Photo Courtesy of Northwestern Mutual. Copyright 2004.
The Grunau Co. recently completed the hvac, plumbing and specialty metal work on the two-year $125 million first phase project of Northwestern Mutual's Franklin campus.

The Grunau mechanical team installed an underfloor heating, ventilation and air conditioning (hvac) system in the half-million-square-foot facility, making it one of only a handful of buildings in Southeastern Wisconsin to have such a system.

"We worked closely with Northwestern Mutual, the engineer and the general construction manager to ensure the highest quality of work and to maintain the sophistication and integrity of this building," said Paul Grunau, Grunau Co. president.

Early on in the project planning, Northwestern Mutual identified the underfloor hvac system as one part of its larger strategy to create a highly efficient and cost-effective facility.

The unique nature of the underfloor system prompted Grunau Co. to research the system extensively to learn as much about it as possible prior to installation. "The underfloor system was one of the things for which Grunau Co. felt particularly responsible," said Jeff Kuhnke, Grunau Co. project manager. "We spent a lot of time learning how to best do our job. We took it upon ourselves to help coordinate the other trades' work with the system."

An underfloor system places the heating and cooling vents under a raised floor instead of above the ceiling. Most notably, this type of system allows individuals to control the climate at his or her workstation with a personal vent. In addition, building layouts are more easily configurable and an underfloor system helps eliminate dust and draft problems, subsequently improving indoor air quality because the clean air is supplied closer to occupants than from above.

Photo Courtesy of Northwestern Mutual. Copyright 2004.
The underfloor system also reduces the amount of ductwork required, potentially reducing floor-to-floor height, creating a shorter building and reducing hard construction material costs such as steel and glass. The system also has the potential to save energy costs in its mechanical systems. These potential savings can include warmer chilled water temperature, reduced fan energy and reduced reheat energy.

The low-rise office building is located on West Drexel Avenue and 27th Street in Franklin, WI, a suburb of Milwaukee. The new campus was developed to accommodate Northwestern Mutual's expanding needs over the next 10 to 20 years.

Northwestern Mutual helps clients protect against financial risk and achieve financial security. The company, its subsidiaries and affiliates offer insurance, investment products and advisory services that address client needs for financial protection, capital accumulation, estate preservation and asset distribution. Headquartered in Milwaukee, the mutual company has three million members and is the leading U.S. company in total individual life insurance dividends paid to policyowners.

The general contractor on this project is Opus North Corp., the architect firm is Eppstein Uhen Architects, and the engineering firm is Affiliated Engineers.

The Grunau Co.'s team of skilled professionals designs, installs and services mechanical systems, including hvac, plumbing, fire protection and specialized electrical systems. The company has offices in Wisconsin, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For more information on Grunau Co., visit