Building a Sustainable Madison

Commercial development and construction trends mix the architectural and the sustainable in five local projects.
A rendering of Lakeshore Residence Hall, as viewed toward Lake Mendota, shows the south-facing greenhouse that will be used by the GreenHouse Residential Learning Community.

2012 might be remembered as the year the Madison business community began witnessing a stronger pace of construction and development activity. After a wicked housing and finance-led recession that set the industry back, the signs of recovery are unmistakable. The economy continues to amble along above sea level, interest rates will remain low for the foreseeable future, and a fairer approval process for commercial construction in the city has welcomed developers back and helped spur new construction activity. 

The industry is experiencing healthier job creation nationally, thanks in part to a housing market that was showing signs of resurgence even before Hurricane Sandy. Of the 155,000 non-farm payroll jobs created in December 2012, according to preliminary data, construction added 30,000, led by increases in the number of people employed in building construction (+13,000) and residential specialty trade contracting (+12,000).

Month-to-month, Wisconsin gained 4,900 construction jobs from November to December, bringing the total to more than 89,500 (preliminary data) and raising hopes that things have stabilized following job losses during the previous year. 

In this nod to the men and women who design and build our work environments, IB looks at interesting features, architectural and sustainable, of five area commercial, mixed-use, or planned-unit developments under construction or due to open soon: the Wisconsin Energy Institute at UW-Madison, the new Middleton corporate headquarters of Spectrum Brands, University Crossing on Madison’s west side, Promega Corp.’s new manufacturing facility in Fitchburg, and the Lakeshore Residence Hall in Madison’s Lakeshore District.

This is by no means a complete listing of the many commercial or mixed-use developments that are under construction. In the coming months, IB will also chronicle progress on existing projects like the 100 State Street redevelopment associated with the Overture Center, the Edgewater Hotel renovation, the new Hy-Vee store at Westgate Mall, and more.

Wisconsin Energy Institute – Renewable Energy Nerve Center

A coming together of physical, computational, and biological sciences, all for the purpose of advancing renewable energy and energy systems, could make the Wisconsin Energy Institute (WEI) the energy equivalent of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (WID). 

Since it is part of a new campus research corridor that already includes the WID and other facilities, mission comparisons are inevitable. “This is a parallel situation,” said Tim Donohue, director of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, one of the major occupants of the WEI. “That [WID] facility is focused on biomedical research, whereas we are focused on renewable energy systems, but we’ll also be very interdisciplinary. 

“On moving day, there’ll be faculty and students and staff in here, and faculty from eight different departments across two colleges. It’s bringing together people from a wide swath of campus.”

UW-Madison receives $100 million annually for energy research, and its ability to conduct interdisciplinary energy research has grown due to programs like the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, and the Center for Renewable Energy Systems. All will be represented in the WEI.

Their collaboration will be encouraged by the building’s vertical and horizontal openness, which is accentuated with a centrally positioned light well and perimeter glass facing, and open workspaces for graduate students outside the labs. Those spaces will provide an environment where people who are doing wet lab work can rub elbows with people who are doing computational work, so they won’t have to find another place to sit down, talk science, sketch out ideas, and plan experiments and collaborations.

Since no energy institute could be lacking in sustainable features, and since lab buildings tend to be energy hogs, the day lighting serves the dual purpose of collaboration and energy efficiency. “There was an energy model created early on, and we looked at where glass was on the building and the types of glass that were on the building,” noted Eric Lawson, president and CEO of Potter Lawson. “There were 16 different glazing strategies that we modeled on the building.”

The building is projected to use 52% less energy than a code-minimum building, with features like rooftop photovoltaic panels, a heat-recovery unit that captures waste heat so it can be used for other purposes, and chilled beams that cool the building by moving liquid rather than air. “You can use thermal energy more efficiently through a pipe than you can through a big duct, and it allows you to move a lot less conditioned air through the space,” noted Peter Heaslett, an architect and engineering supervisor in facilities and planning management for UW-Madison.

The WEI is a 107,000-sq.-ft., five-story structure located on a signature campus site shaped by the convergence of University Avenue and Campus Drive. It really is two buildings that come together, with one side containing separate lab space with its own steel frame, concrete floors, and HVAC system. 

