2015 Commercial Design Awards

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Judging by the comments of our CDA judges, this year’s Commercial Design Awards entries demonstrated impressive top-to-bottom quality.

While a judge on last year’s panel characterized Madison as a town that’s “on fire” when it comes to quality commercial development, this year’s judges also noted that many of the 2015 projects, which were completed in 2014, were designed soon after the economy had bottomed out.

“It was wonderful to see these projects, and personally I was impressed with what we saw, especially given the fact that all of these projects were conceived five or more years ago during the depths of the recession,” noted one judge.

As the commercial construction industry continues to emerge from that devastating downturn, we present the best projects in several categories, including “Project of the Year” and “Best Green-Built Project,” which are one and the same. In keeping with our practice of the past few years, statewide projects were considered along with those in Greater Madison.

Yet even the projects that did not win showed both design merit and sustainability chops, according to our judges. “There were several in both the renovation and the green-project nominations that were really good,” another judge said. “It shows how much people are paying attention to sustainability.”

In the following pages, we take a closer look at our judges’ thought process in selecting our 8th annual Commercial Design Awards winners.

749 University Row at University Crossing

Project of the Year and Best Green-Built Project

Providing further proof that the best-designed construction projects are also the most sustainable ones, the 65,000-square-foot 749 University Row at University Crossing was selected as the 2015 “Project of the Year” and “Best Green-Built Project.”

749 University Row is not only helping to bring vibrant life to one of Madison’s underused urban infill sites, developers also believe its features make a strong case for similar types of mixed-use development throughout Madison. In fact, they view it as a testament to the viability of sustainable “spec” office construction in the Madison market.

“Most people in Madison are very familiar with the site,” noted one judge. “It’s prominent, but it’s not on the edge of the city, and many of us were wondering what would happen with it. I don’t think any of us are disappointed with this structure.”

Once the location of warehouses and vacant buildings, the site is now more densely developed. Taking advantage of existing roads and infrastructure, the multitenant office and clinic space will also feature retail establishments for the estimated 275 people who are expected to use the building, which is the third in a master plan of seven buildings that will complete this site. Already fully leased, the project contains a coffee shop, health club, clinic, dental office, and 118 apartment homes.

Judges also cited its visual appeal, dynamic form, and pedestrian-friendly features. “I think the pedestrian treatment was one of the real advantages of this development,” remarked one judge. “The development is looking to create a neighborhood center, and with the adjacent apartment building and the mixed-use component of this architecture, it works very well.”

High Green Quotient

749 University Row’s sustainable features are what really impressed this year’s CDA judges. The developer is credited with creating a highly sustainable development that balanced the need for density with the desire of complementing the residential scale of surrounding neighborhoods.

“I thought its green qualities were really advanced,” stated one judge. “There are a lot of state-of-the-art features.”

The building’s design maximizes shared parking and minimizes surface parking, reducing the “heat island” effect and opening more space around the building. Some parking is provided under the building, but most of the parking stalls for building users are located in a three-story parking garage that’s surrounded and concealed by an adjacent apartment building. A green roof located above the parking garage provides useable outdoor space and reduces storm-water runoff.  

By taking so much parking off the street, designers created a more pedestrian-friendly development. Concealing most of the parking and having these open spaces “allows them to tie the buildings together,” stated one judge. “That approach solved a lot of other problems, such as drainage and orientation and the relationship between the inhabitants and the outdoors.”

Since the site promotes non-vehicular commuting, it should reduce associated greenhouse-gas production. It is also located within walking distance of eight Madison Metro bus lines and adjacent to a Madison city bicycle path, and it provides covered, heated bike storage for building occupants. Multiple showers and lockers are available for building users who commute to and from work on their bicycles.  

The design team also turned a design challenge into yet another sustainable opportunity. With the site located within a wellhead protection zone, and a city ordinance prohibiting surface storm water from infiltrating the ground, the project incorporates a 10,000-gallon storage tank for storm-water runoff. This provides a non-potable water source for toilet and irrigation use, and reduces the use of potable water in the building by more than 74%.

Judges praised what designers did with the water systems, and they lauded the extent to which the project recycled existing building materials. The developer’s recycling plan included the demolition of unusable buildings on the existing site. That material represented 88% of construction waste recycling and diverted more than 1,700 tons of construction waste from area landfills.

With a predominantly east-west orientation, a relatively narrow footprint, and a façade that is 38% glass, the project will allow tenants to use daylighting to their advantage.

