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VALERIO DEWALT TRAIN ASSOCIATES 500 North Dearborn Chicago, Illinois 60654 424 Waverley Street Palo Alto, California 94301

© Photography Mike Rebholz © 2011 Valerio Dewalt Train Associates



Early rendering of VDTA’S proposed renovations.

VDTA Office in Chicago, Il.


Valerio Dewalt Train is a 50 person national architectural practice with offices in Chicago, Illinois and Palo Alto, California. Since 1996, the firm has based its practice on the simple idea that whatever the question, design is the answer. But we also believe that before you can provide an answer, you have to do the research to make sure you understand the question. As designers, we take a research-based approach to the design process; it is immersive, probing, and specific. We work with a wide range of clients: institutional, educational, corporate, retail, entertainment, hospitality, and developers, each client benefits from the cross-fertilization of ideas between these industries and as expressed by our URL, “build or�. The result of our energetic approach is a series of remarkable projects often produced on very tight budgets and schedules for many notable organizations; from eBay, to the Kresge Foundation, the University of Chicago, and Lincoln Properties.

Steelcase’s open-office system circa 1971.


It’s 1972. The Brady Bunch. 8-track tapes. PONG. Oil is cheap and seemingly plentiful; a barrel costs $3.00; gas is just 55 cents a gallon. Folks are hitting the road and exploring America in their new VW camper buses and connecting to the outdoors. Architecture, through new material technologies, is pushing

It’s 1972. Architecture, through new material technologies, is pushing boundaries of height and enclosure...

boundaries of height and enclosure allowing more openness and connectivity to the environment. New curtainwall and glass technologies are expanding the desire for more transparency – abundant daylighting of interiors coupled with a desire to “open up” business to the people is influencing architectural expression. Enclosed private offices are being replaced with the new concept of open-office environments; these “offices without walls” defined the new, more open and connected society. Hot on the heels of a new 40-story SOM designed highrise headquarters in downtown Milwaukee, Madison’s First Wisconsin Bank president petitioned for a similar prominent facility to be built in the state’s seat of government. Since Madison had a building height covenant protecting the views of the State Capitol dome, the skyline majesty of a high-rise was not possible. Rather, visual prominence would have to be achieved by the building’s site and design. A highly visible downtown location was needed and found on the Capitol Square.

First Wisconsin Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin © Eddie Lo

The site, a city block on the Square’s east side was chosen for its close proximity to the State Capitol Building – the heart of state financial policy making – and its approaching hilltop perch from the Square’s primary arterial, East Washington Street. SOM of Chicago was again tabbed to design this sister facility to Milwaukee’s First Wisconsin Center.

First Wisconsin Plaza as built per Bruce Graham’s design.

SOM’s Bruce Graham, just two years removed from designing the Chicago icon John Hancock Tower, designed Madison’s 9-story First Wisconsin Plaza building. Mr. Graham conceived of the bank and office building as a large atrium with a spacious, airy, internal environment that would serve as a green space in winter and as a public square in summer. The first floor is mostly given over to a two-story tall atrium banking hall and upper office floors wrap around a fourth floor roof garden. The building was clad in what was deemed at the time as an “economical” clear all-glass curtainwall.

Structural and

mechanical elements were exposed and colorfully expressed as design elements. And, as Mr. Graham stated when describing the building’s design: “Obviously, energy is saved in this building, and the building is put to the larger purpose of an architectural experience”. Economy may have been the aim in 1972 when the building was conceived but by 1974, when the building was finally completed, the issue of energy was dominating America’s awareness. Strife

Original interior atrium space.

in the Middle East led to an oil embargo causing the cost of oil to increase four-fold. Suddenly, on the eve of the building’s grand opening, the projected cost of energy to operate and occupy the building as designed had quadrupled. The sad reality was that a building thought to be created to save energy would be expending it at a cost of four times than when designed. And, as discovered rather quickly and observed to be increasingly worse over time, the technology of the day did not match the ambition of the concept and many design elements proved to actually be energy in-efficient, wasteful, and outright functional failures.

The sad reality was that a building thought to be created to save energy would be expending it at a cost of four times greater than when designed.

SOM’s original interiors of First Wisconsin’s banking space.

At night, soon after building opening.


