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Patients a priority during tower façade upgrade


Aurora Health Care – St. Luke’s Knisely Tower

St. Luke’s Knisely Tower needed preventive care. Yet, Aurora Health Care couldn’t halt the hospital’s intensive care and emergency patient activities.

The tower’s prominent façade had patchwork fixes to cracks, drafts and leaks during the course of about four decades. Meanwhile, the rest of the hospital had outgrown the drab, minimalist façade.

A Milwaukee ordinance led Aurora to review the structural face of St. Luke’s and seek an update before problems ran beyond skin deep.

“It wasn’t in a condition where things were falling off the building,” said Brad Sabre, Aurora senior construction project manager, “but we didn’t want it to get to that point.”

Construction couldn’t, however, stop sensitive surgical procedures or other ongoing patient operations. So, as some rooms remained close to ongoing façade work, many patients, staff members and equipment were moved to another section of the hospital.

A construction liaison was in daily contact with hospital staff members on each of the 11 floors to handle concerns and updates on work schedules. When a daytime Flight For Life emergency helicopter call went out, for example, a message would come in to cease construction and give preference to the truly urgent work arriving on the hospital’s roof helipad.

Further adding to the mix were expanded efforts to review construction along the way, including Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc.’s third-party assessment of the façade’s electrical, HVAC, sustainability and efficiency elements. WJE worked out a computer simulation that showed a lower amount of insulation than usual would cut back on condensation build-up and still cover the building’s energy aims.

“There were powerful outcomes, having the evaluations,” said George Minnich, SVP and principal at Berghammer Corp.

To keep it all moving smoothly, Minnich said, everyone kept the focus on the face of the hospital rather than egos or chest thumping.

Designers with HGA Architects and Engineers, Milwaukee, sought a clean, modern look with matching brick, white metal paneling and inviting windows, said Scott Lindvall, architect and principal for the project’s design.

Lindvall’s team worked with construction and review teams on site and found spots they could sync new materials with conduits and connections into the core of the building.

There were some disagreements about construction dates and pricing along the way. But cooler heads prevailed for a greatly improved appearance that reflects on the whole hospital, Sabre said.

“We are very happy with the look of the finished project,” he said. “Our staff is extremely proud and we hear congratulations all the time.”


ATW Terminal Building and Hangar

Location: Milwaukee

Project size: 114,000 square feet

Project cost: $15.04 million

Start date: April 4, 2011

Completion date: Dec. 1, 2013

Submitting company: Berghammer Corp., Butler

Construction manager: Berghammer Corp.

Architect: HGA Architects and Engineers, Milwaukee

Engineers: Graef-USA Inc., Milwaukee (structural); Ring & DuChateau Inc.,
Milwaukee (mechanical)

Owner: Aurora Health Care Inc., Milwaukee

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