The Unique Ways EUA Uses Outdoor Space to Complete its HQ

EUA, an architecture firm with offices in Madison, Denver, and Des Moines completed a full renovation of its Milwaukee headquarters to enhance employee experiences, part of which is an indoor/outdoor space on the rooftop.

The 4,385 SF rooftop addition is a multi-purpose area for work and social functions, used year-round, featuring a commanding view of the Milwaukee skyline and Lake Michigan. Floor-to-ceiling accordion doors merge the interior and exterior spaces, letting in lakefront breezes and tons of daylight. A full kitchen and variety of seating — from bar top to height-adjustable smaller tables to comfortable soft seating — provides options for working or taking lunch. A shuffleboard table inside and cornhole outside are great ways to give the mind a break and hang out with co-workers. Outside, lounge furniture, firepits, Edison lighting, and seasonal plant life create a relaxing area that is frequently used for client and employee events.

In addition to the rooftop addition, the entire building (40,385 sq ft) was renovated to support the company’s projected growth; increasing meeting space options, reconfiguring floorplans, downsizing workstations and enhancing employee amenities.

Accordion doors on the terrace merge the inside with the outside, providing more space and fresh air in the warmer months

When was the project completed?

How much space (SF)?
40,385 sq ft office renovation + 4,385 sq ft rooftop terrace addition

Was this new or renovated space?
EUA’s belief that design can elevate people’s potential was the driving force behind the renovation of the five-story, 40,000+ sq ft Milwaukee headquarters, located in the heart of the city’s Historic Third Ward District. Constructed in 1900, the former home of the AW Rich Shoe Company was renovated and modernized, maintaining historic details while incorporating amenities to support employee well-being.

EUA Historic Office Building located in the heart of Milwaukee’s Third Ward district

SF per person?
(284 PSF per person)

How many employees?

What is the average daily population?

Is there a mobile work or work from home policy? If so, what percent of employees are remote workers?
Yes, employees have the flexibility to work from home as needed, but due to the nature of the design business, all Milwaukee based employees primarily work out of the office except for remotely located employees.

Describe workspace types.
To accommodate a growing workforce, the renovation increased capacity in standard and free address workstations by more than 20%.

Each floor is open plan with sit-to-stand workstations providing employees the ability to tailor their area to individual preferences. Workstations were set inbound from the exterior walls, allowing employees to access operable windows for access to fresh air and natural temperature control in the warmer months.

Four enclosed offices are located on the third floor for upper-level management and Human Resources.

Workstations feature sit-to-stand desks to increase employee wellness

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?
Understanding the importance of collaboration in spurring innovation, the renovation increased the number of conference rooms by 50%, providing a variety of spaces across all six floors.

Consistently located informal gathering spaces, nooks and coffee bars create opportunities on each floor for impromptu meetings. A large light-filled design lab is located off the lobby, providing ample room for team collaboration, large design workshops or employee gatherings and catered events.

The basement level encompasses training rooms, a wellness room, locker rooms and a large multi-purpose space complete with a ping pong table and kitchenette. Large, glass-enclosed conference rooms and smaller meeting rooms are located on each floor, with enclaves for one-on-ones or heads-down work. All spaces are fully equipped with robust audiovisual and Skype technology.

Soft seating on the terrace provides space for impromptu gatherings

What other kinds of support space or amenity spaces are provided?
The best piece of real estate is by far, the rooftop terrace, with stunning views of Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee skyline.

This space provides employees an alternative place to work, take a break or to socialize. Complete with a kitchenette, competitive shuffleboard table, and robust audio and visual technology, employees have more choice in their workday.

Accordion doors merge the inside and outside, creating one large space that is used for social events, all-hands meetings and organization, and community events.

On a sunny afternoon, it’s not uncommon to find EUA employees grilling on the deck, playing a game of bags, relaxing with a laptop on lounge furniture, enjoying the outdoor fire pits or working beneath the sunshade. Adjacent to Henry W. Maier Festival Park, music can often be enjoyed during Summerfest which hosts more than 800 bands over 11 days.

Has the project achieved any special certifications?
The project is not LEED; however, the building is considered a historic urban redevelopment and therefore sustainable. All materials and resources were local and daylighting, energy efficient lighting, recycled content and low VOC products were used wherever possible throughout the building.

Outdoor terrace for employees and social events capitalizes on the views of downtown Milwaukee and Lake Michigan

What are the projects location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities?
The office is in Milwaukee’s nationally registered historic Third Ward, a revitalized warehouse district one block south of downtown, bounded by the Milwaukee River. Considered the city’s creative hub, more than 450 art galleries, studios, performing arts venues, shopping and many restaurants call the Third Ward home. The Milwaukee RiverWalk is a short jaunt away, winding through the heart of the city tying together three distinct riverfront neighborhoods, Third Ward, Downtown and Beerline B. While highly walkable, public transportation is available directly near the office and within steps of Milwaukee’s streetcar, The Hop.