Daylighting is augmented by high-performance windows with a light-to-solar gain ratio of 2.0, which means the windows allow in twice as much sunlight as heat. It also creates the potential for a bright, evenly lit interior so that tenants can use daylight instead of electric lighting.

An occupancy and daylight-sensor system also saves energy, and glare is controlled with the use of exterior sunshades and interior roller shades.  

The building uses one of the first VRF (variable refrigerant flow) and geothermal mechanical systems in Wisconsin. VRFs are highly efficient systems that produce an annual energy cost savings of nearly 50%. Another key mechanical element is a dedicated outdoor air system that minimizes the amount of ventilation air brought into the building.

While noting the design pushed the infill envelope in some areas, one judge said 749 University Row is “not so out of bounds” that it couldn’t be replicated on another site. “It provides a great example of what can be done,” the judge said. “They were able to solve a lot of problems and provide the developers exactly what they needed.”

The building was designed for superior sustainability from its inception, and last year it received Platinum LEED certification. Two of the five major tenants are pursuing LEED interiors at the Platinum level, and another is seeking LEED interiors at the Silver level. A LEED Platinum designation is “very impressive,” noted one judge, “and not easy to obtain.”

“The most enduring quality,” added another judge, “will be the way this building fits the development, paying attention to the human scale.”  

Project Credits

Location: 749 University Row, Madison, WI 53705
Owner/Developer: Paul Lenhart
General Contractor: Krupp General Contractors
Architects/Interior Design: Potter Lawson
Engineers: D’Onofrio Kottke, Pierce Engineers, Specialized Electric, General Heating & Air Conditioning
Consultant: Energy Center of Wisconsin
Photography: Nels Akerlund
Completion Date: June 2014



The Alliant Energy Center New Holland Pavilions

Best Large Project

The Alliant Energy Center New Holland Pavilions will provide ample space for the World Dairy Expo and the Midwest Horse Fair, arguably the area’s two most economically impactful events, for many years to come. While these events are the two biggest beneficiaries, many more events stand to benefit from replacing the site’s aging agricultural barns with modern buildings.

Built as part of a public-private partnership with the state and Dane County, the multi-use facility spans 290,000 square feet. One CDA judge characterized the pavilions as “a celebration of industry and agriculture.”

“What I really liked about this project is they infused design aesthetics in a building type that may not have ‘needed it,’” the judge commented. “I would imagine this kind of open pavilion does not often have overall aesthetics that come with it, and I believe they really did it here.”

The first pavilion, a 90,000-square-foot building, includes nearly 8,000 square feet of pre-function space and 80,000 square feet for livestock stalls, wash bays, and restrooms with showers. A second pavilion measures 200,000 square feet, allowing additional space for livestock stalls, restrooms, and the BouMatic milking parlor.

“It’s a workhorse of a building,” noted one judge. “It blends agricultural, commercial, and industrial elements into a showcase for what Wisconsin does best.”

As part of the design process, building users identified a need for greater flexibility in arranging stalls, tie-downs, and event spaces. To address this, the design team developed the pavilions based on a 60-by-120-foot column grid, providing a massive 120-foot clear span. This grid provides the necessary flexibility needed for large events like the World Dairy Expo and Midwest Horse Fair.

Safety for both the animals and exhibitors was another priority, starting with good indoor air quality. The system brings air into the building from the roof peak, away from odor and contaminant sources; meanwhile, a bank of fans located in a central plenum distributes the fresh air through an array of fabric ducts, made of a washable reinforced plastic, that provide even ventilation across the entire floor area.  

Efficiently heating such a large space posed a significant design challenge. Gas-fired infrared heaters were used to uniformly direct heat to the floor, and the ventilation system can be run with a lower airflow rate during winter events. With these features, the facility can now host a variety of gatherings year-round.

Judges felt the use of wood and basic building materials evoked an agrarian quality and served as an appropriate way to brand the buildings, but the design was hardly conventional. “The portion of the building that houses the animals was striking in the way it fits exactly the needs of the users,” noted one judge. “It turns the agrarian focus into something that almost has the same quality of a sporting event. It almost looks like you could house a boxing match or a basketball tournament in there.”

“Sometimes in Wisconsin, the more conventional solution is the one that gets built,” the judge added. “In this case, it’s a celebration of the new innovative trends in the business world surrounding Madison.” 

