2021 CDAs: Out with the old, in with the reused

Winning CDA projects took the adaptive reuse of Wisconsin buildings to a new level.

Given the many business and societal benefits of high-level commercial design, this professional discipline matters as much as any other creative-class endeavor, and that explains why IB established an annual Commercial Design Awards program.

Commercial design remains an essential industry — public order or no public order — even during a pandemic that could alter the way the industry serves business operators and employees alike. Pandemic-related changes are still being revealed, but whatever form they take, commercial design will continue to be an important way to brand your organization’s vision and culture, serve as a valuable workforce attraction and retention tool, and illustrate your commitment to sustainability.

With that in mind, a panel of four design judges [see below] was tasked with selecting a Project of the Year and several category winners from projects that were completed in calendar year 2020 and submitted for this year’s CDA program. In addition to the Project of the Year, which also happened to win in the category of Best Office Renovation, winners were chosen in the categories of Best New Office Development and Best New Development or Renovation in health care, education, mixed use, residential (multiunit), restaurant or bar, and retail. In addition, we created a new category to recognize the Best Outdoor Landscaping Project.

CDA judges praised the overall quality of this year’s designs, especially the willingness of designers to engage in the adaptive reuse of existing structures. Once again, statewide projects were considered along with those in Greater Madison.



0421 Exact Sciences Cda 05Early cancer detection is the mission of Exact Sciences Corp. Transforming an obsolete office building into an innovative showcase was the mission of a design team that was tasked with shaping the company’s 265,000-square-foot Discovery Campus.

According to our CDA judges, designers succeeded with flying colors, bringing life back to a beautiful setting that had been dormant for several years and earning our Project of the Year distinction and winner in the Best Renovation–Office category. “This is a well-thought-out transformation of an existing facility providing refreshed amenities and aesthetics and ready for supporting the company in the 21st century,” states one CDA judge. “The variety of materials, patterns, and forms combine as an eclectic kit of parts that create dynamic experiences for the company.”

The project is a redevelopment of the vacant Rayovac/Spectrum campus on a prominent spot on the Beltline, and the greenest aspect is that the rehabilitation of the existing building prevented the disposal of tens of thousands of tons of concrete and steel. Rehabbing enabled designers to expand an existing lobby to “connect with the language” of the new Amenities Facility addition, a key component of blending the old with the new. The Amenities Facility is a four-story, 109,500-square-foot space adjacent to the Customer Service Center, and they are served by a courtyard that features patios at different levels for gatherings and outdoor dining, terrace seating for an outdoor amphitheater, and connections to dedicated walking paths that meander around retention ponds and indigenous landscaping that are part of a rejuvenated prairie setting.

In developing the indoor environment, the design team also went outside, and in so doing, knit the campus together. Designers produced an exterior curtain wall that provides optimal daylighting for a better connection to natural light, and the building was completely “reskinned” with different glass types that provide a clean, modern look. Deep overhangs and vertical solar fins are used to control solar gains during the summer while allowing natural light to penetrate deep into the office area in the winter.

The existing post-tensioned, precast office building is not a flexible system, and it therefore required several innovations to overcome various design challenges. For example, anchoring the new curtain wall system to the existing post-tensioned slab required custom-designed anchors at every connection.

Another judge praised designers for an elegant, dynamic solution. The judge was particularly taken by the way a shade canopy worked to animate the outdoor space, calling it one of those elements that some view as superfluous but can be dramatic in terms of what it does to the space. “It’s a big project but they successfully created a lot of diverse kinds of spaces. It was a generic building, so they really turned it into something special.

“The people who work in these [scientific/medical] facilities want their space to feel as innovative as the work they are doing,” the judge added. “This project lives up to that. I think that’s why everyone was drawn to it, plus it’s a dramatic transformation.”

Click here for a gallery of project photos.

LOCATION: 1 Exact Lane, Madison, WI 53719
OWNER/DEVELOPER: Exact Sciences Corp.
CONSTRUCTION FIRM: J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.



