Case Study: Beloit College Powerhouse
Opened in Aug. 2020, Beloit College transformed a decommissioned coal-burning power station located along Wisconsin’s Rock River into a new field house focused on student recreation and wellness.
The former Blackhawk Generating Station was composed of three buildings constructed mostly of brick and concrete from 1908 to 1949. Studio Gang re-imagined the structure as a unified, 120,000-square-foot student union and recreation center. Now known as the Powerhouse, the $38 million renovated building is targeting LEED® Silver certification through the U.S. Green Building Council.
The field house features a light-filled, impact-resistant, high-performance, attractive facility. Helping bring this architectural vision to reality, EXTECH/Exterior Technologies, Inc. created a customized, translucent LIGHTWALL system to meet multiple aesthetic and performance requirements. Employing a collaborative approach, EXTECH’s team worked closely with Studio Gang to develop the signature façade system.
“From the onset, Studio Gang’s design included a translucent, daylit field house,” said EXTECH’s director of product application and development, Kevin Smith, RA. “Given our recent work with them on the translucent clerestories for Chicago’s Eleanor Boathouse at Park 571, they turned to EXTECH for this project.”
EXTECH’s involvement with Beloit College’s Powerhouse project began during Studio Gang’s schematic design phase in March 2017. Smith continued, “A collaborative design-assist approach places the manufacturer’s materials and methods expertise within the designer’s tool chest in the earliest phases of a project. This early and ongoing involvement increases the likelihood of success for the project because incremental design decisions are immediately communicated, monitored and evaluated by the manufacturer.”
As much as 50% of EXTECH’s projects have a design-assist component. As part of these design-assist projects, standard products are customized. If necessary, the project can be approached with a blank slate and design a new system from scratch that meets all of the project’s goals.
“We don’t simply walk into the architect’s office and slap down a product catalog,” Smith remarked. “To ensure the design intent is upheld, we listen. We listen, discuss, solidify and document the vision of the designer on behalf of its client to develop a system. This then becomes the measure of all follow-on decisions. This is done before discussions of cost and schedule. By doing this, the vision is maintained and executed within the project’s budget and time allowances.”
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