Project Credits

Location: 1919 Alliant Energy Center Way, Madison, WI 53713
Owner/Developer: Alliant Energy Center
General Contractor: Miron Construction Inc.
Architect/Interior Design Architect: Strang Inc.
Engineer: Strang Inc.
Consultants: SAA Design Group Inc., site and civil engineering; R.A. Smith National Inc. (formerly Arnold & O’Sheridan), structural engineering   
Photography: Joe DeMaio
Completion Date: October 2014



Mead & Hunt Offices

Best New Office Development & Best Medium Project

It would be an understatement to say it’s a challenge for an architectural and engineering consulting firm to design its flagship office. There is a lot at stake in terms of reputation, form, and function, but our CDA judges believe Mead & Hunt and KEE Architecture pulled it off with style.

“It represents everything about the company, and I think they very much succeeded,” stated one judge. “They have a building that is strikingly proportioned.”

In reality, the construction of the three-story, 69,000-square-foot office building in Middleton was about more than adding 50% more space; it was about the need for a different kind of space. Specifically, the company needed space to accommodate a higher level of workforce collaboration, which was not allowed by its previous facility on Watts Road.

In contrast, the new building design gives Mead & Hunt employees access to open space, which should get them out of their private workspaces and facilitate collaboration. The use of column spacing creates an interior core that allows greater flexibility for the layout of office furniture. As a result, the facility has small huddle spaces for two- or three-person meetings as well as large standing-height tables near workstations where people can conduct quick meetings, with enough capacity to bring together an entire team.

In addition, there are nooks throughout the building where single occupants can sit undisturbed, and multiple break areas are located throughout to enable impromptu meetings. For employees, it’s about being able to work anywhere in the building with a supportive environment. When they peer outside, they can look through broad windows that open from the upper floors with views toward Pheasant Branch Creek, a pond north of the site, and a walking and bicycling path that borders the site.

The CDA judges appreciated the collaborative spaces designed for a creative class of architects and engineers, but they also praised other design aspects. The building was constructed with exterior walls of tilt-up concrete panels, and the interior is framed with steel. Colorful walls accentuate the building core.

“I particularly like the different kind of textures in the materials involved,” stated one judge. “There’s a combination of a kind of roughness as well as a very polished type of feeling. You also have some nice pops of color. It’s used selectively but to really good effect.”

“The building is not overbearing,” the judge added. “It has a wonderful pattern of steel and glass, and it appears open and welcoming. From the inside to the outside, there’s a lot to admire about the structure.”
Inviting open stairs with a skylight overhead connect all floor levels to encourage interaction among employees. Another judge says such interior elements “make you climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator.”

Energy efficiency is achieved with a combination of thermal enclosure, appropriate mechanical systems, and by inviting in daylight while limiting unwanted solar intrusion. That shading and the overall transparency of the building impressed several judges, but they all raved about the interior.

Stated one judge: “The best part of this project is the interior because in the end, from the architecture and design perspective, you’ve got to embrace that collaboration. You’ve got to be inspired by the place you’re working in so that you can have better designs and better projects down the road.”

Project Credits

Location: 2440 Deming Way, Middleton, WI 53562
Owner/Developer: Livesey Co.
General Contractor: Newcomb Construction Corp.
Architect: KEE Architecture
Interior Design: Mead & Hunt, KEE Architecture
Engineers: Mead & Hunt (civil engineering), Siebers Group (structural engineering)
Photography: Korom Photography
Completion Date: September 2014



UWM Innovation Accelerator

Best Small Project

With the aim of attracting researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee set out to build a high-performance lab and incubator building. The result is the UWM Innovation Accelerator, which is the first building to be completed on the university’s Innovation Park campus.  

Located in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, the 24,668-square-foot facility was conceived as a space where business and industry collaborate with academic researchers to create intellectual property. The project began to take shape in 2011, when the Economic Development Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, awarded a grant to the City of Wauwatosa and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Real Estate Foundation to build the accelerator.

The accelerator is another example of a public-private partnership — this time to bridge the gap between research and industry. Its lab facilities are used by researchers and entrepreneurs who are looking to apply technology from nearby institutions like the Medical College of Wisconsin. Building tenants include campus and local startups that are engaged in research in areas like bone disease, physical therapy, and nanotechnology.  

CDA judges praised several synergistic features, including a layout that was developed to foster the aforementioned collaboration and allow the innovative process to quickly transition from designing to prototyping to testing. Within several labs, viewing rooms are used for learning and research purposes; elsewhere, shared spaces were strategically placed to increase the chance encounters that often result in problem-solving.

