Two years ago, The Walsh Group, a $4 billion construction firm that traces its roots in Chicago back to 1898, found it needed more space for a new training and conference center. Unfortunately, there was no room at its West Loop headquarters for such a facility.
The fourth-generation, family-run firm could easily have built a new structure. Instead, the Walsh Group chose what it considered to be the more environmentally responsible path and rebuilt an underused 90-year-old warehouse/factory building. The project earned 86 points on the way to achieving LEED Platinum certification—at the time, the sixth-highest number of LEED points ever awarded.
WALSH GROUP TRAINING AND CONFERENCE CENTER
Submitting firm: The Walsh Group (owner)
Architect: Solomon Cordwell Buenz
Structural engineer: CS Associates Inc.
Mechanical/electrical engineer: McGuire Engineers Inc.
General contractor: Walsh Construction Co.
Size: 93,000 sf
Construction cost: $24 million
Construction time: April 2010 to June 2011
Delivery method: Design-build
With its Building Team partners—architect Solomon Cordwell Buenz, structural engineer CS Associates, and M/E engineer McGuire Engineers—Walsh Construction, acting as its own contractor, turned the former automobile showroom and paperboard package facility into a 93,000-sf showcase of sustainable design and construction.
Most of the original three-story structure, including 30,000 bricks, was salvaged, and 96% of construction waste was diverted from landfill. A fourth story was added, and the designer created a central atrium that provides natural daylighting through a massive skylight in the roof.
Sustainable features included a vegetated roof, a rainwater recovery system, and smart building technology that allows for partially localized environmental control.
Sophisticated MEP systems were employed: an HVAC system that uses solar thermal technology to pre-heat outdoor air before being inducted into the air-handling units, resulting in a projected 42% savings in energy costs; boilers with an 88% efficiency rating; and chemical-free water treatment for the evaporative condenser. The building’s exhaust air provides primary heating for the garage.
In the opinion of BD+C’s Reconstruction Awards jury, The Walsh Group made the right decision, for itself and for its home town. +