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Milwaukee-area engineers highlight advances in technology, accomplishments

A render of the Couture, a 44-story luxury apartment tower in Milwaukee. Designed by RINKA.

Milwaukee engineers showcased their projects such as the in-progress Couture. New technology like artificial technology and wood frame structures are expected in more future projects, a company engineer said. (Rendering courtesy of RINKA)

Artificial intelligence and wood frame buildings will be more prevalent in future building projects, Milwaukee area civil and structural engineers told The Daily Reporter, noting how the new technology is becoming more common.

Discussing their recent favorite projects, engineers referenced the 44-story Couture and The Trade Hotel, both of which are scheduled to wrap up in 2023.

Local engineering firms promoted technical education, diversity and high-profile projects to raise awareness on engineers’ contributions for National Engineers Week, which was founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers. Engineers Week this year took place Feb. 19 to Feb. 25.

Pierce Engineers specializes in structural design and renovation and its portfolio features glass and steel façade projects like the BMO Tower and the Urbanite. The Trades Hotel, being constructed next to the Fiserv Forum, will include a 60-square-foot ballroom on the second floor held up by large structural elements, the company’s Associate Principal Lucas Marshall said.

“This project helps with the Deer District revitalization,” Marshall said about the 10-story tower. “Our component is giving the framework to the structure.”

Crews for The Trade hotel work with a crane in Milwaukee's Deer District.

Pierce Engineers specializes in structural design and helped create The Trade, an incoming hotel in Milwaukee’s Deer District. Lucas Marshall, an Associate Principal for the company, said the project would revitalize the district. (Photo courtesy of Pierce Engineers)

Marshall said wood-frame construction and mass timber projects like The Ascent was starting to emerge in the building world thanks to advanced fire suppression technology. A philosophy of municipalities actively engaging with structural engineers in the planning process was emerging as well.

“We’re going to continue to see evolution and new concepts in building materials like wood, steel and concrete. How that will play out is a little hard to predict,” Marshall said.

In Wisconsin, Milwaukee-based GRAEF was responsible for multiple projects like MSOE Diercks Hall, the Forest County Potawatomi Recreation Center and the Adventure Africa exhibit at the Milwaukee County Zoo. The company is working on the 44-story Couture as it comes out of the ground, GRAEF Project Leader Jim Hansen said.

“I’m personally excited to see the Couture coming out of the ground and being visible,” Hansen said. He said his favorite projects were the ones people get to visit with family and friends, such as Drexel Town Square, which features a mixed-use town center with several popular area shops and restaurants.

Hansen said he’s seen artificial intelligence make its way into the civil engineering world with intelligent transportation systems, which sense traffic issues to track for engineers. One area he works in is optimization design and software to take hand-drawn plans and make them economical.

After shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have tried to implement interactive technology in the design side and sharpen its skills at digital collaboration for hybrid workers. People can walk through rooms of virtual buildings with virtual reality goggles and see what they will look like before construction, Hansen said.

“It’s much more interactive how people are going to see what buildings are going to look like,” he added.

Multidisciplinary firm raSmith provided site design for the Olympia Fields redevelopment project. Engineers worked on the individual infrastructure including roads and outlots.

“There’s been a heightened sense of awareness for passive and active outdoor recreation spaces,” in the advent of coronavirus, David Mortensen, raSmith Assistant Director of Site Design Services, said.

Engineers will continue to be important as peoples’ needs and wants change over time, and technology is changing to keep up with the demand, Mortensen said. People’s interests in park recreation have changed from soccer to pickleball for example.

“There’s always things that are changing and as we as humans are evolving and changing and our wants and desires are changing, there’s always a need for engineers to revamp what is there and make it now,” he said.

About Ethan Duran

Ethan Duran is the construction and development reporter at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (414) 551-7505 or [email protected]

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