Was the “C” Suite involved in the project planning and design process? If so, how?
As a design firm, EUA felt it important to involve not only the “C” suite but designers and employees in the process. With a vision of creating an environment that people are excited to come to every day, and a place for people to be the best at what they do, involvement from a cross-section of people was critical to successfully achieving that goal.

Lounge seating on the outdoor terrace provides options for working throughout the day

Through our extensive work with corporate clients and research, we have found that the three key elements within the workplace that impact engagement levels are people, place, and technology. We brought in IT consultants to better understand how we could harness our spaces for seamless employee access, improving engagement across all offices. This resulted in the implementation of a variety of spaces throughout the building that offers choice to employees.

What kind of programming or visioning activities were used?
Several internal charrettes were held with groups of designers from each of EUA’s studios – Workplace, Living, Learning, Healthcare and Science & Technology – to set goals, review program options and collectively generate a design.

Were any change management initiatives employed?
Throughout the design and construction process, status updates were shared with employees via the intranet – being driven by the CEO and interior design team. Employees were invited to test out furniture options (including treadmill desks) prior to the final selection. Once the project was complete a support portal for requests was created to streamline any employee requests or feedback related to their new workspace.

Glass-enclosed small and large meeting rooms provide many options for collaboration

Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.
The addition of the rooftop terrace onto an existing historic building in the Third Ward presented a unique set of challenges. EUA worked extensively with the City of Milwaukee and State of Wisconsin to meet the parameters of modern building codes, setting the basis for future similar projects.

The new steel and timber structure sits on top of the existing 100-plus year-old timber frame, that owing to its original design, had the capacity to bear this additional weight. Uniquely, the new floor sits a few feet above the original roof structure, which remains in place under portions of the new addition.

Was there any emphasis or requirements on programming for health and wellbeing initiatives for employees?
Recognizing that employees spend a significant amount of time sitting at their desks, sit/stand workstations were selected for their health benefits and provide employees choice in how they work throughout the day. Workstations are inbound from the exterior walls, allowing employees to access operable windows for fresh air and natural temperature control.

The terrace is equipped with checkout laptops to allow employees with non-mobile PCs to be able to choose an alternative work zone. To improve the usage of the new 6th-floor amenity space, the firm often hosts internal events and other activities to spur employees to visit and use the space.

Shuffleboard competitions happen throughout the year, increasing employee interaction and providing a break during the work day

Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?
The terrace’s center moveable glass wall and expansive glass curtainwall wrap an interior space of polished concrete with steel, warm Douglas fir decking, and flexible furnishings providing a simple environment capable of accommodating multiple uses and needs. Salvaged fir beams, taken from elsewhere in the building, were ripped and fastened to a minimal steel frame on industrial casters to create a pair of large moveable tables. The elegant steel and glass roof terrace quietly translate the heavy timber structural system into a completely harmonious yet modern extension of the historic building below.

What products or service solutions are making the biggest impact in your space.
The most impactful changes we’ve seen are a result of using Herman Miller Canvas Channel Sit / Stand workstations and Humanscale Dual Monitor arms to allow employees to tailor their workspace to their individual preferences.

The terrace also provides options for working throughout the day as well as a kitchen for lunches and special events

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?
EUA let the building be the focal point of the space, with its solid bones and 100+ year history. Walls were kept free to show off the brick and heavy timber beams original to the structure.

What is the most unique feature of the new space?
The rooftop terrace is by far the standout space in the building. With incredible views to the lakefront and variety of seating indoor and out, it is a refreshing space to work or take a break.

Are there any furnishings or spaces specifically included to promote wellness/wellbeing?
Sit-to-stand workstations and six floors of internal stairs provide options for movement throughout the day.

Each floor is an open plan to increase transparency, safety, and interaction

What kinds of technology products were used?
Along with the physical enhancements, each conference room and every personal PC throughout the building was equipped with audio/visual technology allowing face-to-face communication between the four office locations. Select conference rooms were equipped with electronic visual displays to denote room availability and the ability to schedule space on demand.

If the company relocated to a new space, what was the most difficult aspect of the change for the employees?
While the renovation happened in an existing building, the firm used swing space on an adjacent building to undertake full floor renovations while remaining operational, displacing an entire studio during the construction period. The elevator also had to be expanded to accommodate the 6th-floor addition, requiring it to be closed for a period during the process. Working within a construction zone – noise, dust, elevator use – had its own issues.

How did the company communicate about the changes and moves?
The redesign and changes were communicated during all studio and firm-wide quarterly meetings, with updates posted regularly to EUA’s intranet.

Tell us more!
Architect: EUA
General Contractor: Berghammer
Structural Engineering: Pierce Engineers

Photography courtesy of EUA

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