Zone occupancy sensors in front of the lab hoods allowed designers to condition the exhaust air based on the presence of someone in front of the hood, scaling it back when nobody is there. Since the second-floor lab alone has 18 hoods, and since the single biggest cause of energy use in the building is the amount of outside air that is required to run through the laboratory, having an HVAC system operating as though the hoods were used 24/7 would be a huge waste of energy.

In addition, the university’s first high-bay lab space (think very tall ceiling) will enable scientists to scale up work on energy capture, storage, and distribution, and enable the university to expand the kinds of research it can conduct on campus.

“We wanted the architectural features and the operation of the building to reflect the renewable energy research that is being done in the building,” Donohue said. “We looked for smart architectural and energy-saving features that were cost-effective, and that allowed us to function and maximize the performance of the building once it was occupied.”

The number of researchers and interactions at the WEI will grow after completion of Phase II, which would add another 100,000 sq. ft. to the west. The second phase would allow the institute to expand its work in a range of new areas, particularly energy storage. The next phase will require private fundraising and the demolition of an existing building.

 

Spectrum Brands Headquarters – Function Junction

In the view of most executives, functionality trumps all the other features of a corporate headquarters. The new Spectrum Brands building, now under construction on Deming Way in Middleton’s Discovery Springs development, actually will be a world headquarters, and the efficiency companies strive for in their office space was a critical factor in design work done by the Madison-based Livesey Co.

“Space is changing, and the interworking of people in the building is critical,” said John K. Livesey, owner of the Livesey Co. “As a developer, I have to understand how quickly it’s changing. This facility is going to offer Spectrum some wonderful efficiencies that would have been harder to obtain in the older facility.”

When the new headquarters is completed this fall, Spectrum management will be able to avoid the reactionary “just park them over there” approach to office layout. This isn’t going to be an administrative building where people sit and push paper, but a place where collaboration is fostered and ideas for brands like Rayovac batteries and Remington products are generated and put into practice. 

“That’s what’s cool about the building,” said John Beattie, vice president and treasurer for Spectrum Brands. “It’s not just marketing and HR. Real things are being made and created here. The interface between marketing, packaging, and the creation of these things is really important.”

Inside the four-story, 220,000-sq.-ft. building, which has 10% less square footage than the existing facility, Spectrum Brands is determined to use space more efficiently. Whereas the current footprint holds an administration building and an adjacent technology center, the new building contains both functions – the administration in the south wing and the technical function in the north wing are separated by a central commons area.

The ability to place people together as departments and functions is not a “green” issue, but it will promote better communication and interaction. While this advantage is difficult to quantify, it’s also easier for administrative people to walk over to their colleagues in the technical area than it is now. 

Much of the office and conference room space will consist of portable walls that can be taken down and moved, with fewer steel studs and less drywall. “You can take down and put up an office over a weekend,” Beattie stated. “One thing businesspeople know in the 21st century, one thing they can count on, is that space requirements have changed and will continue to change. We were looking for our facility services personnel to be able to efficiently accommodate that.”

While the company stresses workforce functionality, the building design also places a high priority on visitors. The technology wing will continue to house legacy Rayovac battery and Remington technical functions, but will also include Russell Hobbs, Spectrum’s home appliance business. There will be a test kitchen where people prepare meals to test the company’s home appliance products, such as the George Foreman Grill, and the interior plan is to install windows that allow visitors to peer into that kitchen and see products being tested.

As people walk into the open, airy lobby, they will see kiosks for each of Spectrum Brands’ respective businesses. “When people see Spectrum Brands, they wonder what that is,” Beattie commented. “We’re made up of four or five distinct product types, so there will be a kiosk for each one of those that will have active electronic displays to tell people what we’re all about.”

When the new building was announced, the company said it would be a more economical and energy-efficient option than Spectrum’s current headquarters in Madison. It will be a LEED-certified building, with a TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) roofing system, an energy-efficient roof that is white (so it does not have solar gain), and constantly variable LED (light-emitting diode) lighting.

