JLG Architects receives top state design awards

UND Wilkerson Commons and Williams County Highway Complex

November 16th, 2016

The North Dakota chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) presented two design awards, including the top state award, to projects led by JLG Architects at the chapter’s annual convention in Bismarck, N.D. The University of North Dakota Wilkerson Commons in Grand Forks, N.D. and Williams County Highway Complex in Williston, N.D. were selected for “distinguished accomplishments in design and the profession of architecture.” JLG has been honored with over 100 design awards since the firm’s inception in 1989 and was recently named one of the top 60 architecture firms in the United States by Building Design + Construction magazine.

HONOR AWARD: Wilkerson Commons, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, N.D.
The University of North Dakota (UND) has reopened the doors to the largest food service area on campus after completely renovating the 46-year old Wilkerson Hall – now Wilkerson Commons – to bring a new level of cost and resource efficiencies and opportunity for student gathering and engagement to campus. The architectural team of JLG Architects and Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) were tasked with expanding dining services and food presentation while improving efficiencies, increasing natural light to allow students to study and eat in natural daylight even on -30 degree days, and providing amenities that elevate social experiences. In addition, UND wanted the facility to present a more prominent image along University Avenue, the main drive on campus.

JLG and SCB’s 21,000 sq.ft. addition and 40,000 sq.ft. renovation encourages student, faculty and visitor interaction through open, flexible and colorful spaces. The terracotta-clad addition, highlighted with floor-to-ceiling glass, extends a prominent presence along University Avenue and offers a covered walkway for pedestrians. The clean and modern character provides a contemporary statement that harmonizes with the other Collegiate Gothic facilities on campus, rather than attempt to mimic them.

In the main dining area, eight display cooking stations prepare a variety of expanded fresh food options, including Allergen-Free dining and Dakota Homestyle cuisine. A chef’s demonstration cooking platform is flanked by two monitors to illustrate healthy cooking techniques. The daylit, free-flowing design maximizes circulation and comfort and is a dramatic change from the previous feeling of “institutional” dining.

On the operations side, cook and chill operations are now centralized for the first time at UND and allow food service to make soups, sauces and other bulk items for the entire campus, ensuring consistent quality and greatly reducing the amount of processed food utilized. The $4 million kitchen and servery includes 11 walk-in coolers that will monitor the temperature of the individual food in the freezers to help the staff track how products are affected during high-traffic times, as well as specialty equipment such as a meat slicer that will allow staff to cut lunch meats in three hours, rather than twenty. All of the school’s produce can be washed in a single location in a fraction of the time, and the cook-chill equipment makes hundreds of gallons of pastas and chilis and bring it back down to a cooled state in less than two hours. Said Orlynn Rosaasen, Director of Dining Services, “There wasn’t a model for this type of kitchen anywhere else. We are setting the trend.”

MERIT AWARD: Williams County Highway Complex, Williston, N.D.
The Williams County Highway Department, Weed Control, and Vector Control were previously housed in separate facilities dispersed throughout the City of Williston. The Highway Department itself was operating out of two locations. Maintenance costs were an increasing concern due to several aging buildings. While some amenities were being duplicated at multiple sites, others, such as adequate facilities for washing vehicles, were completely lacking. An economic boom and growing population put new demands on these departments. In addition to these issues, a competitive job market made employee retention difficult.

With these issues in mind, and increased revenue due to the regional oil industry, Williams County officials recognized an opportunity to combine these departments in one facility which would address these problems and better meet all departments’ needs. The combining of the departments on one site spurred the concept of a central ‘hub’ for the building, providing a common entrance and spaces required by all departments, such as reception/lobby, offices, conference and break rooms. This allowed for a significantly increased efficiency of use, and provided the departments with access to greater amenities than they once had individually. Branching off the central hub are the wings housing maintenance, storage and vehicle wash facilities for each department with extended access to the site.

A focus of the project became longevity. This is reflected in the materials and systems incorporated in the design, such as precast concrete walls and standing-seam metal roofing. Significant improvements to building functions and increased amenities, in addition to pleasant, naturally lit work spaces have already led to increased employee satisfaction, and suggests that the new Highway Complex will be an important tool in addressing the issue of employee retention.