Projects: Education Facilities

The Powerhouse, Beloit College, Beloit, Wis.

RETROFIT TEAM

ARCHITECT: Studio Gang

ASSOCIATE ARCHITECT; LEED CONSULTANT; COMMISSIONING CONSULTANT; AND ELECTRICAL, PLUMBING, FIRE PROTECTION AND STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Angus-Young Associates

CONSTRUCTION MANAGER: Corporate Contractors Inc.

POLYCARBONATE WALL SYSTEM INSTALLER: Richard Dembski Construction, (412) 464-0415

MATERIALS

The former Blackhawk Generating Station, a decommissioned coal-burning power plant located along Wisconsin’s Rock River, was composed of three buildings constructed mostly of brick and concrete from 1908 to 1949.

EXTECH’s involvement with Beloit College’s Powerhouse project began during Studio Gang’s schematic design phase in March 2017. 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.

EXTECH’s LIGHTWALL 3440 interlocking wall system was customized to meet the field house’s specific goals. The system features continuous, 45-foot-tall, impact-resistant, translucent walls that are unbroken by vertical or horizontal framing; vertical, frameless, all-polycarbonate corners forming a sawtooth pattern that continue the rhythm of the vertical fenestrations of the brick power station; overhead door cladding that blends seamlessly with the façade; and a mounting system that minimizes shadowing of the supporting horizontal steel structure. Beyond aesthetic goals, The Powerhouse had numerous performance-based requirements. As a sports field house that includes baseball practice, impact resistance was a primary motive for the use of polycarbonate. The polycarbonate also had to meet ASTM E-84 Class A flame/smoke, as well as CC-1 flame spread.

The LIGHTWALL system’s aluminum framing was finished in a Class I clear anodize. This no-VOC, low-emission finish supports healthy indoor air quality. Its durability also means it requires minimal maintenance, reducing the need for repair, replacement and associated labor to care for it. At the end of its lifespan on the building, it can be locally recycled.

Approximately 250 polycarbonate panels with aluminum perimeter framing enclose the 142-foot-long by 123-foot-wide by 45-foot-tall field house. Each panel is 19.68-inches wide by 1 1/2-inches thick.

Approximately 250 polycarbonate panels with aluminum perimeter framing enclose the 142-foot-long by 123-foot-wide by 45-foot-tall field house. Each panel is 19.68-inches wide by 1 1/2-inches thick.

Because of the Powerhouse’s close proximity to the riverfront, the field crew worked off swing-stages suspended from the roof to install each panel. The EXTECH system is tied back to the steel structure. Bent steel clips hold the translucent panels proud of the steel, which allows the interior light to bypass the supporting girt to minimize shadowing and provide a more uniform surface glow. At night, the soft glow of the illuminated Powerhouse serves as a beacon to students. During the day, the translucent building envelope maximizes and diffuses the natural lighting, providing a comfortable interior experience.

POLYCARBONATE WALL SYSTEM MANUFACTURER: EXTECH/Exterior Technologies Inc.

THE RETROFIT

The former Blackhawk Generating Station, a decommissioned coal-burning power plant located along Wisconsin’s Rock River, was composed of three buildings constructed mostly of brick and concrete from 1908 to 1949. Studio Gang reimagined the structure as a unified, 120,000-square-foot student union and recreation center.

Inside, The Powerhouse features a 10,000-square-foot fitness center and 17,000-square-foot recreational gym, including a three-lane track and eight-lane competition pool, as well as spaces for conversation, collaboration and study. Additional amenities include a coffee shop, student lounges, club rooms, conference center and a lecture hall/theater. The field house opens to a town park, and a public walkway connects the building to the river, campus and community.

The $38 million renovated building opened for the 2020-21 academic year, following protective practices with respect to the pandemic.

PHOTOS: Tom Harris

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