Construction continues on UWM’s Kenwood Interdisciplinary Research Center (KIRC), the latest addition to the southwest quadrant of campus.
The project, which broke ground on October 24, 2012, will ultimately become the university’s newest academic building. When complete, the Kenwood IRC will be a space primarily designated for research. Inside, the KIRC will house instructional labs, research labs, faculty and staff offices as well as space for collaboration and core research support.
UWM Project Manager Kurt Young-Binter considers the construction of the Kenwood IRC to be a sign of the university’s commitment to fulfilling its mission: becoming a top-tier research institution.
“This building is a visual representation of how UWM is progressing,” said Binter. “It’s very exciting. People should feel good about it.”
After a harsh winter slowed construction progress, crews are back to working on the building’s exterior.
“There have been weather-related delays, not only from the extreme cold but from the wind,” said Binter. “That big tower crane and even the smaller cranes can’t work when it gets windy.”
As the exterior of the KIRC nears completion, more construction crews are set to arrive on campus.
“Up until now the electrical contractors, the mechanical and plumbing contractors haven’t been able to do that much work,” Binter said. “As the project ramps up and all of the trades are able to access the building, things are going to become busier.”
The project is set to finish in early 2015, assuming no further delay. However, the option for future construction still exists.
“We had originally conceived [a building with] more space, with more programs and functions, but we had to scale back due to cost limitations,” said Binter. “We got as much of the Kenwood IRC as we could with the money that was given to us.”
UWM was able to afford 141,300 gross square feet of the building that is now under construction. The building is often referred to as “phase one” of the Kenwood IRC project. The next phases may never be completed.
Binter explained that the university does long-range capital planning. An independent consultant analyzes the university’s needs, both current and expected, to make recommendations about future needs.
“The next project we do in that area of campus might not be phase two [of the IRC] but it will be what campus needs most,” said Binter. “The master plan [which originally proposed the Kenwood IRC] was five years ago. Things change.”
Principle architect Mark Corey revealed some of the design changes made to the building. Among the changes, relocation of a state-of-the-art greenhouse originally intended to be part of the KIRC.
“They [UWM] wanted more programming than was practical, “said Corey. “That’s one of the reasons we ended up moving the greenhouse to the northwest quadrant.”
Design change has also affected the height of the KIRC.
“The building, due to constraints, is taller than originally planned,” Corey said.
In the future, UWM will need more facility space to accommodate a growing student population. Since UWM’s main campus is landlocked by neighborhood housing, the university tends to build vertically.
The third floor of the building will be vacant, leaving space for future renovation.
“We would all love to see the building fully outfitted,” said Corey. “I think everybody is waiting to see where the final construction cost is at and how much is left in the budget.”
Designing the Kenwood IRC took Corey and other architects two years. Including the initial planning and the construction process, the building will take over six years to complete. Still, the investment pays off. Both Corey and Binter expect the Kenwood IRC to remain viable for at least five decades.
“People always say the state builds fifty-year buildings,” said Binter. “It’s a testament to the quality of these buildings.”
“We’re helping to create a wonderful environment for research and instruction,”Corey said. “Good research, discoveries and great teaching will occur in the building and it’s been a wonderful project. The campus has been tremendously supportive all along the way. We worked as hard as we could to get everything they needed within the constraints of the budget. It’s been a really, really rewarding project for us.”