First Wisconsin Plaza



Over the years, First Wisconsin changed names and ultimately owners, becoming in the 1990’s the main Madison branch for Minneapolis based US Bank. The building originally conceived as a large regional headquarters housing personal & corporate banking and loan & administrative offices no longer had the need for large floor areas for office workers. In addition the requirement of an expansive walk-in banking hall to serve consumer on-site banking had significantly dwindled following

VDT was commissioned to assist ULI in renovation and resurrection of this flawed yet beloved modernist building...

the advent of electronic banking and ATM’s. The 330,000 sf building had become at bit of a “functional dinosaur”, its floorplates difficult to lease due to a number of building configuration problems, service and tenant comfort issues. Following years of complacent building ownership and critical deferred maintenance the facility’s status as a downtown property had lapsed to a Class B building. Vacancy was 50%. Finally, in 2008, US Bank had determined that, although they wanted banking services to remain at the location, they no longer wished to own the building and they placed it on the market. A highly successful local developer with a track record of exceptional downtown renovations and developments was interested in the challenge of resurrecting this Madison icon. This developer, Urban Land Interests, had recently completed a phased full city block mixed-use development on the adjacent block – Block 89 - and saw the hidden potential this property had having spent many years expounding on the building’s problems as they marketed against it to potential tenants in favor of their own lease space at Block 89. Valerio Dewalt Train (VDT) worked with Urban Land Interests (ULI) for 15 years completing the phased development of Block 89 and was commissioned to assist ULI in the renovation and resurrection of this flawed yet beloved modernist building that everyone in town recognized as the “Glass Bank”.

Investigation of curtain wall system.

VDT along with mechanical consultant, Environmental Systems Design (ESD) of Chicago, embarked on an intensive study and analysis of the building’s existing design, operations and mechanical systems. Foremost of the investigation was getting to the bottom of two obvious problematic issues: energy costs – the building was an energy hog – and large areas of functionally deficient lease space.

The primary goal being to

dramatically reduce the operating costs for a more economical and sustainable facility while adding more viable space to the building’s lease inventory.

Top: Condition of building enclosure. Bottom: Aging rooftop mechanical equipment.

The result of the renovations was a 38% reduction in average monthly electricity consumption...


New Mechanical Equipment Goes Online

900,000 800,000 700,000 600,000 500,000 400,000 2011


300,000 200,000 Jan











The design team’s investigation uncovered a variety of building envelope and systems problems which were further analyzed in a comprehensive energy model. The findings of the energy model led to an overhaul of the building’s HVAC main equipment, air distribution and control systems, replacement of glass in the atrium areas and upgrades to other building core systems including lighting and elevators. The result of the renovations was a 38% reduction in average monthly electricity consumption taking the building from an Energy Star rating of the low 40’s to 91 today and Energy Star certified status. Using the energy model, it was determined that the southeast and southwest facades were allowing significant heat loads and energy loss in the building. Included among these facades were the original sloped-roof atrium areas which were clad with single-pane clear glass that had a minimal shading coefficient. The sloped-roof atrium areas were re-built “squared off” with

1998 2008

highly insulated roof structures that served the added benefit of creating usable outdoor spaces for the floors above. Also, new double-pane low-E glass, matching the same transparent appearance as the original clear glass, replaced the old glazing on these facades. The existing building chiller equipment was replaced with two,

2010 2009

high-efficiency chillers with the ability to run at just 10% of the load when demand is less.

In addition, the chiller plant was

relocated from the ninth floor where it previously occupied prime top-floor space, to an underused existing storage space




near the loading docks on the first floor.

US BANK PLAZA WATER USAGE (Gallons) 35,000,000 30,000,000

30.3 M


25,000,000 20,000,000 16.4M




10,000,000 5,000,000

6.18 M


0 2005





Year Automatic Flushing Disabled

New Mechanical System Installed

New Low Consumption Fixtures

Water Consumption Management Implemented low consumption plumbing fixtures and equipment were installed, water usage in the building dropped 85% from 32 million to 3 million gallons.


The existing air distribution system throughout the building was a constant volume with reheat induction system. The movement of air from the perimeter floor mounted units was noisy and inefficient because the air nozzles had not been maintained or cleaned for decades. What’s more, the units took up valuable usable space along the floor-to-ceiling glass window wall. The system was converted in renovated areas to an overhead variable air volume (VAV) system with upgraded direct digital controls at the building automation system for an increased level of control.

This maximized the ability to optimize

reduced fan and pump usage runtimes leading to significant energy savings. Toilets for renovation

Water was another resource that was being wasted by the building’s original systems design – automatic flushing of all the entire building’s toilets and urinals was occurring every hour on the hour. In addition, domestic water was being used to supply heat pumps then being dumped to sewer. After these practices were terminated and new low consumption plumbing fixtures and equipment were installed, water usage in the building dropped 85% from 32 million to just below 4 million gallons. Common area lighting has been systematically replaced with more efficient fixtures further reducing the energy consumed – a huge savings from the wasteful amount of lighting expended by the original ground floor array of 150 watt recessed downlight fixtures.

