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Buckner Companies Home Office Wins National Architecture and Engineering Award

June 20, 2011 from American Institute of Steel Construction

(Chicago, IL) – The Buckner Companies Home Office project in Graham, N.C., has earned national recognition in the 2011 Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel awards program (IDEAS2), and members of the project team will be presented with awards from the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) during a ceremony at the headquarters building Wednesday, June 22, at 3 p.m. Conducted annually by AISC, the IDEAS2 awards recognize outstanding achievements in engineering and architecture on structural steel projects around the country. The IDEAS2 award is the highest, most prestigious honor bestowed on building projects by the structural steel industry in the U.S.

Project team members include owner The Buckner Companies (AISC Member), Graham, N.C.; architect Weinstein Friedlein Architects, Carrboro, N.C.; engineer Stewart Engineering, Raleigh, N.C.; steel detailer and fabricator CMC South Carolina Steel (AISC Member), Greenville, S.C.; steel erector Buckner Steel (AISC and SEAA Member), Graham, N.C.; contractor Romeo Guest, Durham, N.C.

The Buckner Companies Home Office project is a National Winner in the category of projects Less than $15 Million, making it one of only eight projects around the country to receive the National honor. Each year, the IDEAS2 awards honor National and Merit award winners in three categories, based on constructed value: projects less than $15 million; projects $15 million to $75 million; and projects greater than $75 million. Each project is judged on its use of structural steel, with an emphasis on creative solutions to project requirements; design innovation; aesthetic and visual impact of the project; innovative use of architecturally exposed structural steel; technical or architectural advances in the use of steel; the use of innovative design and construction methods; and sustainable design.

The new headquarters building for a nationwide crane leasing and steel erection company was a long-contemplated update to a venerable, family-run enterprise. Business was good and growing, but market conditions demanded better teamwork and communication. Existing space was cramped and poorly arranged. Most important to the third generation of family leadership, the company’s existing offices said nothing of the firm’s work, capability, or success.

The Buckner Companies turned its need into opportunity – a chance to project itself as a dynamic and resourceful contracting partner. The firm’s new open, airy headquarters in central North Carolina is a showcase for the steel erector’s trade. It also tells the story of steel, beginning with the material’s salvage and reuse, to its integration with other building systems, and ending with its powerful impact when simply expressed and carefully detailed.

“An outstanding example of leveraging LEED design elements with architecture that provides a functional as well as an inviting workplace environment,” commented Kent Long, vice president, Florida Division, Balfour Beatty, and a judge in the competition.

To make a place that would clearly express the company’s line of work, Buckner turned to its own crane-rigging yard, which was piled with steel building parts rescued from various construction sites over several decades. Company president Doug Williams provided an inventory of materials from this “boneyard,” challenging the design and construction team to incorporate all they could in the new building.

Engineers combed the list and assessed hundreds of steel sections and fabrications for condition, strength and suitability. They found wide-flange members for columns and composite floor and roof beams, cellular beams for floor girders, and open-web steel joists for lightweight spans. Metal decking found second life supporting the flat roof and floor, and two sections of 15-ft-tall plate girders became the walls of a new conference room, cantilevered out the front of the building to shelter the main entrance.

Buckner rescued a 15-ton, 58-ft-long pedestrian bridge from the college campus where the company had first installed it 30 years before. The bridge and its pylons became the connector between the new building and the existing offices. Even old crane parts and pieces of rigging found their way into the project, as stair hangers, column braces, and furniture pedestals.

In all, 83 tons of steel – more than 40% of all the steel in the building – came directly from Buckner’s yard. This direct reuse eliminated the energy costs normally involved in refabricating salvaged steel, going, in effect, “beyond green” in making use of a materials already widely appreciated for having high recycled content.

The project team placed rigorous emphasis on planning and detail to achieve high aesthetic results. Close coordination among the designers, contractor, fabricator and erector took into account the spacing of framing, types of connections, bolt patterns, and even the orientation of cotter pins.

The new building took form around the notion of surrounding a double height space with the offices of project managers and administrative staff, creating vertical, visual connection among all employees. The project added 15,000 sq. ft to Buckner’s existing office building, which was extensively refurbished to make a café, exercise area and other high-profile common spaces. These shared places, and the second-level enclosed pedestrian bridge linking the new building with the old, are key to making all employees feel a connection to the new construction.

Fueled by the realized possibilities for reusing existing materials, the Buckner project grew to embrace an all-points sustainable building effort. Green building practices incorporated into the project include a chip-and-tar drive, stormwater bioretention pond, new materials with high recycled content such as galvalume roofing and linoleum floor covering, and water conservation measures including low-flow toilet fixtures and roof drains supplying a 15,000-gallon cistern for vehicle washing. The 15,000-sq.-ft project was completed in May 2010.

The 14 IDEAS2 winners for 2011 were chosen from nearly 100 submissions received by architectural and engineering firms throughout the U.S. Each submission is reviewed and award winners are selected by a nationally recognized panel of design and construction industry professionals.

The IDEAS2 awards are the highest project-based awards bestowed by the structural steel industry, with the annual program dating back over 70 years to the earliest years of AISC’s existence. Roger E. Ferch, P.E. president of AISC, said, “The entire Buckner Companies Home Office project team has shown how structural steel can be used to create structures that combine beauty and practicality. The result is a sustainable company headquarters building that serves its employees extremely well, while providing an example of what can be achieved when designing and constructing projects with steel.”

View and download high resolution images of the Buckner Companies Home Office project in a slideshow gallery of photos available here.


For more information contact:

Tasha Weiss
Communications Department
(312) 670-5439
[email protected]


American Institute of Steel Construction
The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information. 

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