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Power Plant at Rocketts Landing Wins National Architecture and Engineering Award

August 15, 2011 from American Institute of Steel Construction

(Chicago, IL) – The Power Plant at Rocketts Landing, an adaptive reuse project and now a mixed use facility in Richmond, Va., 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 presentation at the Power Plant facility on Tuesday, August 16 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 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 WVS Companies, Richmond, Va.; architect H&A Architects & Engineers, Virginia Beach, Va.; structural engineer Draper Aden Associates (AISC Member), Richmond, Va.; steel joist manufacturer Vulcraft (AISC Member), Florence, S.C.; general contractor KBS, Inc., Richmond, Va.

The Power Plant at Rocketts Landing project is a Merit Winner in the category of projects Less than $15 Million, making it one of only six projects around the country to receive the Merit 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 Power Plant, constructed in the late 19th century, was once the primary power supply for the industrial city’s fleet of trolleys. As train transportation became increasingly obsolete, so did the need for this once booming plant. When private developers made plans for a new residential and business neighborhood, the design team was charged with preserving and repurposing the plant. Beautifully situated along the historic James River, the goal was to maximize connectivity between the plant’s indoor and outdoor spaces with the nearby waterfront while maintaining its historic integrity street side.

Through the use of structural steel, the design team was able to innovatively transition the 27,000-sq.-ft mixed use facility. Embracing the industrial aesthetic of the Power Plant, the team incorporated a steel frame skeleton to overlap the building’s existing structure, merging antiquity and modernity. Approaching from the west, a soaring, industrial smokestack emerges from a new skeletal structure of steel and glass. The stack is a reminder of the building’s legacy, while the modernistic steel structure communicates a renewed sophistication for the revived waterfront district.

“Urban renewal at its best,” commented Duff Zimmerman, operations manager, Cooper Steel (AISC Member), Shelbyville, Tenn., and a judge in the competition.

The adaptive reuse integrates a five-story indoor and outdoor piazza that begins at the flood plain level and rises to the roof. The first and second levels are utilitarian spaces, assumed by the Virginia Boat Club for the storage of crew hulls. The Boathouse Restaurant occupies a 12,000-sq.-ft space on the third and fourth floors. The waterfront dining areas and outdoor decks offer 180-degree views of the James River and the Richmond skyline.

The plant’s stairs and mezzanines are constructed of exposed steel that accentuates the industrial aesthetic, while providing efficient access to the main facility. Structural steel provided the lateral bracing through the use of rods and moment connections to accommodate the code-required loading as well as bracing to prevent uncomfortable movements perceptible to the occupants.

In keeping with the original industrial use of the building, the new stair and elevator tower features the use of exposed W12 x 35 wide-flange columns on the street side that have been built up with a vertical open-web joist. Double 6 x 3 ½ x ½ steel angles from the chord attached to the W12 while the opposite chord consists of the same size double angles attached to the back of a C10 x 30. The diagonal web members are ½-in. steel plate 2 in. wide. The canopy at this entrance features steel members cantilevered from the building façade supported at the free ends by a #3 clevis and 1-in.-diameter rods.

The interior spaces were renovated using structural steel to reinforce the existing structure as well as provide a new roof structure for the dining room and kitchen. The building roof was designed to accommodate the desire for an exposed structure and large storefront enclosure to provide natural day lighting and dramatic views of the river. Crowing the building is a glass and steel pavilion topped with a butterfly roof angling upward for a clear, multi-dimensional view of the water.

Because this renovation is part of a larger brownfield redevelopment, the fact that its design played a significant role in reducing waste and promoting sustainability during the redevelopment and redesign of the facility was important.

The newly repurposed plant honors the timeless beauty of the past infrastructure while encouraging future growth and innovation through the use of modern technology and design. Enhanced with structural steel, the newly repurposed $3.5 million Power Plant incorporates a modern-industrial edge while honoring the storied past of this historically significant building.

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 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 Power Plant at Rocketts Landing project team has shown how structural steel can be used to create structures that combine beauty and practicality. The result is an adaptive reuse project that serves its patrons extremely well, while providing an example of what can be achieved when designing and constructing projects with steel.”

View high resolution images of the Power Plant at Rocketts Landing 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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