0421 Bell Laboratories Hq Cda 03Founded in Madison in 1974, Bell Laboratories is a global maker of rodent-control products. While it has an office in the United Kingdom and warehouses in the Netherlands and Australia to serve customers outside the U.S., a new world headquarters in Dane County was built to to serve as a showcase for national and international clients as well as create a modern workplace for 100 local employees.

The new headquarters was created in conjunction with a 260,000-square-foot production facility, and they combined to create a local landmark and capture first place in the category of Best New Development–Office. These facilities help Bell Laboratories help others serve the cause of conservation with the development of a special rodenticide to rid sensitive ecosystems, such as the Galapagos Islands, of unwelcome invaders that threaten endangered species.

In addition, employees also are served by a conservation mindset with a boardwalk and walking paths that wind through an “oak savannah” with 100-year-old oak trees. The winding boardwalk touches lightly on the surface of the natural area to preserve wildlife and the existing water drainage patterns. There also is an outdoor terrace, workout facilities, and a hospitality-inspired work cafe that encourages mingling and collaboration.

CDA judges appreciated the way the design team embraced the natural beauty of the site as a driver for the building design. The architecture of the building is inspired by the oak trees and features a wood structure with heavy, two-story timber columns, glue-laminated wood beams, and wood decking. The beautiful wood structure is evident throughout the office space, and the perimeter glass allows for ample natural daylighting and provides picturesque views of the natural landscape, creating an uplifting and inspiring place to work.

“This dynamic building form supports the interior program and functions quite well,” notes one judge. “The design of the building allows the look and feel of the exterior to be seamlessly integrated with the interior. The soaring views of the oak savannah warm the soul. With a minimal finish palette, the structure is beautifully used for interior finishes. It’s a modernist’s log cabin, giving comfort and a high-quality environment for the employees.”

Click here for a gallery of project photos.

LOCATION: 6551 North Towne Road, Windsor, WI 53583
OWNER/DEVELOPER: Bell Laboratories
CONSTRUCTION FIRM: J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.
ENGINEERS: IMEG and Eschelon Structures



0421 Gunderson Cda 03Designers tout the adaptability and flexibility of Gundersen Health System’s new 65,000-square-foot, critical-access hospital, and that’s no minor point as health care strives to be both cost efficient and care effective.

However, our CDA judges most appreciate the way the design of Gundersen St. Joseph’s Hillsboro Clinic stayed true to a recent trend of deinstitutionalizing hospitals and clinics by making them less intimidating and more inviting. So, while each room is designed to maximize every square inch of space and every space can adapt to change, the patient experience also is served by oversized southern exposed windows that allow in ample natural daylight and permit serene views of Field Veterans Memorial Lake.

“What impressed me most about this project was the very generous use of natural daylight,” states one judge. “The building was developed in a manner that allowed light and view to penetrate many of the spaces. The access to nature and natural light has been shown to be a positive influence on health and well-being.”

As a critical-access facility, the hospital serves Hillsboro and the surrounding rural communities — providing services across the health care continuum to nearly 3,500 people — and is considered an integral part of the rural health care system. Gundersen must be prepared for multiple inpatient and emergency scenarios, so the inpatient unit and the emergency department are co-located so that the “ED” can overflow into patient rooms if needed, eliminating the need to “oversize” the department for high-volume conditions.

This might not be a glamorous aspect of the new facility, and it’s certainly not the only example of design efficiency, but it is projected to bring annual operational savings of about $500,000. It also promotes staffing efficiency, a constant concern of rural health care facilities that face chronic workforce shortages.

Technological changes are also part of the design. Even as a critical-access hospital, telemedicine will be part of its future operation, and check-in desks will be convertible to digital kiosks and can support future concierge-style tablet check-in.

Click here for a gallery of project photos.

