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Hunzinger Construction – Johnson Controls Inc. Hawley Road Facility


Hunzinger Construction’s history of innovation makes it the perfect building partner for Johnson Controls.

By Jim Harris

Hunzinger Construction has been recognized as an industry leader for most of its nearly 110-year history. “We have a strong history and a consistency from our long-term loyal employees, who are the very best in their field and always on the leading edge of construction innovation,” says Joan Zepecki, director of corporate affairs for the Brookfield, Wis.-headquartered company. “One thing that truly sets us apart is our ability to drive schedules.”

The company is recognized among its industry peers as a leader in the areas of sustainable construction and building information modeling technology. As an example, Hunzinger’s trademarked Virtual Design and Construction Coordination ™ (VDCC™) program goes beyond traditional 3-D modeling to incorporate construction costs and schedules into the design process.

Hunzinger’s methods and dedicated staff – many members of which have been with the company for more than 20 years – have earned it a number of repeat clients, as well as national recognition. The company is the only Wisconsin-based firm to be listed every year on Engineering News-Record’s Top 400 General Contractors in the United States since the list’s inception in 1964.

High Honors

One of the company’s repeat clients is Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls Inc., a global multi-industrial leader in the automotive, buildings and energy storage industries. Since 2007, Hunzinger has dedicated a team directly to Johnson Controls’ projects, Senior Project Manager Craig Konrad says.

Two years ago, Hunzinger completed Johnson Controls’ Hawley Road Facility in West Allis, Wis., a 130,900-square-foot interior build-out of spaces on two floors of an occupied office building. The building dates back to the 1940s and formerly housed a factory and warehouse.

Work on the project started in May 2014 and was completed in October 2014. The project earned the company several awards including Engineering News Record’s “Best Project of the Year 2014” for interior/tenant improvement as well as honors from the Wisconsin American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Milwaukee Business Journal.

Collaborative Efforts

One aspect of the project noted on each of the awards was Hunzinger’s  five-month turnaround. The company credits its fellow construction team members with helping it achieve this accomplishment. Hunzinger served as the construction manager. Johnson Controls’ in-house design and construction team addressed the programming, standards, Bistro, and overall project management. Eppstein Uhen Architects of Milwaukee is the project designer and architect of record. “This was a highly collaborative effort,” Zepecki says. “The speed in which the project was done is a result of the cooperation between the team members that made it happen.”Hunzinger box

Hunzinger’s responsibilities on the project included running a smooth, highly efficient and well-coordinated job. Hunzinger’s on-site project superintendent was proactive and aggressively worked to keep the project on schedule while maintaining a safe and clean site. Hunzinger was focused on ensuring that quality work was being done to needed specifications while drawings were sometimes being created at the same time crews were building. Work throughout the project involved installing a new stairwell to join the first and second floors as well as construction of interior walls, ceilings, lighting, carpet and finishes. The company also self-performed demolition, concrete and rough and finish carpentry related to the project.

The company utilized innovative construction methods to meet the aggressive schedule. Within two weeks of starting the initial demolition, electrical contractor Uihlein Electric installed an under-floor plug-and-play system, which allowed Hunzinger to install the office’s electrical systems before the design was complete.

Following the electrical installation, Bart Wellenstein Construction Inc. installed access flooring provided by Haworth. “By placing these plug-and-play boxes randomly throughout the under-floor, work was able to progress to prepare the space for the office buildout while the design was being completed,” Hunzinger says. “This method allowed us to cut the construction schedule by six to eight weeks.”

In addition to the challenge of meeting the accelerated schedule, Hunzinger worked closely with other tenants of the Hawley Road building to ensure their operations were uninterrupted by construction. Other building tenants include a call center as well as a broadcast news station. “We changed our means and methods when we could,” Konrad says. “We coordinated any disruptive activity with the news station to periods when they weren’t on the air live.”

Creating Unity

The office is occupied by 800 employees from several administrative functions within Johnson Controls and includes a functional reception area, state-of-the-art work stations, multiple conference rooms, a modern kitchen and break room areas as well as storage.

“The architecture of Johnson Controls’ new office facility fully expresses the goal of the space by uniting people and different work styles, and celebrates architectural styles with building materials from different eras, uniting the old and new,” the company says.

At the heart of the new space is a central two-story gathering area accented by the newly installed stairwell and a towering feature known as the Unity Wall that ties the space together. This gathering place is capable of accommodating the entire staff for all-hands meetings and social events.  The Unity Wall features a large video wall framed with steel beams that were salvaged from the floor opening demolition and is clad with reclaimed barnwood creating a truly stunning focal point for the space, Konrad notes.

New Spaces

The company is at work on a new project for Johnson Controls. Construction began in March on corporate offices for Adient, a spin-off of Johnson Controls’ automotive seating business that will become a publicly traded company in October. 

The new office is located in an 18-story, multi-tenant office tower recently completed in downtown Milwaukee.  Adient will occupy the building’s 11th floor, which is roughly 23,000 square feet.

The project, designed by Gensler Architects of Chicago, will include a functional reception area, state-of-the-art work stations, multiple conference rooms, a modern kitchen and break room areas and storage. The project is fast-tracked for completion in June 2016, only four months from its start, Konrad says.

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