“I thought it was very well done for a lab project, and it definitely tapped into all the things about current thinking in lab design in terms of natural light and spaces for people to collaborate,” noted one judge.
Another judge praised the use of public art on the walls and liked the way the labs are designed. “Not too sterile and pretty interesting looking. They are done thoughtfully.”

University leaders believe the facility will be a catalyst for future sustainable growth. Because the facility is an innovation center, designers could hardly ignore what constitutes state-of-the-art sustainability. Labs and offices are positioned to minimize direct east-west exposure for even lighting and controlled solar gain, and rooftop photovoltaic solar panels produce clean electricity and offset the use of fossil fuels. Eighty-two percent of the waste generated from the construction of the building was recycled or diverted from landfills.

To meet LEED Gold criteria, the building incorporated south-facing windows and external shading for maximum PV solar gain. Another LEED feature is a green roof with an extensive tray system to capture storm water and provide habitats for local insects and birds.

Perhaps the most delicate issue designers addressed involved limiting the construction footprint on a site that also contains a sanctuary for monarch butterflies to roost along their migratory journey. With habitat preservation in mind, tentative building locations were identified, and the site plan includes more than 11 acres of undisturbed habitat.

The accommodating building footprint and its impact on users were not lost on the CDA judges. One noted that natural impacts need to be part of the design process and part of what a building is all about.

“That’s what architecture should be,” the judge stated.

Project Credits

Location: 1225 Discovery Parkway, Wauwatosa, WI 53226
Owner/Developer: Curtis Stang, UWM Foundation
General Contractor: Miron Construction
Architect/Interior Design Architect: Eppstein Uhen Architects
Engineers: Kapur & Associates (civil), Pierce Engineers (structural), and Ring & Du Chateau LLP (mechanical)
Consultant: Ring & Du Chateau LLP (electrical, plumbing, and building commissioning)
Photography: C&N Photography Inc.
Completion Date: April 2014



Milwaukee McKinley Associated Bank

Best New Retail Development

The new 2,891-square-foot Milwaukee McKinley Associated Bank not only serves more than 1,500 customers in metropolitan Milwaukee, it’s also contributing to the revitalization of a previously vacant but prominent street corner in downtown Milwaukee and improving public parkland in the process.

Known as Haymarket Square Park since the early 1900s, the site was previously a public market, but it had stood vacant for more than 30 years. The bank invested money toward the reconstruction of the park (a process that required extensive environmental remediation) in front of this branch location at McKinley Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

At just under 3,000 square feet, the building rises up as a backdrop to the newly designed Haymarket Square Park. The very concept earned it some praise from the standpoint of infill inspiration. “Activating a vacant site and contributing a public park is the definition of good urbanism,” noted one judge.

“I like the integration with the park,” said another judge. “You don’t often see that kind of thing with a bank.”

Serving as an anchor for the corner, the building represents a new direction for Associated Bank, which is developing new bank branches or renovating existing branches throughout the Midwest. The Milwaukee development’s large glass tower rises high above the entrance vestibule and creates a focal point that assists with pedestrian way-finding in an urban environment. This particular branch design incorporates illuminated green glass to create visual interest during evening hours. “The building itself is a great branding element for the bank, with the glass tower as a beacon and bright green corporate color clearly evident,” noted one judge.

On the exterior, the material palette pays respect to the industrial character of the neighborhood, but it also relies on natural tones to evoke the turn-of-the-century Haymarket community that once occupied the corner. On exterior walls, designers balanced metal panels and glass with local sandstone and wood accents.

Meanwhile, the park’s redesign incorporates various environmental features, including energy-saving LED lighting, a large bioswale to capture storm water, and photo sensors that turn lighting off during daylight hours.

CDA judges praised its sustainable lighting and storm-water features, especially in an urban context. “There is not a lot of space to do that kind of stuff,” noted one judge, “and the fact they took that into consideration is a good thing for the city.”

Project Credits

Location: 1301 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53212
Owner/Developer: Associated Bank
General Contractor: J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.
Architect/Interior Designer: Rinka Chung Architecture Inc.
Engineers: R.A. Smith National (civil and landscape); Mead & Hunt (electrical); Arnold & O’Sheridan, now part of R.A. Smith (structural, mechanical, and plumbing)
Photography: Rinka Chung Architecture
Completion Date: October 2014



Zebradog — Garden Level

Best Office Renovation

“I think it’s a celebration of creativity.” That summation from one CDA judge pretty much echoed the way most of our judges felt about the visually impactful Zebradog — Garden Level, an 1,150-square-foot adaptive redesign and reuse of a 100-year-old Madison landmark, the former Carnegie Library.

