Charged with creating a building that addresses a quadruple bottom line of economic improvement, social justice, environmental restoration, and cultural celebration—all while working on a strict budget—Continuum Architects + Planners transformed the Clock Shadow Building, a 4,000-square-foot Milwaukee brownfield site, into a symbol of community pride. The four-story, 28,000-square-foot structure is home to a mix of nonprofit organizations who provide healthcare services for the neighborhood’s underserved population, as well as an artisan cheese factory and a premium ice cream store.

Fix Development, Continuum, and contractor CG Schmidt carefully analyzed sustainable measures from a lifecycle-cost perspective with the goal of creating an affordable, repeatable, and carbon-neutral structure. Because the dense urban site could not generate enough wind or solar energy to have an effect on the building’s energy needs, the team concentrated on significantly reducing consumption—by 37 percent more than Energy Star standards—and purchasing green energy from the local utility’s renewable energy program.

Jury: “The thing that we most liked is that it has a very strong story around the use of materials and especially the use of salvaged materials. Everything from the brick to the timber inside is an important story from a recycle/reuse materials and salvage standpoint. The other thing is its position within the neighborhood, the fact that it has a strong mixed-use on a fairly small site in an area that can be regenerated through a building of this type. … It’s also a very economic project in terms of its construction cost, and the social programs that are offered in the building enhanced the importance of the responsible design.” 

The ultrainsulated building shell boasts R-16 walls and an R-42 roof. Passive strategies, such as southern-facing windows with sunscreens that maximize the sun’s warmth during cooler months and operable windows that let in fresh air, allow tenants to greatly decrease and even turn off the heating and cooling systems during the spring and fall. In addition, a geothermal system drilled directly below the building stabilizes the temperature of the conditioned water that is used to heat and cool the spaces.

To minimize rainwater discharge into Lake Michigan via the city’s sewer system, Continuum included a green roof and a 5,000-gallon cistern that is used for toilet flushing—the first commercially permitted graywater flushing system in Milwaukee. This move reduced the building’s potable water use by 54 percent.

Daniel Beyer, AIA, principal, Continuum Architects + Planners: “The Clock Shadow Building started with a developer and a vision. The developer, Juli Kaufman, came to us with a vision to transform a vacant brownfield site into an environmentally sustainable building that provides a home for occupants that share a commitment to community and environmental values. Many forms of sustainability were tackled in this project, both measurable and immeasurable: It cleans up a brownfield site that was difficult to develop because of its small size and bad soil, provides services to the community which were previously difficult to obtain, conserves energy and water, and promotes local urban gardens.” 

To up the sustainability quotient and help keep costs down, 30 percent of the project’s materials came from salvaged products such as reclaimed wood siding, brick façades, kitchen cabinets, and rusted steel panels. To promote synergy among tenants, spaces were designed to be shared. Organizations on all three levels share a single conference room and are connected by an open wood staircase. Tenants hold a monthly meeting to track energy performance, biking-to-work initiatives, and building-wide composting and recycling.

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Building gross floor area: 30,370 square feet  
Estimated percent of occupants using public transit, cycling, or walking: 35  
Percent of views to the outdoors: 63 
Percent of spaces within 15 feet of an operable window: 44 
Percent reduction of regulated potable water: 54 
Potable water used for irrigation: No 
Percent of rainwater from maximum anticipated 24-hour, two-year storm event that can be managed on site: 66 
Total EUI (kBtu per square foot per year): 44 
Net EUI (kBtu per square foot per year): 44 
Percent reduction from national average EUI for building type: 37 
Lighting power density (watts per square foot): 0.78 
Third-party rating: None
Total project cost at time of completion (land excluded): $6 million

Data and project information provided by Continuum Architects + Planners via AIA COTE Top Ten entry documents.