“Let’s say the proper [overall] lighting at a certain time of day is X-number of lumens per square foot,” explained Beattie. “The lighting will change in a 24-hour period so that it maintains that optimum level. During the day, as the sun rises, the [artificial] lighting level will dial down. As the sun goes down in the late afternoon and early evening, the [artificial] lighting will dial up, almost to the point where you would not notice a change in the overall lighting level in the work environment. If there is no activity for a time in a portion of the building, the lighting will shut off.”

The project is aiming for a basic LEED certification, Livesey noted, because some of the criteria that determine LEED have to do with site-related issues. Most of the uses in Discovery Springs, such as restaurants, hair salons, and oil change facilities, are over a quarter of a mile away and cannot be obtained. The higher LEED certification levels, such as gold and platinum, are related to issues that builders have no control over, such as: Is this a brownfield site? How close is the nearest restaurant?

The building’s concrete walls are nearly a foot thick and have a good R-factor, and all the windows are made of energy efficient low-e glass. “Everything that could be done in the building itself is being done,” Livesey said.

By making the building energy efficient, the company expects to lower its tenant-occupancy costs. Utilities can cost as much as $2 per square foot in an inefficient building, and with better energy efficiency, “hopefully that cost will be much less here,” Livesey stated. “In our negotiations on this transaction, making this building efficient and minimizing waste was almost the most important thing.”

The Middleton headquarters will
accommodate as many as 675 full-time employees. With workforce considerations in mind, the structure not only accommodates, but also promotes, bicycling to the office. The site is adjacent to a bike trail that leads all the way to Sauk City, and bike stalls in the parking lot are covered for inclement weather and to promote that usage throughout the year. 

The company is also trying to promote mass transit use. “It won’t be an overly parked facility,” Livesey said. “Spectrum put in the parking it needed and no more, while promoting mass transit and bicycle.”

Economic efficiency is supported with a better use of the site footprint. Whereas green space on the new site is occupied by elaborate bio-retention beds, the existing site is much more expansive. “If you’ve ever seen our existing location, I’d describe it as park-like, with a lot of green space,” Beattie said. “That was important to our owners 25 years ago, when it was built. It [the green space at the existing location] doesn’t matter from a business standpoint, so I would describe the new building as an urban setting. There is very little extra space not used for parking or the footprint of the building itself.”

The company changed its corporate name to Spectrum Brands, from Rayovac, in 2005, and plans capital spending of $40 million over the next five years. Some of that will take place at its Wisconsin battery manufacturing plants in Fennimore, with 320 employees, and Portage, with 200 employees, for a total Wisconsin payroll of up to $80 million (including new hires). It also maintains a small returns center in DeForest, but its top facility priority is making the move to its new Middleton headquarters. 

“We’ve got room for more people and functions in slightly less space than the current facility,” Beattie said. “We don’t have unnecessary or unused land as part of the footprint. The energy cost will be much lower. Those are the three key points that we made to our board, that we are in a new facility, and we’re saving on those three areas. That is the project in a nutshell.”

 

University Crossing – Green Parking

University Crossing promises new and more sustainable life for a 14.3-acre property bounded by University Avenue and Whitney Way. The urban infill project is a multi-phase development consisting of seven buildings with a combined area of more than 400,000 sq. ft. and will contain a mix of office, medical, retail, and housing uses with accessory parking.

The project will attempt to take an existing under-used site and transform it into an urban campus that reduces suburban sprawl, primarily with existing infrastructure. The first building in the planned unit development, a digestive health center, is due to open this spring, but perhaps the most interesting, and perhaps trendsetting feature, is a one-acre green roof on one of the development’s parking structures. The parking garage will be surrounded by a U-shaped apartment building, making it almost invisible from the street, and apartment dwellers will not have to look down on an asphalt jungle.

On top of the parking structure will be a green roof with outdoor amenities like a deck, shade trees that help reduce the “heat island” effect of concrete, grass and plants in as much as 18 inches of soil, and a balcony with dining space for the apartment residents. 

Paul Lenhart, president and CEO of Krupp General Contractors, the project developer, described the green roof as a park-like setting for people living in the apartments, while Doug Hursh, an architect with project architect Potter Lawson, Inc., described it as “kind of like a private, interior green courtyard space.” 

The green roof not only provides additional outdoor recreation space, it’s also a way to add density in an urban environment. “It is a more expensive way of developing, but it’s a much more sustainable urban environment,” Hursh said.

