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Ottawa Street Power Station Wins National Architecture and Engineering Award

July 11, 2011 from American Institute of Steel Construction

(Chicago, IL) – The Ottawa Street Power Station project in Lansing, Mich., 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 former power station turned corporate office building on Wednesday, July 13, at 11 a.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 Accident Fund Holdings Inc., Lansing, Mich.; construction manager and developer The Christman Company, Lansing, Mich.; architect of record HOK, St. Louis; architect Quinn Evans Architect, Ann Arbor, Mich.; structural engineer of record ARUP (AISC Member), Chicago; construction engineer Ruby + Associates, Inc. (AISC Member), Farmington Hills, Mich; steel detailer, fabricator, and erector Douglas Steel Fabricating Corporation (AISC and IMPACT Member), Lansing, Mich.

The Ottawa Street Power Station adaptive reuse project is the recipient of the competition’s Presidential Award of Excellence in Engineering, making it the only project in the country out of nearly 100 entries to receive this honor. Each entry is judged by a panel of industry experts which considers the projects’ 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 Presidential Award is a special honor given at the judges’ discretion for projects representing outstanding achievement in a particular discipline.

Constructed in 1939, the Ottawa Street Power Station along Lansing’s Grand River was decommissioned in 1992 and sat idle for more than a decade. Its resurrection for use as a national headquarters by the locally based Accident Fund Insurance Company of America began in 2007. Converting the abandoned vintage power station into prime office space relied on a detailed building plan and flawless execution.

Imagine building a 10-story steel-framed office building inside an existing masonry structure, all the while having to both preserve and support the heavy shell. Then add the complication that much of the existing steel had to be removed before the new framing and floors could be installed. These were just some of the challenges facing the project team.

The team’s collaborative solution was much like building a ship in a bottle. The construction manager, Christman Company, turned to Lansing’s own Douglas Steel Fabricating Corporation and Ruby + Associates to provide design and construction expertise in evaluating design alternatives to convert the power plant into a modern, energy-efficient 10-story-office building without disturbing the historical exterior. The team began its work in the spring of 2008 and completed the main structural steel erection ahead of schedule, even with a late start due to site delays.

“Rehabilitating a public landmark is always noble, always complex, and this project redefines both,” commented Wesley Walls, AIA, Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, Little Rock, Ark., a judge in the competition.

The existing building consisted of two primary areas: a 10-story tower and the original turbine hall. Douglas Steel developed an innovative technique that enabled erection of the internal structure without disturbing the building exterior. The process involved installing two temporary 14-ft by 40-ft roof hatches at the top of the tower, hoisting all of the steel through these roof hatches, and setting the new steel from the ground up. This required a detailed erection plan with a reliable communication system between the ironworkers and crane operator. To capitalize on this effort, Ruby carefully analyzed the tower structure to maximize “first pass” demolition, giving the trades a safe working environment while minimizing obstruction.

The team coordinated structural steel elements with other materials to preserve the aesthetic and visual impact of the project:

  • Exposed interior steel beams and columns demonstrate the original industrial structure.
  • Design incorporates the historic structure by leaving exposed brick masonry and by holding back the new ceilings from the exterior walls allowing the full height of the windows to be viewed from each floor.
  • Original turbine hall overhead crane, rails, structural steel girders, and bearing support points remain as an aesthetically pleasing exposed feature.

The Ottawa Street Power Station is now registered on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. The project is expecting to be LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. Construction waste management has achieved nearly 100% waste diversion, by weight (7,000 tons), including 800 tons of steel and 600 tons of concrete. About 75% of the building’s existing brick and 95% of its existing masonry was cleaned and reused.

The IDEAS2 award dates back over 70 years to the earliest years of AISC’s existence. Roger E. Ferch, P.E. president of AISC, said, “The entire Ottawa Street Power Station project team has shown how structural steel can be used to create structures that combine beauty and practicality. The result is a historic and sustainable structure that serves its employees extremely well, while providing an example of what can be achieved when designing and constructing projects with steel.”

View high resolution images of the Ottawa Street Power Station project in a slideshow gallery of photos available here.

Ottawa Street Power Station
Photo Credit: The Christman Company


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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