby, connecting exterior with interior and acting as a symbolic hearth for the reception and waiting area. Warm, natural cedar siding complements the hue of the stone and the surrounding prairie grass.

“I like the warm colors and openness of the interior,” stated one judge. “Designed with people in mind. Nice environment to work in.”

At the top of the lobby’s sculptural staircase, occupants and visitors can stand next to a tall glass curtain wall and look down toward the river and the bluffs beyond. A similar view exists for the members in the boardroom, which is brightened with natural daylight, as are many areas of the building. The extensive natural daylight is accommodated with tall exterior windows on all sides, and interior glass and transom windows allow the light to filter deep into the workspace.

Judges liked the way designers incorporated glass and materials to take advantage of the location. “Kind of a sculptural form within the landscape, with some very high-quality materials on decks and on siding,” remarked one judge. “Nice use of natural materials, stone, wood, and also a nice blend of traditional materials and modern material. There is metal roofing in there that works very naturally with the rest of the forms.”

Project Credits

Location: 1420 N. Ridge Drive, Prairie du Sac, WI 53578
Owner/Developer: Schwarz Insurance
General Contractor: Design Structures, LLC
Architect: Potter Lawson, Inc.
Interior Design Architect: Potter Lawson, Inc.
Civil/Structural Engineer: JSD Professional Services, Inc.
Consultants: The Bruce Co., Grothman & Associates
Photography: C&N Photography
Completion Date: June 2012



Erik's Bikes and Boards

Best New Retail Development

A shop owner requires a strong inventory to meet the needs of fitness-conscious Madisonians, especially when he’s engaged in the retail sale and maintenance of bicycles, snowboards, and related equipment and apparel. So Erik’s Bikes and Boards built a 10,400-sq.-ft. warehouse to accommodate thousands of enthusiastic, health-minded people from Madison and surrounding areas.

Our CDA judges liked it enough to name it Best New Retail Development, praising it for using nice little sculptural and lighting touches and going beyond what could have been a pretty basic warehouse. “Basically, it’s just a big warehouse for bikes,” noted one judge, “but you’ve got a fairly simple, rational interior, and it’s a simple, well-articulated building. Tough materials, tough rational materials, not unlike a bike. There is a lot of steel, there is some concrete. It’s kind of a utilitarian building, but it has a certain kind of honest elegance.”

The design features include a red, curved entrance roof and a structural steel sign band that attracts attention along Seybold Road. The clerestory windows, along with intermittent windows along the east and west elevations and the north-facing curtain wall glass, serve to wash the interior with daylight and create the illusion that customers are shopping outdoors.

“Love the open sales and display spaces,” said one judge. “The ‘industrial’ image of the building seems very appropriate for a bike shop.”

The facility’s location next to a bike path encourages the use of alternate transportation, and it’s accessible to three bus stops. Also creating a win-win for the environment are its use of recycled steel content, collection of rain runoff, and its attention to energy efficiency. Ventilation is provided at the LEED-certified levels, featuring upgrades that will reduce energy by an estimated 30% per year. 

Project Credits

Location: 6610 Seybold Road, Madison, WI 53719
Owner/Developer: Erik Saltvold
General Contractor: The Renschler Co.
Architect: Zingg Design, Inc.
Interior Design Architect: Erik’s Bike Shop, Inc.
Engineer: CGC
Consultant: The Carey Group
Photography: Del Brown Photography
Completion Date: May 2012



UW-Whitewater Laurentide Hall

Best Office Renovation

The wow factor of UW-Whitewater’s facelift of Laurentide Hall convinced our CDA judges that it was the best office renovation. The formerly bland and bunker-like building was constructed in 1972 and had not been upgraded until now, but our judges felt those who designed its renovation more than made up for lost time.

“Doesn’t look like the same building,” marveled one judge. “Great transformation with pleasant spaces inside.”

The 82,717-sq.-ft. makeover not only transformed the name of the former Carlson Hall, but its purpose as well. Throughout its 37-year life, it was primarily used as the College of Business and Economics, but rapid enrollment and other dramatic changes in that department prompted the university to build a new facility, leaving Carlson vacant.

The building is now the home of UW-Whitewater’s College of Letters and Science, and that vacant look has been replaced with an illuminating 21st century environment. Designers introduced metal panels and expanses of glass and glazing, which included light wells and skylights, to create a modern building with strong visual interest. The designer incorporated cantilevered additions on the upper floors, which helped gain required space while significantly increasing efficiency. 