“The green roof is a real balancing act because it doesn’t come without a price,” added Lenhart. “Each developer has to weigh the pluses and minuses of offering this kind of development.”

Perhaps the most sustainable feature of the parking structure, however, is the handling of dirty storm water runoff, a big issue for the development’s residential neighbors because of its proximity to Lake Mendota. Storm water will be carried into a storm sewer, preventing water contaminated with grease and oil from the parking levels from going directly into the lake. 

There is no shortage of permitted retail uses for University Crossing, which will provide a public gathering place for the neighborhood and will include a shared outdoor dining and common gathering space between the mixed-use buildings and the apartments. For retail, Lenhart specifically cited restaurant use and a coffee shop-bakery use in the multi-tenant office building that will house Potter Lawson, Krupp, and others. He’s also working to bring a 4,000-sq.-ft. fitness facility to the apartment building.

The retail and residential uses could complement the employment use by allowing the employees to walk to the retail amenities and potentially walk to work. Lenhart said developers do not want residents using their cars to get to site amenities, which is why walking and biking are accommodated. Several bus lines serve the site, it is adjacent to a bike path, and a bike path connection will be added on the western edge of the site that will link it to a future planned bike path along Old Middleton Road. In addition, both of the first two buildings will have indoor bicycle storage and showers.

“The last thing we want is for people to drive their cars to go to lunch on the site,” Lenhart said. “We’d like people to bike or walk to fulfill those needs when they are on our site.”

The various structures in University Crossing will be closely spaced to create defined public street spaces with pedestrian-friendly connections and parallel parking. Overall, there will be three parking structures that reduce the need for surface parking and allow the buildings to be placed closer together. 

The old buildings have been demolished, new public streets are being added, and the entire development is on schedule for completion by 2016. Streets were designed to be more pedestrian friendly so that people are comfortable walking to offices and retail amenities. On weekends and evenings, retail uses will be activated while the office and clinic uses are dormant, “so it is not just a dead zone on evenings and on weekends,” Hursh said. “It’s a place to be able to bring in housing.”

Roof water collection and use for non-potable water will take place in both of the first two buildings, the digestive health center, and the first office building, and both will have underground tanks to store the water. Using roof water to flush toilets is a sustainable feature designed to conserve municipal water.

“As we move forward, water is going to be a precious commodity, too precious to simply flush it down the toilet,” Lenhart said.

The entire development is in a wellhead protection zone for the city of Madison – there is a well for the city nearby – so developers are not allowed to infiltrate water from the parking lots into the groundwater because it could end up in the wells. “We were able to take some of the roof water and infiltrate that onto the site because it’s clean water, so we’re doing that for both the first two buildings, along with the green roof, which really helps,” Hursh said. “The water on the parking levels, I don’t know the specifics of that, but that water does get drained and it goes into one of the sewer systems, either the sanitary or storm system.”

Original plans called for the addition of a six-story hotel, but another mixed-use building with offices above and retail below is a more likely scenario. One other multi-tenant building is a holdover from the site in its previous form, but with the help of geothermal heating and cooling, the new buildings are projected to be 30% to 40% more energy efficient than the ones they replace.

The digestive health center, one of three buildings on the site that will provide clinic space for the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, is believed to be the first facility in Wisconsin to pursue LEED’s new certification for health care facilities, and developers are striving for LEED Platinum for the multi-tenant office building. 

“We are adding density onto a site that previously was very low density,” Hursh said, “so we’re able to do that within the city, and it’s sustainable in that we’re not spreading out on the periphery of the city.”

 

Promega Manufacturing – Form and Function

The single highest-valued construction project in Fitchburg’s history will be open this fall upon completion of Promega Corp.’s new $110 million manufacturing facility. The new plant, which will support growth in globally regulated product manufacturing, will not be a run-of-the-mill place, as it incorporates a Crossroads section that will serve as a customer experience center for employees and guests, and serves the cause of sustainability.

Promega, which makes 2,000 molecular-based products for medical diagnostic use, is stepping up its global product supply capabilities, and the new addition will augment existing global facilities. The basic core of the 260,000-sq.-ft. building is designed to be in sync with standards in the global regulatory bodies, but it also has nonconformist features – at least compared to a typical manufacturing plant. 

