Cutting Edge Design

Clock Shadow building is symbol of sustainability

[Image] Cutting Edge Design

by Sarah Christopherson

complete coverage: multimedia website


“I’m a doer,” said Juli Kaufmann. “My company is called Fix Development because I just like to fix shit.”

Kaufman "fixed" a plot of land in Milwaukee's warehouse district that used to be considered one of the most toxic sites in the United States. Now, it is a symbol of sustainability in the city.

She's the owner of Fix Development, a construction company that works toward creating green buildings that balance social, environmental, cultural, and financial values.

“My DNA is about leaving the world better than I found it,” said Kaufmann.

At 130 West Bruce Street, in Milwaukee’s Historic Walker’s Point, sits the Clock Shadow Building.

Ron Henningfeld is one of Wisconsin’s many cheesemakers. He grew up on a dairy farm in East Troy, Wisconsin and has been connected with the land ever since. Henningfeld works at Clock Shadow Creamery.

“I’ve been very connected to the environment,” said Henningfeld. “It is important in order to be successful with animals and farming.”

The creamery keeps the environment in mind when making dairy products and getting rid of waste, because surprisingly, cheese creates a lot of waste.

Whey, which is a byproduct of cheese, is usually sent down the drains and is left for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District to handle. “But instead of doing that,” said Henningfeld, “we decided to do something better.”

All of the wastewater and whey collects in a tank in the factory, which then gets transported to a farm field and used as fertilizer.

Every thought in the Clock Shadow Building revolves around “what can we do to better the environment,” said Kaufmann.

The Clock Shadow Building is top of the line when it comes to sustainable features, and it is part of a national trend. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, “Green building accounts for more than one-third of all non-residential design and construction and will grow to more than one-half of all construction within the next five years.”

“I think this is a movement,” said Henningfeld. “I hope we’re not a long way ahead of it, but we’re ahead of it and I hope to see more of it.”

There is one problem though. Milwaukee is already built.

“By and large, the buildings, you know, we have,” said Deputy Director for the Milwaukee Office of Sustainability Erick Shambarger. “So we really need to focus on retrofitting the buildings we have and improving them.”

Just because the city is built, doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for sustainable buildings in Milwaukee.

“The fact that we are a built environment poses a challenge and an opportunity,” said Shambarger.

Kaufmann’s Clock Shadow Building is one way to put Milwaukee on the map.

She was the brain of the project and really wanted to go above and beyond the usual green building construction.

“We really pushed for a higher standard,” she said, “the Living Building standard which is the next generation of LEED and it has really aggressive standards.”

The International Living Future Institute defines The Living Building Challenge as “a philosophy, advocacy tool and certification program that addresses development at all scales.” The Challenge is made up of seven criteria: Site, Water, Energy, Materials, Equity, Beauty and Health.

“The Living Building Challenge sets a whole new mindset that’s so simple,” said HGA Architect d’Andre Willis.

The ILFI only has three buildings that have achieved the “Living” status, so the idea may be simple but it’s not too simple to accomplish.

The United States Green Building Council oversees the other side of green building certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED Certified buildings are designed to “lower operating costs, reduce waste sent to landfills, conserve energy and water, be healthier and safer for occupants, and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions,” according to the USGBC.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning Associate Professor Jim Wasley thinks of LEED in a different way. “LEED is a rating system like good housekeeping, a seal of approval for green buildings,” he said. “It’s slightly behind the cutting edge but it’s ahead of the market.”

Kaufmann failed to achieve her goal of reaching the Living Building standards, but if the building were to be LEED Certified, it would receive the highest achievement, Platinum.

 The ILFI said that because the building used water from the city then she didn’t live up to the standards.

The building is right down the block from MMSD, which treats the buildings water. All other water for the building comes from storm water that is collected.

“Essentially it requires us to have water treatment facility in this building to treat basically our sewage to make it clean and then reuse it,” said Kaufmann. “It’s frustrating because we’re a great example and that’s a stupid rule.”

The Living Building features

From a toxic waste site to one of the most sustainable buildings in Milwaukee, the Clock Shadow has come a long way.

Every tiny detail was planned and argued over from phase one. “It wasn’t like one decision,” said Kaufmann. “It was a group process, so I mean those things get hard and it gets tense and we had like therapy afterwards.”

