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Home / Top Projects of 2010 / Brownfield balancing act: Cambridge Commons – University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Brownfield balancing act: Cambridge Commons – University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

UW-Milwaukee residence hall tests project team’s cooperation skills

Cambridge Commons  – University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Photos submitted by KBS Construction Inc. and Hammel, Green and Abrahamson Inc.

Working on a contaminated site was less of a challenge for the team behind Cambridge Commons than staying on budget.

The price for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee residence hall had to be guaranteed early in the process, said Tom Schuchardt, president of Madison-based KBS Construction Inc., which led to a “friendly balancing act” between design and construction teams throughout the process.

“They’d push on design and we’d push back,” he said.

While the teams sought to find a balance between cost and quality, crews also had to work with the challenges of a brownfield site next to the Milwaukee River.

Although the site’s contaminated soil did not pose too much hardship, Schuchardt said, dealing with the proximity of the river and the environmental corridor that runs along it was a different story.

“One of the key issues was, because it’s a contaminated site and adjacent to the river, doing the right thing with our water management and making sure we left the site better than we found it,” said Kevin Allebach, project manager for Hammel, Green and Abrahamson Inc., Minneapolis.

Storm water management plans prioritized protecting the river, leading to a cistern system buried on site to capture and hold rain water, which is used for irrigation.

Green roofs and rain gardens also help minimize runoff, he said.

The building’s design was stepped up, with its lowest elevation near the river, so people walking along the waterway wouldn’t be able to see the apartments.

The connection to the environment and sustainability was a priority, Allebach said, because the project is going for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification.

The project includes a rooftop solar panel system and Energy Star refrigerators in each suite to cut energy costs.

Then there was the time crunch. Some delays with financing and contract approvals forced things to start a bit late, Schuchardt said, and crews had 15 months to build the more than 240,000-square-foot project.

The completion deadline was critical, he said, because when you’re dealing with student housing, “a week late might as well be a semester late.”

“It took a lot of organization and coordination to build a project of that size that quick,” Allebach said.

But everything came together and the building was move-in ready for students in accordance with the project schedule.

“We’re all very proud of the finished product,” Schuchardt said.

— Janine Anderson


Submitting company: KBS Construction Inc., Madison

General contractor: KBS Construction

Architect: Hammel, Green and Abrahamson Inc., Minneapolis

Engineer: Hammel, Green and Abrahamson Inc.

Owner: The UWM Real Estate Foundation Inc., Milwaukee

Project size: 240,168 square feet

Project cost: $35.5 million

Start date: May 18, 2009

Completion date: Aug. 5, 2010

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