For nearly two decades, a dead-ended, off-ramp in downtown Milwaukee’s Park East corridor created an eyesore for the local area. The remnant of an expressway that never came to fruition, the ramp was finally demolished in the 1990s, leaving a bleak and unsightly reminder of the planning error. To beautify and make use of that space, the city’s latest rejuvenation success story included the construction of the Avenir mixed-use development, designed to blend seamlessly into the surrounding established neighborhood. Spanish for “come together,” Avenir recently opened its doors to residents and local businesses alike with access to 7,000-square-feet of retail space, more than 100 apartment units and garage parking.

“We wanted the structure to complement the classic architecture of the neighborhood,” says Scott Drees, director of construction for developer Wangard Partners Inc. “There’s a lot of brick and a lot of stone masonry, but natural stone was cost prohibitive. There was also a significant concern with the energy issues of using a monolithic layer of veneer.”

When lead designer Ted Haug of Legat Architects proposed using Oldcastle’s Echelon EnduraMax High Performance Wall System in conjunction with the Echelon Harvard-Brik and Cordova Stone, he provided a solution that would help achieve both the aesthetic and energy goals within budgetary constraints. This is part of the company’s systems approach, which combines products that harmoniously work together in performance, energy efficiency and design.

“We were looking for a thinner product to help cost efficiency, and these masonry products gave us the aesthetics we were looking for without requiring the structural steel of traditional masonry systems,” Drees offered. “EnduraMax checks a lot of boxes and helped us to meet code with continuous insulation.”

The wall system is specifically engineered to work together and form a total cladding solution that adds superior energy performance. The complete system offers a 9.2 steady state R-value, continuous insulation thermal barrier; improved water management and acoustical comfort as well as an extra layer of thermal protection that helped building owners meet and exceed demanding energy codes.

Enhances Wall Systems

Newer LEED v4 ratings launched in 2013 are also enhanced by the wall system, which can contribute up to 18 points for Optimizing Energy Performance by reducing a building’s energy use.  Another consideration for mixed use structures is sound transmission for interior walls, known as the Sound Transmission Class for new construction.  The wall system has an STC of 61 or more, with masonry units ranging from 45 for a lightweight 8-inch to more than 60 for a fully grouted 12-inch, depending on adjacent room occupancy.

The Avenir wall system is comprised of three components—a framework of pocketed and profile-molded EPS insulation panels that attach directly to the structure, masonry stones or bricks, and pumped mortar. All combine to speed installation, provide a R13.6 continuous insulation thermal barrier, improved water management and acoustical comfort, while creating the look of brick or stone masonry veneer.

Drees further noted that the wall system addressed one of Wangard’s overall corporate goals: bringing employment opportunities to the local community. “There was an initial learning curve on the installation, since the product is new to our area. But, we discovered that EnduraMax didn’t require the advanced skill level of a traditional mason, which gave us the opportunity to use a traditional workforce and employ workers who we would not have been able to use otherwise,” Drees says. “We enjoy bringing products to market that further the employment opportunities of the local workforce.”

Durable Products for the Future

Drees, who is currently planning to develop a second neighboring apartment building, is also interested in the opportunity to work with Oldcastle Echelon wall systems and masonry products for this and additional future projects. “It would be nice to experiment with other finishes and textures that mimic classic Milwaukee architecture and materials,” Drees added.

  For the best results, contractors today are carefully considering high-quality masonry that offer both structural benefits and finish in one product. This efficient use of materials has saved projects owners, municipalities and contractors’ time and money, while reinforcing the structural integrity of buildings and eliminating the need to install another tier of similar and costly building products.