Park East roofing

F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing helps build a new landmark in Milwaukee

  • Workers built a winch-powered platform to access the dome safely
  • Craftsmen fabricated a stainless-steel gutter around the dome’s base to channel water runoff
  • Each of the 1,900 dome panels was stamped from 1,000-pound rolls of copper coil
  • The spire is made from stainless steel with an aluminum frame clad with copper

For many years, the lot at Water and Knapp Streets in downtown Milwaukee consisted of asphalt pavement and an unkempt field. Tucked between Schlitz Park on the riverfront, the bar district on Water Street and the Milwaukee School of Engineering, the prime location was planned for freeway development. City planners eventually scrapped that idea for something that would help revitalize the city and provide economic growth opportunities.

Known as Block 16 in the Park East Redevelopment Plan, the lot was reimagined to include a five-story, 93,390-square-foot office building with a six-tier parking structure. Conceived by DGP Architects of Virginia, Charlottesville, the building was designed in a Thomas Jefferson-style of Neoclassical architecture.

Hammes Co., a health care project management firm, acquired the 1 1/2-acre parcel and relocated its headquarters from suburban Brookfield to downtown Knapp Street to occupy 36,000 square feet on the building’s top two floors. The remaining space is leased for office, restaurant and retail use.

Once a desolate area, the lot now is the site of one of the most distinguished buildings in the neighborhood and includes a copper dome and spire installed by F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing Co. Inc., a Tecta America company, Milwaukee.

The roof

The F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing team began work on Block 16 in November 2018. A majority of the building’s roof is a low-slope EPDM membrane roof system.

Team members began by mechanically attaching tapered polyisocyanurate insulation over the metal deck followed by Carlisle® 115-mil-thick FleeceBACK® AFX EPDM membrane set in hot asphalt. This system allowed work to continue through winter months and maintain the construction schedule.

The dome

More visible is a 4,000-square-foot copper dome created from interlocking copper shingles fabricated by F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing sheet metal craftsmen.

To install the copper panels, technicians built a winch-powered platform constructed of Occupational Safety and Health Administration-approved scaffolding planks so crew members could access the dome safely while wearing harnesses tied-off to fall-protection lines. The platform also protected newly installed panels from damage while workers maneuvered around the dome.

“The dome presented some unique access and safety issues, but we were able to install the copper panels without any problems,” says Don Walter, president of F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing. “Our crew exercised strict observance of safety guidelines to ensure everyone’s protection throughout the project’s duration.”

Each of the 1,900 14- by 22-inch panels for the dome was stamped from eight 1,000-pound rolls of copper coil, each with connecting tabs. F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing technicians pounded the seams of each vertical panel together to create a sealed connection. For horizontal panels atop the dome, craftsmen carefully soldered the panels together to further seal those areas.

To channel water runoff from the dome, sheet metal craftsmen fabricated and installed a stainless-steel gutter around the dome’s base that is complemented with an intricate multipiece copper fascia system above the low-slope roof areas.

The spire

To complete the dome, the F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing crew installed a unique 14-foot-tall spire fabricated by Custom Craft Builders Inc., Fort Worth, Texas. The spire is made from stainless steel with an aluminum frame clad with copper to match the dome and was transported from Texas to Wisconsin in an oversized flatbed truck.

F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing technicians coordinated with the general contractor, Miron Construction Co. Inc., Neenah, Wis., to use a crane to raise and secure the spire to the dome. The spire has a lightning rod to redirect lightning strikes to the building’s structural steel.

Wall panels and pavers

Although the copper dome and spire are the most visible features on the building, a champagne-colored metal panel wall system adds to the building’s attractive features.

Sheet metal technicians installed a Knight Wall thermally broken support system over DensGlass® Sheathing followed by 3-inch-thick Hunter Xci CG insulation and PAC-CLAD® Reveal Wall Panels. The thermally broken system was chosen to provide better thermal performance than a hat channel framing system typically used.

Finally, F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing workers added a pedestal and paver system to patio areas adjacent to office space. The pavers were cut from stone rather than concrete typically used in paver products.

A striking presence

In April 2019, the F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing team finished work on Block 16. In a city full of historical and unique architectural buildings, the copper dome has a striking presence. Certain to become a downtown Milwaukee landmark, the building’s beauty and watertight integrity will last for decades thanks to the craftsmen at F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing.

“We faced numerous challenges ranging from finding safe ways to access work areas to creating unique details and addressing field conditions,” Walter says. “Seeing the teamwork that occurred across various departments to solve these problems reinforced the strength of our team.”

In recognition of its work on Block 16, the Roofing Alliance named F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing a 2020 Gold Circle Awards finalist in the Outstanding Workmanship category.

Chrystine Elle Hanus is Professional Roofing’s associate editor and an NRCA director of communications.

Project location: Milwaukee
Project duration: November 2018—April 2019
Roof system types: Copper and EPDM membrane
Roofing contractor: F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing Co. Inc., a Tecta America company, Milwaukee
Roofing manufacturers: Carlisle® SynTec Systems, Carlisle, Pa.; CBC Specialty Metals, Concord, Ontario; Georgia-Pacific Gypsum LLC, Atlanta; Hunter Panels, Portland, Maine; Knight Wall Systems, Deer Park, Wash.; Petersen Aluminum Corp., Elk Grove Village, Ill.


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