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Wight SOM Team Delivers New Chinatown Branch Library

Wight & Company (Wight), in close collaboration with Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), has created a dramatic new library for Chicago’s Chinatown residents using an innovative integrated delivery process. The rounded, three-sided structure at the intersection of Wentworth and Archer Avenues is a civic, educational and social hub that reflects the history and culture of the neighborhood.

The creation of the new Chinatown Branch Library began in 2013 with a request for proposals (RFP) from the Public Building Commission of Chicago (PBC), who developed the project on behalf of its client, Chicago Public Library. It was the first time the PBC used the “Design-Build” model for a neighborhood branch library, and the second Design-Build project for the PBC. In response to the RFP, Wight assembled a winning project team that included Wight as architect of record and builder, with SOM as design architect. “This project is a prime example of what we call Design & Delivery at Wight,” said Jim Mark, Senior Vice President and Manager of Wight’s Chicago office. “Our Design & Delivery model is predicated on the belief that connecting the right talent, technology and resources will create extraordinary environments. We knew the key to the winning solution would be bringing the right team to the table and showcasing the advantages of integrated delivery,” explained Mark.

“From the earliest stages of the project, the design and technical teams from Wight and SOM were collaborating to devise solutions that elevated the design to an exceptionally high level, while still working within a tight schedule and budget,” said Mark. Using its Design & Delivery model, Wight was able to achieve certain efficiencies. Early use of BIM technology, for example, allowed Wight to create a digital model representation of the project, which streamlined material procurement and increased productivity during construction, according to Mark.

“The PBC’s decision to use the Design-Build model for the development of this world-class library illustrated how this project delivery model allowed for early collaboration between the PBC, the client - Chicago Public Library - and the Design-Build team and resulted in a successful project,” said Felicia Davis, Executive Director of the PBC. “This model enabled us to make well-informed decisions at critical stages, resulting in a more efficient work process and outcome.”

“This Design-Build approach allowed for greater stakeholder involvement and included strong participation from the community,” said Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon. “We are excited that the Chinatown community will enjoy both world-class design and a community-specific building.” Groundbreaking for the Chinatown Branch Library took place in May 2014. The facility opened its doors to the public on August 29.

The new library is Chinatown’s second prominent landmark created using integrated delivery.

Wight was also closely involved in the creation of another neighborhood gem that relied on Wight’s integrated delivery process. Ping Tom Memorial Park Fieldhouse, which opened in 2013, was the PBC’s first Design-Build project. For the fieldhouse, recently renamed Leonard M. Louie Fieldhouse, Wight served as design architect and builder. The award-winning fieldhouse features a gymnasium, a six-lane pool with spectator area, a fitness center, clubrooms, and a 3,200-square-foot combination terrace and green roof overlooking the Chicago skyline. Similar to the fieldhouse, which was awarded LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, the Chinatown Branch Library is targeting LEED Gold certification at minimum.

“Chinatown now has two extraordinary examples of what Design & Delivery can achieve,” explained Mark Wight, Chairman and CEO. “We commend the City of Chicago for continuing its tradition of creating world-class buildings for its residents. Chicago is taking a leadership role among major cities by embracing a new way of thinking about how best to deliver important public amenities,” said Wight.  

Key project team members at Wight for the Chinatown Branch Library included Jim Mark, Matt Zolecki, Brian Kukla, Nick Jaworsky, Nora King, Ray Prokop, Jason Perez, Adam Tomsha and Rick Chandler.  Other project partners included site design group, ltd., which provided landscape architecture services, dbHMS for MEP/FP engineering, Terra Engineering for civil engineering, Drucker Zaidel for structural engineering, and Pioneer EES for site environmental.