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2015 Commercial Design Awards

(page 4 of 7)

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


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