LOCATION: 400 Water Ave., Hillsboro, WI 54634
OWNER/DEVELOPER: Gundersen St. Joseph’s Hospital and Clinics
CONSTRUCTION FIRM: C.D. Smith Construction
ARCHITECT: Hammel, Green, and Abrahamson (HGA)
PHOTOGRAPHY: John Magnoski Photography



0421 Beloit College Powerhouse Cda 05A powerhouse of a project for its adaptive reuse, Beloit College’s transformation of a 100-year-old, decommissioned, coal-fired power plant has received yet another honor — a CDA award — for the meticulous reimagining of old industrial space. The 132,000-square-foot renovation of the old plant, situated along the Rock River, expanded the facility into a student union and athletic center that can be used by school and community for a mix of academic, athletic, and meeting spaces.

The facility retains a 100-foot smokestack, several original equipment panels, and other architectural elements that speak to Beloit’s industrial heritage. Many of the windows, doors, and masonry features were restored or replicated, and newer, eco-friendly building materials were used throughout. For example, the building’s original 30-foot-tall glass block windows were replaced with replica glass windows that allow in significant amounts of natural light. Energy savings come from a geothermal system that uses radiant panels energized by river water.

The open-floor design includes multiple fitness areas and an elevated three-lane indoor track around the center’s perimeter. These features are augmented by batting cages, an eight-lane competitive pool, and a 17,000-square-foot fieldhouse. Also incorporated into the design are a cafe, offices, a health and wellness center, conference rooms, and event space. Outside amenities include a river walk, outdoor decks that provide sweeping river views, and a 180-foot pedestrian bridge that spans above a highway and connects the center to the rest of the campus.

Even before the project was completed, its design won the top prize at the World Architecture Festival in 2018, and our CDA judges were impressed with the execution of the finished product. “The spaces are open and inviting and respond to both the historic nature of the building while putting a modern foot forward,” notes one judge.

Another judge was even more effusive with praise. “We have all grown up with old and decommissioned powerhouses … so to see one so thoughtfully and fully realized as a student center is an inspiration in how to capture our shared imagination for what happened in the past and what our future can look like.”

Click here for a gallery of project photos.

LOCATION: 850 Pleasant St., Beloit, WI 53511
CONSTRUCTION FIRM: Corporate Contractors Inc.
ARCHITECT: Studio Gang
ENGINEERS: Angus Young Associates and RH Batterman & Co.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Peer Canvas (final photos)
COMPLETION DATE: Main structure, February 2020; Fieldhouse, August 2020



0421 Ellworth Block Cda 02Yet another renovation of a historic building, the Ellsworth Block Building on Madison’s Capitol Square has restored the structure to its former glory with a few modern touches.

The structure, which was built in 1871 and required a complete renovation, is home to the Wisconsin English as a Second Language School and serves business executives and students from all over the world who want to improve their language skills for academic, personal, or professional reasons. The project not only created an open, updated space for the school, it resulted in a stunning look for the Ellsworth Building that is now available for business events such as small conferences and private gatherings such as weddings. In normal times, the school serves about 400 students each year and an estimated 2,400 people will visit the space on an annual basis.

Named for the Ellsworth Brothers, who built the structure and operated a grocery store there, it’s a Madison showcase of sorts. Its existing central stairs are its most attractive feature, but thanks to this renovation, that’s not the only one. The new skydeck lounge connects the sides of the atrium under the original rooftop skylight and serves as a metaphor for the traditional and contemporary partnership that brought this project together. “The central skylight floods the space with daylight, while the new openings invite interest and movement, all creating a warm and inviting center for networking and events,” says one CDA judge.

By keeping the ideas of the past at the forefront of the design, another judge says the renovation succeeds in creatively repurposing the building. Existing decorative trim and columns were salvaged during the demolition and reused. To the extent possible, oak wainscoting was left in place and new matching oak wainscoting was used as needed, but all of the 1880s-era doors were repainted, newly exposed brick was cleaned, and existing limestone walls were left exposed.

Another judge was struck by what he called “the very artful blend of old and new. It can be difficult to blend these together well, and this project does it very successfully.”