First, there is the form. About 50,000 sq. ft. are devoted to the Crossroads, which will contain what Promega calls a Mind and Body Area of workout equipment, a café with catering for eating and working, and conference-training rooms. There will also be lab-training areas where customers can see how the products work with some hands-on experience, and there will be more specific customer experience locations. A divide between the Crossroads and the manufacturing area will serve as a gathering place for collaboration.

Asked if the Crossroads was built with the company wellness program in mind, Jennifer Romanin, director of in vitro diagnostics operations for Promega, said people who take advantage of the wellness program will use the spaces. “That would be open to all employees, not just people in the manufacturing plant,” she said. “The reason it’s called the Crossroads is that they can collaborate together.”

Among the key architectural features are a 1.5-story living wall, a vertical structure covered with plants, and a wood panel ceiling in the Crossroads section made of cross-laminated timber that, in some applications, substitutes for concrete, masonry, and steel. The material, known as CrossLam, is up to six times lighter than concrete, with one-third of the thickness, and is cost competitive with steel and concrete. The panels can be manufactured using resins that are free of formaldehyde and other toxins. 

Also on the sustainability front, the building will be served by a geothermal heating system, a solar system will provide hot water throughout the building, and four electric-car-charging stations will serve the company fleet. The use of dark-sky-compliant lighting basically means the lighting system and fixtures are designed to send illumination down where it’s needed, not up where it is not.

There also is the functional, as the design is based on how products are manufactured and moved throughout the facility, with specific access control in certain areas, and a number of environmental and temperature controls and monitors. “We also have specific water systems that we use to put water into these products, and that is what’s designed in the facility today,” Romanin said. “The products have to follow certain purification guidelines for the kind of water required, and the building is designed to produce that purified water to make the products.”

As the company has added new products, it has had to build flexibility into its manufacturing processes. Promega will install heavy binding equipment that will allow for the manufacture of a wide range of containers and bottles and packaging. “We develop that as one of our core competencies,” Romanin said. 

“An example of that would be putting products into bottles. We have designed it so we can put a very small volume into a small bottle, up to a large volume in a large bottle, and potentially different bottle shapes. This allows us to take on different customers that might have different needs.”

Approximately 100 people will be needed to staff the plant over the next five years, but they will not work in a place that resembles a typical manufacturing facility. It’s designed to fit into the park setting incorporated on the Promega site. “I think that’s true of all the buildings here, that there is sensitivity to the surroundings, both to integrate with the environment as well as be pleasing to passersby,” Romanin said. “It’s not trying to take over by any means, it’s trying to integrate with community and environment, and follow the same guidelines and values.”

 

Lakeshore Residence Hall – Food for Thought

Lakeshore Residence Hall is tucked into a tight sight in the city’s Lakeshore Housing District, but it’s not so tight as to preclude sustainable experimentation in the form of a top-floor greenhouse.

The freshmen residence hall, which eventually will be renamed, will contain 176 resident beds, plus untold planting beds used to grow plants indigenous to Wisconsin and elsewhere. The chief beneficiary will be the GreenHouse Residential Learning Community on the UW-Madison campus, but the rest of us could eventually benefit from what they learn in the 1800-sq.-ft. greenhouse and in a first floor teaching kitchen.

“It’s a group of students that have a particular focus on sustainable living, sustainable learning, and sustainable business practices, and they happen to be housed in this new facility,” said Project Manager Brad Nygaard of Eppstein Uhen Architects. “The greenhouse itself is actually a learning tool for them to help them learn techniques for sustainable living – i.e., growing their own food – and then there is space in the building for cooking that food.” 

The types of plants to be grown there will be part of the learning and discovery, as will energy monitoring in each unit and on each floor. “The community will be able to use it year-round, 24 hours a day, and get some hands-on experience and participate with the faculty of UW-Madison,” added Project Architect Molly Dunlap, also of EUA.

The actual greenhouse, which will be cut into the fifth floor on the south facing, is part of a trend in rooftop amenities (see Madison Children’s Museum). It is partly driven by demand, partly by city code. “There is language in the zoning code that requires a certain amount of outdoor space in dwelling units that’s also driving the development of this kind of space,” Nygaard said.

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