Minnehaha Academy

Collaborative Partners:

Mortenson Construction

Cunningham Group

In early August 2017, a natural gas leak at the North Campus, which houses the Upper School (grades 9-12), triggered a devastating explosion that tragically caused two fatalities and injured nine others. In addition to the human loss, a large portion of the facility sustained extensive damage that lead to a partial building collapse.

In early April 2018, Empirehouse began a collaborative design dialogue with Mortenson Construction to establish early schematic design budget targets and logistics review. Although the scope of work was not clearly defined, the relationship between Empirehouse and Mortenson, along with our combined expertise in complex façade integration and aggressive schedule completion began to work through the rough order of magnitude cost considerations and logistics concerns. Not long after these discovery sessions, Empirehouse had the opportunity to connect with the talented team from Cuningham Group Architecture. During this collaborative effort, Empirehouse took the opportunity to understand the teams overall design intent as well as the owners needs and expectations for the project. The flow of information was critical to the early design effort, as Empirehouse worked directly with Mortenson and Cuningham Group Architecture to provide pre-construction engineering, integration detailing and full scale mock-up review for assistance in selecting the appropriate glass substrates as well as a bird- friendly silkscreen design that will accentuate the façade aesthetic rather than deter from it. At this point, Empirehouse began to work within the building model to isolate and refine connection detailing and design details for consistency and accuracy in an effort to complete an early production set for material procurement.

The architectural glass and metal features that were included in Cuningham Group Architecture’s final design will include a custom horizontal line pattern silkscreen feature at the exterior glass to accommodate the bird-friendly construction requirement, a large flat slope skylight system (1/4”/1’-0” overall slope) with a trapezoidal configuration, ultra-high performance aluminum curtain-wall and storefront glazing systems to satisfy current NFRC performance criteria and an abundance of interior glass to allow passive light transfer throughout the classroom spaces.