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60+ Years of Design + Innovation

A New Home Promoting Next-Generation Energy Research

University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin Energy Institute
Madison, Wisconsin, USA

“We needed a building that was functional, flexible and that sparked the ‘random collisions’ between scientists from different disciplines that can catalyze the breakthrough advances that are our goal. The facility also needed to respect the research being done there by applying state-of-the-art strategies to conserve energy use and optimize the use of renewable resources. HOK and its team understood those necessities and delivered a winning solution.”

Tim Donohue
Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Director and University of Wisconsin Professor of Bacteriology

The LEED Gold Wisconsin Energy Institute brings together researchers from multiple disciplines to develop innovative solutions for replacing fossil fuels with sustainable alternatives.

As a centerpiece for clean energy systems research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Institute provides a physical hub where scientists from public and private sector disciplines can collaborate. Its primary tenant is the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), one of three centers funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct basic research that generates technology to convert cellulosic biomass to ethanol and other biofuels.

This first phase includes five primary labs that focus on molecular biology, chemical engineering and organic chemistry research; a 1,400-sq.-ft. applied engineering high-bay laboratory for solar and biofuels projects; a central NMR; two videoconferencing rooms; and an education and public outreach suite including biofuel demonstration gardens. The flexible, “plug and play” wet and dry laboratories easily adapt to changes in research teams.

An interior light well supports each research floor. The light well provides open sightlines and highways for interaction between researchers and staff in the offices and work stations that ring the perimeter of the floor and the laboratories at its interior. Bridge walks spanning the light wells provide accessibility, while break rooms, seating nooks and formal meeting areas offer opportunities for collaboration.

Reflecting its clean energy research mission, the Institute is an energy-efficient research facility. The sustainable strategies include a 22-kW photovoltaic array, a sophisticated daylighting design and extensive use of sustainable materials such as steel, concrete, recycled glass terrazzo flooring and reclaimed wood tiles.

Reported In Business Madison: “Yet another UW campus icon could be in the making with the Wisconsin Energy Institute, not just because of its stunning design, but also because of its sustainable purpose. It could well be the place for discoveries that foster greater energy independence while making it possible for alternative forms of energy to displace fossil fuels.”

HOK teamed with Madison-based architect of record Potter Lawson on the design.




105,000 sq. ft. / 9,755 sq. m. (phase I)


Interior Design
Laboratory Programming
Laboratory Planning
Laboratory Design


ENR Midwest – Award of Merit
Safety and Higher Education / Research

In Business Madison Commercial Design Awards – Project of the Year and Best Green-Built Project 

AIA St. Louis – Merit Award – Architecture


Decrease in energy use compared to a conventional design


Decrease in water use compared to a conventional design


Window-to-wall ratio



8 July 2014
“Energy Research Facility Earns LEED Gold”
Laboratory Design 

1 May 2014
“2014 Commercial Design Awards”
In Business Madison

22 January 2014
“Wisconsin Energy Institute”

6 January 2014
“Newest Alternate Energy Resarch Facility in US Designed by HOK”
Laboratory Design News