Pioneer Hall Renovation at University of Minnesota Receives Design Award

Pioneer Hall Renovation at University of Minnesota
The $104.5 million renovation and expansion of historic Pioneer Hall at the University of Minnesota received its second design award of the year on March 6, 2020. This time, the award came from the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI). The project also received a Grand Award in January from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Minnesota (ACEC/MN).

The 57th annual PCI Design Awards showcase the creative and innovative use of precast and prestressed concrete in a variety of applications. A panel of industry experts that includes precast concrete producers, engineers and architects judged the nominees. The panel judged buildings and transportation categories on aesthetic, structural and use versatility; site, energy and operational efficiency; risk reduction; and resiliency, such as structure durability, multi-hazard protection, and life safety and health.

Pioneer Hall won in the Higher Education/University building category. Wells Concrete of Albany, MN provided the precast concrete on the project. KWK Architects led the design effort on the project, partnered with architecture/engineering firm-of-record TKDA of St. Paul, MN.

KWK Principal Sara Koester said specifying precast concrete panels on the Pioneer Hall project design was the right choice, for a variety of reasons.

“Precast insulated concrete panels are an excellent exterior wall system. Precast insulated panels helped to achieve the energy goals and exterior wall thermal performance that we wanted on the project, while being very cost effective,” said Koester. “The exterior expression that we were able to achieve through use of the precast concrete panels complemented the existing historic building character. The precast concrete panels also offered us the ability to design with precast trim to animate the exterior at an affordable cost and they enabled the building’s exterior skin to be completed and enclosed quickly, which was very important on the project’s tight schedule.”

More about Pioneer Hall Renovation

The newly renovated and expanded 90-year-old Pioneer Hall opened for the fall 2019 semester. The project increased the number of student beds at the residence hall from 693 on four floors to 756 on five floors. It also preserved a significant amount of the structure’s historic Georgian Revival-style exterior. The renovation also increased the hall’s total square footage from 177,000 SF to 257,000 SF. The group demo’d the existing building but limited it to the center construction and within the courtyards. KWK Architects were able to retain approximately 60% of the typical upper floors.

The group also built a new 42,000 SF dining facility with seating for 850 students. It features eight venues arranged in a Main Street configuration. A new central, sub-basement level was built to accommodate new mechanical, electrical, and telecom rooms.

The renovated residence hall features accessible, community-style living unit modules with a small group of residents sharing a community bathroom. These facilities are grouped with single-use private bathrooms to offer varying levels of privacy. Studies and lounges are provided for the communities, and a dedicated floor lounge allows for larger gatherings. Classroom, multipurpose, music practice, recreation rooms, large student kitchen, meditation and tech/business center provide a variety of spaces for students to gather, study or relax.

About KWK Architects

KWK Architects began in 2013 by five architects with a combined 120 years of higher education knowledge and experience. The architects partner with both colleges and universities across the United States to create innovative and inspiring places that enhance campus life. Areas of expertise include student housing and dining, and academic and science/technology spaces. KWK Architects has completed more than $1 billion in construction-valued projects since its founding. Additionally, the company currently employs a growing staff of 15 at its headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. For more information about KWK Architects, either visit or contact Director of Marketing Cindy Hausler at [email protected].

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