Click here for a gallery of project photos.

LOCATION: 23 N. Pinckney St., Madison, WI 53703
OWNER/DEVELOPER: Osario Investments
CONSTRUCTION FIRM: Friede & Associates
ARCHITECT: GMK Architecture Inc.
ENGINEER: Pierce Engineers Inc.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Tricia Shay, Shay Photography
COMPLETION DATE: March 1, 2020



0421 Thegrove Cda 05The Grove not only serves the purpose of affordable housing, it features a purposeful architectural design as well. A two-building complex, it provides affordable rental housing in a mixed-use development that repurposes a former strip-mall property.

Ninety-five of the 112 apartments are affordable units with restricted rents for individuals who earn less than 60% of the county median income. Of those, 23 are for residents earning less than 30% of the county median income and are specifically targeted for populations of homeless or nearly homeless people, prison reentry housing, veterans, and people with special needs.

Yet CDA judges were struck by its contemporary architectural look and feel. The project was designed to encourage an increased sense of community by developing affordable housing that feels like market-rate housing. A fourth-floor community room and roof terrace provide views of Lake Monona, and once the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, it will host residents and guests for events and social activities.

Apartments and common spaces feature expansive windows and patio doors for generous amounts of natural light, and each unit has a large balcony or patio. There is a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom units, and each three-bedroom unit has a private front door, giving residents a sense of home and proprietorship. Apartment kitchens feature modern cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, and granite countertops and dining counters.

In keeping with a modern trend of multiunit housing, there is 3,000 square feet of commercial space for entrepreneurs, employees, and business patrons. They will occupy the commercial tenant spaces fronting Cottage Grove Road.

In the view of one judge, The Grove’s clean lines “harken back to the early modernist buildings and also some from the Bauhaus school,” a reference to the German design school whose teachings shaped modernism around the world. “So many of these types of buildings lean more generic in design, but this one adds a layer of design that takes it to another level.”

“This is a good development for buffering a commercial street with residential areas,” adds another judge. “The density of the site support future urban planning and walkability.”

Click here for a gallery of project photos.

LOCATION: 205 Cottage Grove Road, Madison, WI 53716
ARCHITECT: Dimension IV Madison Design Group
ENGINEER: OTIE, an Oneida Nation Company



0421 Garver Cda 02More than one year since the opening of Garver Feed Mill, remnants of the renovated building are still winning awards. Case in point: Garver Lounge.

Architecturally, the goal was to create an attractive structural feature within the wide-open space to better define Garver Feed Mill’s interior. The lounge area, which is situated in Garver’s event space, helps revitalize the building’s interior for the community at large, and when the pandemic fades, the lounge will continue to make the overall structure a destination for community events.

The dual bar, separated by integrated storage walls, is capable of simultaneously serving the public as well as private functions. The bar was fabricated offsite and assembled in a modular fashion, limiting the time required for on-site construction, and its storage walls and die-walls (flexible walls that allow other heavy fixtures to be built into them) can rapidly be disassembled and reused, which increases longevity and sustainability.

CDA judges last year and this year view the Garver Feed Mill project as another prime example of adaptive reuse, and they believe the lounge contributes to its volume and materiality. “The new elements respond to existing raw structure but are highly refined to enhance the space,” states one judge.

Another judge thought it was very challenging to attempt to define a space within such a building. “They do it with very few elements, so they are getting a lot out of a little, which is really smart and beautifully done,” he states. “It does echo a lot of the elements of the historic building, but it took those in a new way.”

As much as judges appreciated what the lounge adds to Garver, they could not resist commenting on the renovation of the entire building. “With creative use of shed skylights, open railings, and perimeter walkways,” notes one judge, “it is a joyous and open space that supports the surrounding communities through events, exhibitions, and restaurateurs.”

Click here for a gallery of project photos.

