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Whether converting a military hangar to office space, updating a home for lions at a zoo or building a pedestrian bridge over a river, ENR Midwest’s 2022 Best Projects honorees are a diverse group that share a common theme: perseverance in the face of challenges.

Coping with the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing compressed deadlines and tight building sites or handling the unusual challenge of uncovering an abandoned trolley tunnel and an active, 100-year-old brick sewer under a building site for a skyscraper are some of the challenges that caused the winning project teams to dig deep to develop creative solutions.

This year’s Best Project winners represent a wide range of projects that were completed between May 1, 2021, and May 31, 2022, and that were among the 64 submitted for consideration.

ENR Midwest’s expert panel of judges included: Laura Young, CEO, Griskelis Young Harrell; William Haas, vice president for energy, AECOM; Marc Hanson, senior director of construction and operations, CRB Group; Danielle Dy Buncio, CEO, Viatechnik; Lynda Leigh, development manager, Cedar Street; and Steve Zimmerman, director, associate principal and unit manager, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc.

Best Project entries in the Excellence in Safety category were judged by Jeff Emrick, director of safety and compliance for Ozinga; Sam Mishelow, director of client development for Meyer Najem Construction; and Steve Miller, vice president of safety for McCarthy Building Cos.

The Best Project winners include a 24,000-sq-ft city hall in Johnston, Iowa, a 427,000-sq-ft, $450-million expansion of a children’s hospital and medical center in Omaha, an arts-focused high school in an underserved community in Chicago, an $80-million, 270,000-sq-ft renovation of guest rooms at a hotel/casino in Mount Pleasant, Mich., a pedestrian bridge spanning the Fox River in Aurora, Ill., and upgrades to 12.5 miles of interstate highway connecting Minneapolis with its growing northern suburbs.

In addition to the challenges they faced, projects were recognized for their innovative ideas and superior quality of work.

320 S. Canal-Union Station

320 S. Canal-Union Station was built over a 100-year-old trolley line and sewer.
Photo courtesy of Jack Crawford

An example of a project that faced an unusual challenge is the 320 S. Canal Street-Union Station project in Chicago, which transformed an underutilized block next to a busy commuter hub into an asset for businesses and residents.

Clark Construction was general contractor for this Class A building adjacent to Union Station, and architects at Goettsch Partners designed the building.

The 52-story tower includes 1.5 million sq ft of office space, amenities and two levels of underground parking. The majority of the site’s 2.2 acres has been turned into a city park, which brings public space to Chicago’s West Loop. The project encountered underground obstacles, including an active 100-year-old sewer line and an abandoned trolley line.

“We got our hands on 100-year-old blueprints, although they were not entirely accurate.”
—Lant Fogarty, Project Executive, Clark Construction

“We knew the tunnel and sewer were there,” says Lant Fogarty, project executive for Clark. “We got our hands on 100-year-old blueprints, although they weren’t entirely accurate.”

demolition contractor removed sections of the tunnel that extended under the Chicago River while a caisson driller followed closely behind, keeping foundation construction on schedule.

Removing the sewer line that ran right down the center of the project site was an even greater challenge. When the city’s process for obtaining the easements for the sewer removal ran behind schedule, the team moved forward by installing sheeting around the sewer, pouring a mat foundation around it and erecting a core wall above it.

Another complex project was The Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health Building, which is a medical and research institution at the University of Missouri campus in Columbia.

The 265,000-sq-ft building was designed as a signature facility to enhance the academic experience and attract global researchers and industry partners. Programming for the facility focuses on precision medicine, which tailors treatments to individuals to optimize outcomes instead of a one-size-fits-all treatment approach.

Burns & McDonnell was the engineer and architect of the building, which was completed on a tight schedule of 28 months.

“It was very ambitious for how big and complex the project was,” says Clint Blew, lead senior design architect.

He describes the building as very clean and sophisticated on the exterior, “but if you peer behind the curtain, it’s like Star Trek.”

The team used expedited project delivery methods and a creative approach that utilized two separate structural systems for the lab and office space.

“At the start of the project, the design team realized that it was not necessary for the office and collaboration areas to be built to the same structural standards as the specialized laboratory spaces,” Blew says. “The laboratory spaces contained intense MEP systems and specialty loading and vibration requirements. The construction team was able to focus on these elements first, then flow into the office areas of the building.”

The team also used a design-assist method that required interviewing and hiring larger subcontractors early in the process.

“It gave the design team information we wouldn’t have otherwise,” Blew says.

Working with contractors helped them understand what materials were over budget and which ones had long lead times or had other issues that meant they were not the best choice.

The result was a project that was finished on deadline and $7 million under budget.

This year’s Best Project honorees will be celebrated with a breakfast on Dec. 1 at the Renaissance Chicago Downtown.


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