Northwestern University Ward Building
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Architect and Engineering Firm:
Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Glazing Contractor:
Auburn Corporation
Orland Park, Illinois, USA

Traco Windows:
TR-9460 4" Fixed over Fixed Architectural Thermal Aluminum Windows

Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, the Montgomery Ward Building of Northwestern University, more commonly known as the Ward Building, houses the school’s medical and dental divisions as well as several high-profile research labs. Constructed of Indiana limestone over a concrete and steel framework, the building stands at 14 stories tall and incorporates many modernized Gothic-style features, similar to those used throughout the main Northwestern University campus. In 1927, a journalist for the American Architect commented that, “Despite the huge size of the building, the architect had provided ample light, air and ease of access.”

Originally built in the mid-1920’s, the University wanted to upgrade the building’s original wood windows with a high-performing thermal solution that required minimal maintenance and would also help retain the classic historic appearance of the university’s campus. The building still needed to provide ample light, air and ease of access, but with a more current solution.

Being the location for much of the school’s top-level research, the renovation was unlike a typical university building project. The construction process for this facility was subject to high-security and strict deadline requirements that wouldn’t disturb the student and faculty residents of the building. Additionally, matching the building’s aesthetic was a prime concern for the university and the project’s architects, Chicago-based architecture and engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.

“During the initial design phase, we considered replacing the entire window – frame, sash, etc. – but after a campus survey and assessment, we determined that would have greatly disrupted the occupants and decided the best approach was to leave the frame and install the TR-9460 over the original frame,” said Anthony Cinnamon, project architect with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.

To meet these, and the many other specific aesthetic needs, the two-year project featured Traco’s TR-9460 4" Fixed over Fixed Architectural Thermal Aluminum Windows in the nearly 1,000 openings throughout the building.

“The TR-9460 windows were the best ones on the market to really fit the needs of this project,” said David Arcand, who worked with Rich Ross as Project Manager with the Orland Park, Illinois-based Auburn Corporation, the project’s installer. “Not only were they fixed windows that offered superior thermal protection, but they gave the appearance of double hung windows and were able to match the look of the other windows on the building.”

Company representatives worked closely with architects and installers to help the project stay on schedule. “It came down to who would be able to meet the project’s performance and aesthetic demands while also committing to their schedule,” said Scott Baker, Traco Window Sales Manager, Central Region. “We were able to provide limited distractions with maximum output, and the result was a great partnership.”

The customization capabilities of the TR-9460 windows were also a factor in their utilization. To accommodate the building’s unique shape while maintaining design consistency, profiled muntins as well as several custom panning profiles and curved corners were created. The unique fixed double-hung appearance of the TR-9460 windows provided enhanced thermal performance while maintaining the building’s historic look and matching the surrounding university structures. “There were very few punch-list items for this project,” said Arcand. “As a long-time customer of Traco, we knew they would accommodate the complicated items and multi-story looks that we wanted and still stay on schedule throughout the process.”

Because the temperature in Chicago can drop well below zero Fahrenheit, thermal performance was of the utmost importance. The TR-9460 4" Fixed over Fixed Architectural Thermal Aluminum Window has been tested for air infiltration and water resistance and offers thermal performance that met the standards required by the project.

Enforcing security measures and limiting distractions to the professors and researchers inside the building was also critical to the project’s success. The TR-9460 window allowed architects to leave the original frame and install the new windows in the existing space. Throughout the installation, the contractors went to great lengths not to disturb any of the sensitive machines or research being conducted in the building during the replacement process by agreeing to be inside each floor for only one day, with the rest of the installation being conducted by exterior climbers.

“We needed a product that could easily be installed from the exterior that also matched the building’s design,” said Cinnamon. “The TR-9460 matched so well with the existing design, and the engineering quality of the product was just what a building of this importance needed. Everyone was pleased with the results and we couldn’t have asked for a more smooth process.”

Once completed, the project featured nearly $2 million of Traco’s TR-9460 4" Fixed over Fixed Architectural Aluminum Windows. The entirety of the Ward Building renovation project spanned a period of two seasons and was completed in August 2011.