The dramatic transformation not only modernized every aspect of the building, it also gave the university a chance to leverage new technology, use unique materials, and use an active chilled beam system to cool the building efficiently. Multiple office and storefront windows were added to increase efficiencies, and a new skylight added natural light that will cascade down two stories onto newly renovated areas.

“This had a wow factor,” another judge said. “When you look at what you had, and what you went to, it’s an unbelievable use of an existing building to produce a total, dramatic change. I assume it would be a protocol for future campus renovations.”

Project Credits

Location: 800 W. Main St., Whitewater, WI 53190
Owner/Developer: Wisconsin Division of Facility Development
General Contractor: J.P. Cullen & Sons, Inc.
Architect: Strang, Inc.
Interior Design Architect: Strang, Inc.
Engineers: Strang, Inc., SRI Design, JSD Professional Services, Inc., Midnight CAD, Inc.
Photography: J.P. Cullen & Sons, Inc.
Completion Date: November 2012



Meet the Judges

Mark Fenton, Vice President, Leopardo Interiors Group, Chicago

Mark Fenton joined Leopardo in 1997 and is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the company’s Interiors Group. As vice president, Fenton plays a critical role in every aspect of tenant interior projects, including contract negotiations, preconstruction, estimating, project management, client service, subcontractor relations, quality control, and staff training. With over 20 years of experience in construction, Fenton has managed several million square feet of interior construction for law firms, financial services companies, creative agencies, trading facilities, technology firms, consultancies, and nonprofits. He earned a bachelor’s degree in construction administration from UW-Madison.

Bob Greenstreet, Dean/Chair of City Development, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Dr. Greenstreet, a recognized architect in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a practicing arbitrator and mediator in the U.S. and Europe. A former planning director for the city of Milwaukee, he has served on numerous architectural selection committees, including one for the Milwaukee Art Museum. He is the author or co-author of seven books and 150 articles, a past winner of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Distinguished Professor Award, and this year was awarded the Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education by the American Institute of Architecture and ACSA. He has served as president of the ACSA board, interim chancellor and deputy chancellor for Campus & Urban Design, and is on the Wisconsin Architectural Foundation and Wisconsin Architectural Archives boards.

Geoff Hurtado, Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

A Madison East High School graduate, Geoff Hurtado holds a Bachelor of Science degree in architecture, a master’s degree in urban planning, and an MBA – all from UWM. He recently joined UWM as its associate vice chancellor for facilities, planning, and management and is responsible for all the university’s major capital projects and facility maintenance. Prior to that, he was a senior vice president at Irgens Development Partners, where he served as an owners’ representative. Among the projects he’s been associated with are Midwest Airlines Center, Milwaukee; Metropolitan Place Condominiums, Madison; and the Forest County Potawatomi Casino expansions in Crandon and Milwaukee.

Plan Now to Enter the 2014 CDAs

The annual Commercial Design Awards celebrate the best commercial building projects and designs that Greater Madison architects, engineers, and builders have to offer.

On a consistent basis, our CDA judges are impressed with the new and renovated commercial structures being developed here, and they believe Dane County’s better projects rank with the best in any part of the country.

The May 2014 CDA presentation, for projects completed in 2013, is already in the works. As we learned this year, more projects are being developed in a gradually improving economic climate for commercial construction, and IB expects to have plenty of new projects to choose from.

Next year’s program will mark the CDAs’ seventh year, and once again we will recognize a Project of the Year and a first-place winner in several categories: Best New Development–Office and Retail; Best Small, Medium, and Large Projects; Best Renovation–Office and Retail; Best Green-Built Project; and Project of the Year. Worthy projects can be submitted for more than one category, if applicable. 

As part of the nomination process, IB will ask for blueprints, floor plans or renderings, and photographs of both the interior and exterior for consideration by our three-person panel of judges.

For entries in the potential “Best Renovation” categories, we ask that photographs be taken at the beginning and at the conclusion of the construction project. This helps our distinguished panel of CDA judges assess the quality of refurbished buildings.

Winners in each award category will be unveiled at an awards dinner in May 2014 (date and location to be determined) and will be featured in the May 2014 edition of In Business magazine. The Project of the Year will adorn the cover of that magazine.

Our CDA judges are professionally based outside Madison.

IB encourages companies – architects, general contractors, and engineers – with projects due for completion in 2013 to contact Events Manager Jessica Hamm ( to keep their soon-to-be completed projects on our radar screen. 

IB will provide entry forms, nomination materials, and other information to these firms as soon as they are available.

Sign up for the free IB Update – your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. Click hereIf you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.

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