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2015 Commercial Design Awards

749 University Row at University Crossing

749 University Row at University Crossing

(page 1 of 7)

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


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