Transforming a historic caterpillar into a "Class A" butterfly
Babette Kis, A.I.A., Project Architect, and Venu J. Gupta, P.E., Superintendent, Buildings and Fleet Services, Department of Public Works, City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The Robert A. Anderson Water Tower and Municipal Building is a truly innovative "Class A" facility. The City of Milwaukee Buildings and Fleet Services asked Babette Kis, a staff architect, to develop a plan for the remodeling of the interior of the building. Kis met many construction challenges within a two-year remodeling span. This 1938-1939 art deco-style building, formerly an underused facility, is now a "Class A" office tower with state-of-the-art, highly-efficient heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) and other electromechanical systems.
Underutilized for many years, the historic former Town of Lake Water Tower was given new life as an energy-efficient office environment, and mechanical and electrical systems were replaced. This unique undertaking began in 2001 with a study of the original 1938 structure. At that time, it was determined that the 160-foot-tall building, which appeared to be of Type 1A or 1B fire-resistive construction, had been built as a two-story masonry unprotected building.
The height of the tower, 160 feet, offered opportunity for good transmission capability and now provides revenue to the City by letting private cellular companies install antennas. The City has also taken advantage of this height by installing a transmitter and antennas on the tower to enhance coverage on the south side of Milwaukee for the two-way radio system and emergency communication. "We tried to capture and capitalize on every strategic advantage the site's location and height had to offer," Kis said.
The building is wired for the 21st Century voice and data needs. A SONET network for voice, and gigabit Internet for data, connect the desktop computers using single mode fiber capable of ten gigabits of data. Twenty-four single-mode fibers are available in the building.
As part of the remodeling, a telephone node was installed in the building, which includes a G650 AVIA, PBX switchgear connected using City-owned fiber capable of handling 400 digital and analog telephones. Investigating and correcting the existing conditions turned out to be a monumental task during remodeling.
Old tower meets current Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements
Originally, the Town of Lake Municipal and Water Service offices had been housed on the first floor, in the east wing. In the west wing and center of the building were empty water settling tanks, an old electrical room, and outdated generators. The second floor had been used for storage and some office staff, the third floor was used as a practice area by the Town of Lake Band, and the fourth floor held communications equipment, and all showed signs of water damage. However, the most extensive water damage was located on the fifth level where the metal drip pan for the one million gallon water tank, which rose approximately fifty feet above it, was covered with rust.
In order to utilize the 25,657 square feet located in the first four levels, the building's steel structure was upgraded to comply with current building codes. The exposed steel was protected with fireproofing material, a sprinkler system was added, and electrical and data services were updated. The outdated existing mechanical rooms on the first floor were abandoned and new mechanical equipment was installed on the fourth floor. Remodeling also included new ADA-compliant restrooms, installation of an elevator, new doors, walls, counters, flooring, and lighting.
Historic character preserved, use expanded
Because of its historic significance, care was taken to preserve the original appearance of the exterior of the building. We also restored, as close to original as possible, the two-story east lobby with its art deco-style moldings, massive aluminum and amber glass chandeliers, and two open staircases with metal chevron and diamond detailed balusters. Birch-paneled counters and the new elevator were designed with chevron and diamond patterns to match the art deco details found both outside and inside of the original building. New finishes were selected to coordinate with the existing terra cotta and ochre lobby colors.
In order to fully realize the potential of this building the Department of Neighborhood Services, the Vector Control staff, and staff from the downtown Zeidler Municipal Building were consolidated in the renovated Water Tower and Municipal Building. The result was a tremendous increase in operational efficiency for the department.
ADA Code building challenges
ADA building codes required an elevator to the four floors. While an elevator shaft existed, the elevator car and mechanism had to be installed. All floors and walls were upgraded to meet the current fire rating. Restroom accessibility was completed and a ramp was added to the front entrance.
Other building challenges
Green Building Initiatives
Babette Kis, A.I.A., can be reached at (414) 286-8333; Venu J. Gupta, P.E., a member of APWA's Facilities & Grounds Committee, can be reached at (414) 286-3401 or at email@example.com.