The project, which transformed the space into a design studio/office, preserved history in several ways, especially with regard to the building’s place in the fabric of the city’s Wil-Mar Neighborhood. The end result also highlights the “bones” of the original structure, including load-bearing masonry, yellow pine framing, and the building’s original “movable” partition.

In some ways, Zebradog faced the same challenge as Mead & Hunt — designing the space that would become the company’s own office and making a real statement about its organizational mission. Designers responded by producing an open office environment to optimize the building’s original windows and the daylighting they provide. To foster creativity, they created the “Dog House,” a freestanding, mini-conference space that’s clad in board printed with the firm’s design work.

“I think this is a great project,” stated one judge. “I think for creative office space, it’s energetic, it has rooms and materials for people to brainstorm, and you can’t not be creative in this kind of atmosphere.”

Another judge noted a striking material palette, but that wasn’t all. “They do a phenomenal job of creating a sense of place in every small and large aspect of the project. They don’t cover up the bones of the building. You see the roof joist and how the building was made, but as often happens when you insert new material and new building systems, overall it looks to be a rich place to work and create ideas.

“The importance of history alongside the exuberance of new ideas, that balance is particularly attractive to me.”

The same judge said the project is a great example of the best design also being the best sustainable design. “When you use recycled materials, you appropriate the rich history of the recycled material,” he noted.

Sustainability also came into play in other ways, as designers introduced reclaimed planking of the original structure to feature as a ceiling element. One judge praised the impact of the recycled material. “It’s really an engaging, uplifting space.”

Another judge called the project an innovative example of space reuse that should inspire Zebradog employees. “It’s fun, it’s creative, and it definitely embraced collaboration, and it’s one of those spaces you visit and I’m pretty sure you’re not going to forget.”

Yet another judge used terms like funky, warm, and rich. “There is a ton of character in this space.”

Project Credits

Location: 1249 Williamson St., Madison, WI 53703
Owner/Developer: ZD Studios, dba Zebradog
General Contractor: Supreme Structures
Architect: Shulfer Architects
Interior Design Architect/Consultant: Linda Baxter Page (Zebradog)
Photography: Mark Schmitz (Zebradog)
Completion Date: November 2014



Meet the Judges

Julie Taylor, Founder/Principal, Taylor & Co., Los Angeles, Calif.

Julie Taylor founded Taylor & Co. in 1994 to provide public relations and marketing services to professionals and organizations involved in architecture, design, and furnishings. Taylor currently serves as public director of the American Institute of Architects National Board of Directors and received the AIA/California Council’s Professional Achievement Award for 2012. A graduate of Northwestern University, she is the past chair of the AIA/LA Design Awards Committee.

Michael Poris, Principal, McIntosh Poris Associates, Birmingham, Mich.

Detroit native Michael Poris and his firm have worked to preserve many of the Motor City’s landmark buildings and historic districts, winning more than 90 design awards since 2000. Poris, who earned a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Michigan, serves on the board of directors of AIA Detroit, AIA Michigan, and the Michigan Architectural Foundation. He received a Masters in Architecture from the Southern California Institute of Architecture.

Victor Sidy, Managing Principal, Victor Sidy Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz.

Architect Victor Sidy received his architectural training from the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Sidy has been managing principal of his own architectural firm since 2000 and has served as head of school and dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Spring Green, Wis., since 2005. He also hosted a television series on architecture for EMG Satellite Television that aired for two years.

Jezamil Vega-Skeels, Director of Catalytic Projects, Layton Boulevard West Neighbors, Milwaukee

Jezamil Vega-Skeels has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In her leadership role with Layton Boulevard West Neighbors, she helps support neighborhood revitalization on the near south side of Milwaukee. Her work involves streetscape improvements, property renovation, and public space development. In 2013, Mayor Tom Barrett appointed her as one of the commissioners for the City of Milwaukee’s Planning Commission.

Plan Now to Enter the 2016 CDAs: IB encourages companies — architects, general contractors, and engineers — with projects due for completion in 2015 to contact Events Manager Jessica Hamm (jessica@ibmadison.com) 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.

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