Cutting Edge Design

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Photo by Sarah Christopherson

“I’m a doer,” said Juli Kaufmann. “My company is called Fix Development because I just like to fix shit.”

Kaufman “fixed” a plot of land in Milwaukee’s warehouse district that used to be considered one of the most toxic sites in the United States. Now, it is a symbol of sustainability in the city.

She’s the owner of Fix Development, a construction company that works toward creating green buildings that balance social, environmental, cultural, and financial values.

“My DNA is about leaving the world better than I found it,” said Kaufmann.

At 130 West Bruce Street, in Milwaukee’s Historic Walker’s Point, sits the Clock Shadow Building.

Ron Henningfeld is one of Wisconsin’s many cheesemakers. He grew up on a dairy farm in East Troy, Wisconsin and has been connected with the land ever since. Henningfeld works at Clock Shadow Creamery.

“I’ve been very connected to the environment,” said Henningfeld. “It is important in order to be successful with animals and farming.”

The creamery keeps the environment in mind when making dairy products and getting rid of waste, because surprisingly, cheese creates a lot of waste.

Whey, which is a byproduct of cheese, is usually sent down the drains and is left for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District to handle. “But instead of doing that,” said Henningfeld, “we decided to do something better.”

All of the wastewater and whey collects in a tank in the factory, which then gets transported to a farm field and used as fertilizer.

Every thought in the Clock Shadow Building revolves around “what can we do to better the environment,” said Kaufmann.

The Clock Shadow Building is top of the line when it comes to sustainable features, and it is part of a national trend. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, “Green building accounts for more than one-third of all non-residential design and construction and will grow to more than one-half of all construction within the next five years.”

“I think this is a movement,” said Henningfeld. “I hope we’re not a long way ahead of it, but we’re ahead of it and I hope to see more of it.”

There is one problem though. Milwaukee is already built.

“By and large, the buildings, you know, we have,” said Deputy Director for the Milwaukee Office of Sustainability Erick Shambarger. “So we really need to focus on retrofitting the buildings we have and improving them.”

Just because the city is built, doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for sustainable buildings in Milwaukee.

“The fact that we are a built environment poses a challenge and an opportunity,” said Shambarger.

Kaufmann’s Clock Shadow Building is one way to put Milwaukee on the map.

She was the brain of the project and really wanted to go above and beyond the usual green building construction.

“We really pushed for a higher standard,” she said, “the Living Building standard which is the next generation of LEED and it has really aggressive standards.”

The International Living Future Institute defines The Living Building Challenge as “a philosophy, advocacy tool and certification program that addresses development at all scales.” The Challenge is made up of seven criteria: Site, Water, Energy, Materials, Equity, Beauty and Health.

“The Living Building Challenge sets a whole new mindset that’s so simple,” said HGA Architect d’Andre Willis.

The ILFI only has three buildings that have achieved the “Living” status, so the idea may be simple but it’s not too simple to accomplish.

The United States Green Building Council oversees the other side of green building certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED Certified buildings are designed to “lower operating costs, reduce waste sent to landfills, conserve energy and water, be healthier and safer for occupants, and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions,” according to the USGBC.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning Associate Professor Jim Wasley thinks of LEED in a different way. “LEED is a rating system like good housekeeping, a seal of approval for green buildings,” he said. “It’s slightly behind the cutting edge but it’s ahead of the market.”

Kaufmann failed to achieve her goal of reaching the Living Building standards, but if the building were to be LEED Certified, it would receive the highest achievement, Platinum.

The ILFI said that because the building used water from the city then she didn’t live up to the standards.

The building is right down the block from MMSD, which treats the buildings water. All other water for the building comes from storm water that is collected.

“Essentially it requires us to have water treatment facility in this building to treat basically our sewage to make it clean and then reuse it,” said Kaufmann. “It’s frustrating because we’re a great example and that’s a stupid rule.”

The Living Building features

From a toxic waste site to one of the most sustainable buildings in Milwaukee, the Clock Shadow has come a long way.

Every tiny detail was planned and argued over from phase one. “It wasn’t like one decision,” said Kaufmann. “It was a group process, so I mean those things get hard and it gets tense and we had like therapy afterwards.”

The building was designed with three goals in mind:

.     Is this the most progressive environmental decision we can make?

.     Will it comply with our budget?

.     Will it change Milwaukee?

The other goal was to become a living building through the Living Building Challenge. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.

For water, the building has a cistern that collects storm water. That water is circulated throughout the building and used to flush toilets. The small amount of water brought in from the city is used for sink and drinking water.

The building is oriented to the south to allow for the maximum amount of sunlight possible. This cuts back on the amount of artificial light needed because it can rely on natural lighting instead. Also, the building relies on the earth’s geothermal energy to heat and cool the building.

The elevator is a small aspect of the project but it is a big deal in the elevator community.

“This is the first of its kind,” said Kaufmann. The second is to go in the Empire State Building in New York City. The elevators use less toxic lubrican