Upside down HVAC

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 11:00 am

The Grunau Co. recently completed the heating, ventilation and air conditioning, (HVAC), plumbing and specialty metal work on the two-year, $125 million first-phase project of Northwestern Mutual’s Franklin campus.

The Grunau mechanical team installed an under-floor HVAC system in the 500,000-square-foot facility, making it one of only a handful of buildings in southeastern Wisconsin to have such a system.

Northwestern Mutual’s new five-story office building is located on West Drexel Avenue and 27th Street in Franklin. The new campus was developed along Oak Creek’s western border to accommodate Northwestern Mutual’s expanding needs over the next 10-20 years.

"We worked closely with Northwestern Mutual, the engineer and the general construction manager to ensure the highest quality of work and to maintain the sophistication and integrity of this building," said Paul Grunau, president of the Grunau Co.

Early on in the project planning, Northwestern Mutual identified the underfloor HVAC system as one part of its larger strategy to create a highly efficient and cost-effective facility.

The unique nature of the under-floor system prompted Grunau Co. to research the system extensively to learn as much about it as possible prior to installation.

"The under-floor system was one of the things for which Grunau Co. felt particularly responsible," said Jeff Kuhnke, Grunau Co. project manager. "We spent a lot of time learning how to best do our job. We took it upon ourselves to help coordinate the other tradesâ work with the system."

An under-floor system places the heating and cooling vents under a raised floor instead of above the ceiling. Most notably, this type of system allows individuals to control the climate at his or her work station with a personal vent. In addition, building layouts are more easily configurable, and an under-floor system helps eliminate dust and draft problems, subsequently improving indoor air quality because the clean air is supplied closer to occupants than from above.

The new system also reduces the amount of duct work required, potentially reducing floor-to-floor height, creating a shorter building and reducing hard construction material costs such as steel and glass. The system also has the potential to save energy costs in its mechanical systems.

Grunau Metals, a division of Grunau Co., installed the stainless steel ornamental railings and galvanized grilles in the parking structure for the first building of the new Northwestern Mutual Franklin campus.

The company fabricated the ornamental railings using a fastening system with little or no visible welds. The metals team contributed to the architectural quality of the building with details such as linear polish on the stainless steel components to give the metal a high-end look, rather than the traditional polish around the metal’s circumference.

Grunau Metals also managed the contractors who installed the wood cap and glass infill for the railings.

"We looked to add the details that are important to Northwestern Mutual and their overall image in this architecturally noteworthy building," said Mark Gall, vice president, Grunau Metals division manager. "We strive to be innovative in our work to meet the needs of our clients."

Grunau Company, established in 1920, employs 500 people and is headquartered in Oak Creek. The company has offices in Wisconsin, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Northwestern Mutual’s Franklin campus was designed by Eppstein Uhen Architects and constructed by Opus North Corp.

City officials from Franklin and Oak Creek are trying to create a plan to steer future development around the building in the 27th Street corridor.

July 23, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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