The building was designed with three goals in mind:

  1. Is this the most progressive environmental decision we can make?
  2. Will it comply with our budget?
  3. Will it change Milwaukee?

The other goal was to become a living building through the Living Building Challenge. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.

For water, the building has a cistern that collects storm water. That water is circulated throughout the building and used to flush toilets. The small amount of water brought in from the city is used for sink and drinking water.

The building is oriented to the south to allow for the maximum amount of sunlight possible. This cuts back on the amount of artificial light needed because it can rely on natural lighting instead. Also, the building relies on the earth’s geothermal energy to heat and cool the building.

The elevator is a small aspect of the project but it is a big deal in the elevator community.

“This is the first of its kind,” said Kaufmann. The second is to go in the Empire State Building in New York City. The elevators use less toxic lubricants, LED lights, lights that shut off if no one is in the elevator, and a net zero energy system where it only uses power to go up but not down.

Fifty percent of the materials for the building are recycled or salvaged. From pickle barrel wood to cream city bricks to old doors, the building is filled with recycled materials. While walking around the building, Kaufmann pauses in the middle of a sentence to point out, “that’s recycled,” every few feet.

Not only did the construction crew reuse many materials, but they were careful about wasting materials as well.

“We diverted 99.8 percent of waste on this job site during construction,” said Kaufmann. “We participated in a special plastic recycling program that isn’t typical but we did intensive training with all the contractors. They had to even recycle or compost their lunch waste.”

The equity portion of the project looks at providing an equal opportunity to access nature. There is a rooftop garden where all the tenants can use the space for gardening, yoga, break time, or healing time. The breathtaking view of the city is enough to clear anyone’s cluttered mind.

Beauty plays a large role in the building. One of the most significant pieces is the five story tall ribbon that local artist Jennifer Espenscheid created which Kaufmann said “depicts the story of the earth from the core all the way to the universe.”

Bright blues, greens, and reds are all woven together to tie the building together. The artwork hangs from the ceiling down to the floor and is situated in the center of the winding staircase. Espenscheid even breaks the piece up and explains on each floor what exactly each chunk means and how it connects to the environment.

And last but not least, health. Not only does the building promote a healthy living in its construction, but all of the tenants have healthy goals in mind. From Aurora Healthcare working on healing the body to Clock Shadow Creamery and Purple Door Ice Cream being more mindful about waste, all the tenants went through an interview process with Kaufmann to discuss how they were going to continue the building’s values and goals after it was built.

“In addition to the environmental features of the building, the occupants are critical,” said Kaufmann. “Because the main impact of a building environmentally is how you use it.”

Milwaukee leadership

Mayor Tom Barrett has been behind the Milwaukee sustainability movement backing programs and creating a city Green Team to address the city’s harmful problems.

Barrett also got national recognition for his “Home Gr/Own” project that was entered in New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg Challenge. The challenge calls for mayors across the country to submit solutions for city problems. The winner of the challenge wins $5 million to make their solution happen. Milwaukee’s plan was named one of the 20 finalists. The winner will be announced next year.

Barrett’s “Home Gr/Own” idea addresses the number of foreclosed homes and lack of access to healthy food accessibility. The project will allow foreclosed properties to become useful in that they will become areas for public gardens, community distribution centers, and community kitchens.

The Mayor’s Green Team is working on putting together a sustainability plan after receiving input from the public over the past four months. Although the plan won’t be put together until next spring, Shambarger thinks the framework of the plan will revolve around food security, urbanism, energy, and water quality.

In July, Barrett announced that Milwaukee would be joining the national Better Buildings Challenge. The challenge is a U.S. Department of Energy program that calls on corporate executives, building owners, university, state, local government, and school district leaders to reduce their energy use 20 percent by the year 2020 while showcasing solutions and results.

The city has already seen a few bites from some of the biggest buildings in Milwaukee such as the US Bank Building, the BMO Harris Building, City Center at 735, the Wells Building, along with several others.

“I think people are really taking this seriously,” said Shambarger. “The city has a lot to be proud of relative to retrofitting.”

The Central Library is over 100 years old and is going to be the “showcase property” for the city and the challenge.

