Opus Group Completes Marquette U Buildings

Photo credit: Marquette University

MINNEAPOLIS — Opus Development Corporation, a Minneapolis-based commercial real estate and design-build family of companies, was awarded the contract for two projects at Marquette University on the College of Engineering and Law School buildings.
Home to Milwaukee’s only law school, the $85 million, 205,000-square-foot Ray and Kay Eckstein Hall building is located on five acres within the university campus.
The hall features two model courtrooms, 11 classrooms, 85 faculty and staff offices, library space with a two-story reading room, a conference center and a cafe.
The structure also houses a two-story parking garage with 171 spaces, providing convenience and safety for staff and students.
As part of both the university and development group’s goal to build a structure showcasing the university’s commitment to the environment and sustainable building practices, the building was designed according to LEED Silver standards, and was awarded certification in December 2010.
The facility opened its doors in August 2010.
The Milwaukee Office of Opus Development Corporation led the design and construction of Ray and Kay Eckstein Hall,with the company’s Minneapolis-based sister architecture and engineering firm Opus AE Group as the architect of record and Boston-based Shepley Bulfinch as the design architects.
The group is also designing and building the 115,000-square-foot College of Engineering at the University, featuring a two-story, high bay lab with a 10-ton overhead crane, environmental chamber, soils testing pit and strong floors and walls to accommodate structural and materials testing.
The building was “built for teaching,” with an 8,000-square-foot learning studio to enable students to design, model and build prototypes of their projects.
Additionally, the building’s exposed mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems were designed to provide real-life opportunities for student learning.
Students will also be able to monitor building energy consumption, water usage and forces on the building structure, according to officials.
Julie Ledger, vice president and general manager for Opus Development Corporation, said the development and construction of the law school brought unique challenges that required problem-solving and creative thinking to overcome.
When conceptual design started on Eckstein Hall, Marquette officials wanted an emphasis placed on connecting the University to the city of Milwaukee, she said.
“Most campus buildings have their backs turned to the thousands of drivers that travel the Marquette Interchange each day,” she said. “To overcome this challenge, we created a curved building to conform to the shape of the interchange and utilized a clear glass façade to greet the city and commuters. The result was a development that is one of the premier buildings in Wisconsin, and one of the top law school facilities in the country.”
In order to develop the 110,000-square-foot parking structure located below the building, the team had to deal with the land’s high water table by constructing the structure from post-tensioned concrete to achieve maximum clearance with a minimal excavation depth, which was the key to avoid expensive dewatering systems due to the high water table below grade.
The structure has room for 171 cars, mechanical rooms, and also houses a chiller plant that will supply half of the campus with chilled water.
Ledger said that in addition to the expected challenges that go hand-in-hand with on-campus construction, the firm had to coordinate with the unique neighbors bordering the site, including an active art museum with a loading dock for its highly valued art pieces within the parameters of construction and a heavily-attended church, operating separate from the university.
To date, Opus has constructed 13 buildings on the Marquette University campus.
The firm’s education portfolio also includes two student resident halls Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, a student center and athletic and recreation center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. And a private student housing apartment building near the University of Minnesota.