LOCATION: 3241 Garver Green, Madison, WI 53704
ARCHITECT: Kubala Washatko Architects
PHOTOGRAPHY: Wayne Reckard



0421 Summit Credit Union Cda 03Summit Credit Union’s newest branch is another example of the rethinking Summit has embraced when shedding the stuffy image of financial institutions and replacing it with open, transparent architecture.

Summit’s goal for its Mount Horeb branch was a contemporary design with dynamic trapezoidal shapes and single sloped roof forms with sloping eaves, but Mount Horeb’s design covenants required a traditional gable roof form. The ultimate design was a compromise that captured both with a covenant-compliant gable roof and a creative twist — the gable roof is a trapezoid, creating a dynamic sloping eave. In addition, the trapezoidal forms of the glazed curtainwall, brick “fin,” and roof overhangs seem to reach out to the community.

Elsewhere, a material palette of shimmering iron-spot brick and silver metallic metal is juxtaposed with splashes of bright color and dynamic displays to add energy to the building’s transparent feel. Instead of a traditional teller line, open and inviting teller pods facilitate friendly interactions between staff and members, and meeting spaces with glass doors, floor-to-ceiling glazing and windows, and colorful furniture make an inviting atmosphere.

CDA judges praised the interplay of dynamic forms. “There is a nice, refined small palette and an amazing attention to detail working together,” states one judge. “Even the ductwork is attractive and celebrated in certain locations.”

“While the word whimsical isn’t often used in architecture, the Summit Credit Union in Mount Horeb is playfully appealing,” states another judge. “The mix of colors and dynamic spaces on the interior and large-scale photos combined with the multifaceted roof help anchor the building in the community. The large windows and structural system act as a welcoming beacon to this community asset.”

“This building does a lot of things better than most in its class,” notes a third judge. “The extra volume of space and extended glazing creates a light and inviting space.”

Click here for a gallery of project photos.

LOCATION: 1900 Commerce Drive, Mount Horeb, WI 53572
OWNER/DEVELOPER: Summit Credit Union
CONSTRUCTION FIRM: J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.
ENGINEER: Strang Inc.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Kate Feldt, Peter Tan



0421 Crane Foundation Cda 05The International Crane Foundation is billed as the only place on Earth where you can see all 15 of the world’s crane species. Started in 1970 by two college students who envisioned an organization dedicated to cranes that would combine research, captive breeding, and reintroduction, it seeks to conserve all 15 species and the ecosystems they depend on.

Unfortunately, 11 of those 15 species now face extinction, so the ICF has staked its future on growth and innovation, and that’s where its vision for a new visitor center comes in. Planning for the new and improved center, situated in ICF’s 300-acre global headquarters in Baraboo, began in 2017. The Baraboo site is home to a captive flock of about 100 cranes, including the only complete collection of all 15 species, and the new 5,000-square-foot center will allow visitors to connect with the foundation’s mission on multiple levels.

The result of this project is four new crane holding buildings with state-of-the-art management facilities, plus a combination of interpretive elements (including stories about the conservation work in Africa, Southeast Asia, and other places), an indoor viewing area for the Sandhill Crane exhibit, and other new or enlarged live crane exhibits. Cranes depend on healthy wetlands and grasslands, and every exhibit features a pond surrounded by native plants that more closely resemble the natural habitat of each crane species. Murals in several of the exhibits tell the stories of the landscapes, people, and communities where cranes live.

Other new features are a gallery display, a theater and related support spaces, an expanded gift shop, and new pathways for the 25,000 people who annually visit the site.

CDA judges came away with great appreciation of the way the facility integrates with the surrounding landscape. “The paths and destinations along the way create pleasant vistas,” notes one judge. “The pavilions and structures are very thoughtful and respectful of the landscape.”

Through its very design, another judge remarked that the landscape promotes the important conservation work being done on behalf of cranes. “The use of native plants to mimic the natural habitats of the many different cranes, along with murals and interpretive exhibits, engages visitors on multiple levels so they too feel the pull of this important conservation work.”

Click here for a gallery of project photos.