“We’ve already been changing out lights and the heating and cooling system,” said Shambarger. “We’re putting in a green roof along with a 30 kilowatt solar system up there.”

The building will also be used to educate people about sustainability and the challenge.

“We have these gorgeous buildings,” said Shambarger. “It’s about modernizing them from the inside out.”

Another initiative is the Green Corridor on the south side of Milwaukee. Along South 6th Street between West Howard Avenue and West College Avenue is dedicated to experiment and demonstrate innovative and sustainable public works projects. Over 40 organizations are working on the Green Corridor to make the area an example for the rest of the city to follow.

Some highlights of the Green Corridor include: bio-swales, a community garden, a farmer’s market with 66 stalls, LED traffic signals, over 600 trees installed, and over 1,000 flowers planted near the farmer’s market.

“You can that things are moving along quite rapidly here,” said Witkowski.

A welcome sign hangs over the street as you enter the corridor that reads, “Green Corridor-thinking of the future.”

“That’s really what it’s all about,” said Milwaukee Alderman Terry Witkowski.

The Corridor is also looking forward to keep improving the area with new projects including a Green Street with permeable pavement and possibly an energy neutral housing project.

“I do think Milwaukee is part of the top 10 of cities from a sustainability standpoint,” said Shambarger. “Certainly the momentum that we have moving forward right now, I’d be hard-pressed to find another city that is doing it better.”

Budding projects

The Clock Shadow isn’t the only building in Milwaukee that is going green.

A big construction project happening downtown is making some waves in the sustainable building world. The LEED Neighborhood Development of the old Pabst Brewery is gutting out all the old buildings and transforming them into sustainable and efficient buildings.

The project is Platinum Certified under the LEED-ND pilot.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has claimed one of the plots in the development area for the new School of Public Health.

“It’s about UWM redeveloping the community around us,” said UWM’s Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Kate Nelson. “They’re in the community and accessible, that is kind of the larger breadth of sustainability.”

The Inner Harbor project headed by Wasley is working on 1,000 acres of brownfield sites and looking at how those sites could be redeveloped with green buildings. Other sustainable ideas coming into play with this site are stormwater problems, energy problems, and where “ecological development and the economic development go hand in hand,” he said.

A brownfield site is a site that is contaminated or potentially contaminated by a previous use.

Wasley also has been involved with the Green Roofs around campus as well as the stormwater garden next to the powerplant on campus. He is working on “sculptural cisterns” that will capture water in the garden off the powerplant roof. When it rains the sculptural cisterns will create a big fountain or waterfall.

For the past three years, UWM has been included the “Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges.” In the review, UWM is commended for its recycling efforts, multiple green roofs, the Downer Woods nature preserve, its Energy Matters program, and has one of the only Gold Certified buildings in the UW system, Cambridge Commons residential housing.

“We’re seeing some buildings have a 40 percent reduction in energy,” said Nelson. “That’s huge!”

Five UW system universities are included on the guide as well with UW-Madison and UW-Green Bay being included for the first time. Marquette University also is on the list.

Clock Shadow Creamery

Henningfeld takes pride in being part of a company that is working on being sustainable.

 “It’s a place where I can be in touch with the consumers and hopefully show them, teach them, educate them a little about the food,” said Henningfeld.

Customers can take a tour of the cheesemaking and ice cream factory. Large windows surround the room and allow customers to get an inside look at how these companies are working to make their products in a sustainable way.

“I think this building and the project and the tenants and how they’re working together and how they’re working with the building and the whole idea, I think it is a model for successful building and construction in the future,” said Henningfeld.

Even with a successful building under her belt, Kaufmann had more to do with the project. “One of the things that came out of this project was a group called Fund Milwaukee,” she said. With many people wanting to support this project, Kaufmann came up with a way people could invest in the company, but not necessarily be an investor.

Purple Door Ice Cream needed $25,000 in order to expand its business to Clock Shadow. “We had eight different investors who invested anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 to help make that happen,” said Kaufmann.

“I think it is important-whatever your pathway is in life, whatever your passion is, whatever your station is-that you are trying to participate in some sort of positive change,” said Kaufmann. “For me, this is my station in life right now. I build buildings.”

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