The primary goal being to dramatically reduce the operating costs for a more economical and sustainable facility while adding more viable space to the building’s lease inventory.

VDTA Rendering of proposed rennovation


Tackling the problems of energy consumption head-on forced VDT to make dramatic yet sympathetic alterations to the Bruce Graham design. Other planned corrective footprint and building envelope changes also would significantly affect the look of the building. Moving forward required a firm understanding

Moving forward required a firm understanding of the intentions of the original design.

of the intentions of the original design. At the very least it was imperative that VDT respect the existing relentless modular curtainwall grid that gave the building its modernist expression. There was considerable reluctance by locals that the building’s iconic appearance be altered in any way. Further, VDT understood the historical responsibility to the original architecture and vowed to approach the modifications with a respectful eye and, before drawing any conclusions, ask ourselves “what would Bruce do?” In the instance of correcting the non-functional floorplates, where the width of the east wing of the upper floors was too narrow to accommodate contemporary tenant uses making them virtually un-leasable, a full structural bay spanning the length of the wing was added to each floor resulting in a more marketable 90 foot wide floorplate. This new building extension was sheathed in matching white-painted modular curtainwall and glazed with new energy efficient glass.

Building envelope mock-up.

Aerial of building during construction

Atria chronically over-heated due to single pane glass enclosure


New insulated enclosure makes atria spaces usable


Other architectural changes contributed to the building’s return to Class A status, including upgrades to the building’s underground parking garage: new brighter and energy efficient lighting, the elimination of the failed, curiously designed combination parking exhaust duct / floor drainage system (where the ductwork doubled as drainpipes in an apparent attempt to collect the water and hold it for evaporation) and improved entrances and security systems. Most significant was implementation of new elevatoring – two parking shuttle elevators that originally brought tenants from the underground parking garage to the main building lobby for transfer to the main building elevators were removed; the building’s four passenger elevators were re-built, the shafts extended downward into the parking levels below, thereby offering the convenience to tenants of direct transport from their parked car to their office floor. Finally, rooftop terraces were added over the new reconfigured atria and the quantity of greenery was doubled at existing terraces making the rooftops more user friendly and environmentally responsible.

New restaurants entrance facing the Capitol Square.

US BANK LOBBY LEVEL Webster Street Retail Spaces Building Lobby Service Spaces


Restaurant Spaces 2

1 Elevator Lobby 2 Bank & Retail 3 L’Etoile & Graze


4 Outdoor Seating 5 Building Conference Center

E .Washington Street

6 Parking Ramp Entrance 5



4 N. Pinckney Street




Drawings Not to Scale


Office Space 2

Additional Office Space Roof Terrace 1 Elevator Lobby 2 Office Space




Drawings Not to Scale

New roof terrace with skylights to atrium below, looking towards Block 89.

Renovated 4th Floor roof terrace and atrium.

Renovated building with new street facing retail spaces, atria and rooftop terraces.

Pinckney sidewalk along new ground floor atria.


With two new ground floor restaurants opening out and adding activity at the sidewalk, a larger more welcoming main entrance and new landscaped roof terraces, US Bank Plaza has made a dramatic re-emergence as a good citizen in the downtown Madison urban landscape.

...a demonstration of social, economic and environmental responsibility.

The functional and operational problems that the building faced were serious enough to make it a possible candidate for demolition. But, with careful and insightful analysis and redesign, the project team under VDT’s leadership successfully transformed this icon into a contributing citizen on the Capitol Square once again. Vacancy has dropped to under 10% and the building was recently acknowledged as a winner of InBusiness Magazine’s 2010 Commercial Design Award for Best Office or Retail Renovation. Focusing on genuine sustainable opportunities helped the new owner elevate downtown Madison’s largest office building into a demonstration of social, economic and environmental responsibility. Bruce Graham’s energy saving promise of 1972 is finally now being realized.

L’Etoile with Graze beyond.

L’Etoile dining room.

Graze dining and bar area.

Graze outdoor patio.

VALERIO DEWALT TRAIN ASSOCIATES 500 North Dearborn Chicago, Illinois 60654 424 Waverley Street Palo Alto, California 94301

© Photography Mike Rebolz © 2011 Valerio Dewalt Train Associates


US Bank Plaza Renovation  
US Bank Plaza Renovation  

Completed in 1974 the US Bank Plaza, originally designed by Bruce Graham, opened just as the projected cost of energy to operate and occupy...