Green architecture finds a home in Walker’s Point

By - May 19th, 2011 04:00 am

Illustration of the impending Milwaukee Fix Building on the corner of Bruce and S. 2nd Street

Walker’s Point will be the home to new, innovative and eco-friendly architecture after construction begins on a building which will house a community health clinic, a cheese factory and retail shop, a center for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, and a holistic healing non-profit. The groundbreaking ceremony  for Milwaukee Fix takes place tonight with a ribbon-cutting on the corner of Bruce and the newly-redesigned 2nd Street.

Fix Development,LLC. president Juli Kaufmann says that the project has three bottom lines: financial, environmental, and social.

“[It’s important] that this project works as an actual, repeatable, private-sector, financially viable project,” said Kaufmann. She said that while some aspects of green construction have higher initial costs, “you pay for those up-front costs, they return to you by lower operating costs, and that’s true for both water and energy.”

The lot where the Milwaukee Fix building will soon stand.

“The economics of environmental building are beginning to shift,” Kaufmann said. “It has become more affordable, and also become required, either because regulations require it or because public perception requires it.”

The lot, on the southeast corner of 2nd and Bruce Street, is a brownfield which Kaufmann says is contaminated with toxins like arsenic and lead, and the first step after groundbreaking will be about two weeks of cleanup.

The environmental goals of the project include net-zero energy use and 100 percent recovery of rainwater. The former will be accomplished by using geothermal heating and cooling, a system of tubing and an electric heat pump beneath the building that will exploit the fairly constant temperature of the earth to heat the building in the winter and keep it cool during summer.

About half of the rainwater will be collected by a fruit and vegetable garden atop a roof specifically designed to withstand the added weight, Kaufmann said, and the rest will be collected in a cistern under the building.

“That’s how we capture 100 percent of that water,” said Kaufmann, “and then that water in the holding tank is used for flushing toilets.”

“Other strategies include no toxic materials in the construction of the building and significant use of salvaged and recycled materials,” said Kaufmann. “For example, the exterior of the building [will be] completely made of recycled, reclaimed, salvaged brick, and some of the wood treatment on the building [will be] made of salvaged pickle barrels.”

The building will also feature salvaged or recycled doors, windows, and cabinetry, Kaufmann said. The building is oriented the south and has windows designed to take advantage of the sun during the winter. Kaufmann said that while green construction has been improved by new technologies, most of this construction relies on fairly simple, organic concepts.

“We’re using ancient technology,” said Kaufmann.

On the ground floor of the building will be Clock Shadow Creamery, which will feature a tour-able cheese-making operation as well as a retail shop. The operation will be run by Master Cheesemaker Bob Wills of Cedar Grove Cheese, based in Plain, Wisconsin. Wills could not be reached in time for this article, but Cedar Grove’s website says that on of that company’s priorities is “environmentally sound production: working in concert with nature is an important part of our business. Production of a wide variety of OCIA certified organic cheese, a ‘Living Machine’ to clean our wash-water in a beautiful biological way, and recycling and energy reduction programs are our way of keeping up our commitment to the environment.”

The remaining three floors will be occupied by The Healing Collective, comprised of three distinct organizations: Aurora Walker’s Point Community Clinic, CORE/El Centro, and The Healing Center. CORE/El Centro cofounder Madeline Gianforte said that the three groups complement one another, and frequently refer clients within the collective according to client needs.

The Walker’s Point Community Clinic is an Aurora primary health care facility which serves uninsured clients. CORE/El Centro, a non-profit devoted to “natural and integrative health services,” according to Gianforte, offer services including massage, reiki, acupuncture and holistic exercise classes. The Healing Center provides free services to survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

“We really feel that environment is very critical to the health of people,” Gianforte said, “so a green building that provides people with a healthy environment will only facilitate the health of the individual.”

According to Kaufmann, the project’s financing comes mostly from private investors, who do expect a return on their investment but who also are looking for opportunities that reflect their values.

“Some of my investors really care about the environmental impacts,” she said, “and some are interested in the social aims of the tenants…they are Milwaukeeans who would like to move their money out of Wall Street and in to Main Street,” said Kaufmann. She also said there is still room for additional investors in the project.

“I don’t understand why you would not build this way,” said Kaufmann. “There are some barriers to being successful, and there certainly are costs, but what has been an important objective of this project is to demonstrate that you can … still put together a viable project that could be replicated … that could serve a social purpose and still make financial sense.”

The groundbreaking ceremony will be held this evening at the building site on the corner of Second and Bruce , beginning at 4:30 p.m. The nearby Milwaukee Brewing Company brewery will open its doors for tours at 5 p.m. and the celebration will continue until 9 p.m. For more information, click here.

0 thoughts on “Green architecture finds a home in Walker’s Point”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like an excellent project. Thanks for sharing!

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