LOCATION: E11376 Shade Lane Road, Baraboo, WI 53913
OWNER/DEVELOPER: International Crane Foundation
CONSTRUCTION FIRM: Vogel Bros. Building Co.
ENGINEER: MSA Professional Services Inc.


Meet the Judges

Marcmanack 0055 CcMarc Manack, AIA, NCARB, principal, Silo AR+D, Charlotte, N.C.

Marc Manack is the founding principal of SILO AR+D, an architecture, research, and design practice whose work has been awarded nationally and internationally and has been recognized as a “Next Progressive” by Architect magazine. Manack is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina–Charlotte School of Architecture and taught previously in the University of Arkansas’ Fay Jones School of Architecture and Ohio State’s Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture.

Russellmanthy CmykRussell Manthy, principal, IA Architects, New York City

Russell Manthy’s 32 years of project experience span a significant range of project types and industries, including technology, manufacturing, educational, and not-for-profit organizations. A native of Chicago, Manthy has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and he has worked with many well-established clients on large-scale projects, including Bank of America, Facebook, the American Medical Association, and Salesforce.

Barbara Felix Lafonda CmykBarbara J. Felix, AIA, founding principal, Barbara Felix Architecture + Design

Barbara Felix, an award-winning architect, founded Barbara Felix Architecture + Design in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1998. Recognized for its Native American, hospitality, and historic preservation projects, the firm combines her passions for Southwest culture, love of history, and common-sense sustainability. She is past president of AIA Santa Fe and AIA New Mexico. She obtained both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Architecture degrees from the University of Michigan.

Ia John Hopkins CmykJohn Hopkins, design director, IA Interior Architects, Chicago

John Hopkins, AIA, LEED AP, is an award-winning design director and has over 30 years of experience in providing interior architectural services for several Fortune 500 companies, including Bank of America, IBM, and Whirlpool. He earned a Master of Architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Michigan. He has worked on multiple LEED certified projects, including Whirlpool’s North American headquarters.

The 2021 Commercial Design Awards are presented by:

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Plan now to enter the 2022 CDAs

The annual Commercial Design Awards celebrate the best commercial building projects and designs of Greater Madison architects, engineers, and builders. Work on the April 2022 CDA presentation, for projects completed in 2021, is underway.

Next year’s program will mark the CDAs’ 15th year, and once again we will recognize a Project of the Year and a first-place winner in several categories. IB is adding two new categories next year to recognize projects for manufacturing and public spaces, and all the categories will be listed online by the end of April. Worthy projects can be submitted for more than one category.

As part of the nomination process, we will ask for a summary of the project’s notable features and community impact, and we will request photographs of both the interior and exterior for consideration by our panel of judges. For renovation entries, 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 reception and will be featured in the April 2022 edition of In Business magazine. IB encourages companies — architects, general contractors, and engineers — with projects due for completion in 2021 to contact Events Manager Jessica Hamm (jessica@ibmadison.com) to keep their projects on our radar screen. IB will provide entry forms, nomination materials, and other information as they are available.

Coming next month: Special C&D report

Watch for the May 2021 edition of In Business magazine, which will feature a special report on the state of commercial construction and development in Greater Madison. Panelists from C.D. Smith Construction Co., Ideal Builders, and the Boardman Clark law firm will offer their insight on a range of topics, including the role the “C&D” industry will play in helping the business community transition out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ll explore topics such as the lessons learned from the pandemic, the path forward in terms of facility modernization and the growth opportunities that still exist — even if remote working remains a strong trend — and whether downtown Madison can bounce back quickly after the double shock of pandemic restrictions and social unrest caused many popular restaurants and even some retailers to close, either temporarily or for good.

Given the state of the economy and all the cost and budgetary pressures facing this industry, what will be the impact on the office of the future? Our panelists will do their best to make sense of what has transpired in the past year for the benefit of any business operator who is wondering when and how to bring employees back to the office setting in 2021.

Be sure to check the May edition of In Business magazine for a lively discussion and for answers to these questions.

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