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Powerhouse Construction Update

October 29, 2018
By Dan Schooff, Powerhouse Project Manager

When I see college or city community members around campus or around town, the question I get is, “What is going on with the Powerhouse construction?” The simple answer is “Lots!”

Working with new Powerhouse Director Steve Robinson, we thought that a detailed construction briefing would be welcomed by the community. Going forward, we will provide twice monthly updates.

As a quick reminder for new members of our community, the Powerhouse is the college’s new combined student union, recreation, and athletic center. It is intended to enhance the current mission of the college in multiple ways. The project’s $38 million cost is fully funded by donations from alumni and friends of the college and with significant public resources in the form of tax credits and grants from the state and federal government. It was recently one of 10 projects in the world honored by the World Architecture Festival.

Construction

Construction kicked off in late spring of 2017 when Alliant Energy/WPL undertook the complicated task of removing all the equipment that was previously used to generate electricity for the region. This involved cutting, removing, and recycling thousands and thousands of tons of metal. This first phase was completed by March 1, 2018.

Cutting the Northern Boiler in the Powerhouse546724

Following this effort, our Beloit-based construction manager, CCI, Inc., took over the site and began their work to achieve our vision to open the building by fall of 2019.

Progress continues each day, and this post is intended to give you a flavor of the work going on that often cannot be seen from the street.

Structural Steel

The multiple levels of the finished Powerhouse mostly don’t exist in the current building. Removing six-story coal boilers and two 30 megawatt turbines left wide open spaces ready for us to fill in with our vision.

Practically this means tons and tons of structural steel are installed by a specialty crew of ironworkers. They install steel beams — called ‘horizontal members’ — and attach these to the existing vertical columns — called, interestingly enough, ‘columns’ — and to brackets attached to the thick concrete walls of the existing building foundation.

After this steel is installed, decking is put down, and soon concrete will be poured to create a new floor of our building. In some places, we will tile or carpet this floor, but often we will have a specialist in concrete polishing produce our finished and durable floor. The basement area also includes the baseball and softball batting cages that are very far along.

Batting Cage Area in Powerhouse Basement 

From the beginning of the Powerhouse, we have been committed to being 100 percent accessible. For us, that means bringing principles of universal design into both the building and the programming of the building. We reside on campus with buildings dating back to the 1800s, with too many places that are not fully accessible.

To reach these goals, we will have four elevators in the building. The main set of two elevators will reach each level of the building. With two, there is a redundancy that will allow for more rapid movement throughout the building and will allow for planned or unplanned service calls to occur while still keeping the building fully accessible.

The third elevator will meet the bridge as it comes over from campus and will connect the bridge level with the “main” level 2 and the ground floor level 1. The bridge will go straight across from the Aldrich Field area without needing to go up a ramp.

The fourth elevator is a freight elevator to ensure our staff can move equipment, food, and trash, etc., efficiently throughout the 120,000 square foot Powerhouse.

These elevator towers are rising through the building right now.

Powerhouse Main Elevator Shafts from Basement
The main elevator shafts, seen behind two coal crushers in the basement.

Powerhouse Bridge Entrance Elevator Shaft
The bridge entrance elevator shaft.

The lower level floor is beginning to take shape. We are raising the floor from 18 to 30 inches and putting in a modern drain tile system to ensure any ground water that makes it into the space below the floor is quickly pumped out with a sump system. There are also multiple storage rooms that occupy space in the basement.

The storage room floors have been filled, the concrete poured and finished. A little window into the life of a project manager: I was oddly and unnaturally excited this summer about one of the rooms that had a finished floor drain. It was wonderful to see the first finished part of the building.

Floor Drain near Pool Pumps 

The campus vision, achieved through a shared governance process, seeks to build a unique building in higher education - this combined student union, recreation, and athletic center. It is meant not to compartmentalize each space but to build a space that allows our community to move from one part of their Beloit experience to another.

A key part of that vision is a new 165-seat auditorium This space spans between the lower level and the ground floor. It will have high-quality projection equipment, curved rows, and sloped seating. Events will range from Weissberg residency talks to Academic Senate to Beloit International Film festival screenings. Yes, Student Life is planning to show movies here for students.

Circular Base of the Powerhouse's Lecture Hall 

We will work to bring you more updates throughout the construction. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to the team.

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