Innovative Chicago Building Earns 2019 OCEA Honors

And the winner is …

The 150 North Riverside project in Chicago earned the 2019 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award, announced Thursday night at ASCE’s 20th annual Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) Gala.

The OCEA award, established in 1960, recognizes the project that best illustrates superior civil engineering skills and represents a significant contribution to civil engineering progress and society.

“It’s amazing to be recognized by all of our colleagues, especially among all of the other projects that were amazing and totally inspirational,” said Ron Klemencic, whose company Magnusson Klemencic Associates was the project’s engineer of record. “To be recognized as the No. 1 project is unbelievable.”

The 54-story office building at 150 North Riverside fills a riverfront lot in Chicago’s burgeoning West Loop that sat vacant for more than a century.

And no wonder the lot remained empty for so long. It’s a tough spot on which to build, only 85 feet at its widest. But the Riverside Investment and Development ownership group, as well as the project team led by MKA, turned the small space into an engineering feat using a variety of technical innovations, including a concrete core structural system three times narrower than that of a typical office building and floor plans five times larger than its base.

“It came to us as a challenge that had existed for more than 100 years,” Magnusson said. “Nobody was able to conceive of building on the site. So working with the architect collaboratively, we were able to come up with a number of ideas of how we might, and it ultimately came up with this design. It was a collaborative process to try to do what nobody had done before.”

The other four OCEA finalists also were honored at the OPAL Gala – the New United States Courthouse in Los Angeles, the OARS-OSIS Augmentation and Relief Sewer in Columbus, OH, the Olympia Odos Motorway along the North Peloponnese Coast in Greece, and the SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program–Northbound Off-Ramp Bridge in Seattle.

The project team for 150 North Riverside accepts the 2019 OCEA Award, March 14, at the ASCE OPAL Gala. From left, Dave Eckmann (Magnusson Klemencic Associates), Jim Goettsch (architect), Chris Phares (Clark Construction), Rob Chmielowski (MKA), and Ron Klemencic (MKA). PHOTO: Nick Klein

The OPAL Gala – referred to as the Academy Awards of civil engineering – brought together leaders from around the profession and around the world.

The OPAL Awards (Outstanding Projects And Leaders) honor a civil engineer’s career achievements in the five categories of construction, design, education, government, and management.

The 2019 honorees:

In Construction, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, P.E., M.ASCE, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – for innovation and excellence in construction of civil engineering projects and programs.

In Design, Ron Klemencic, P.E., S.E., F.SEI, F.ASCE, chairman and CEO, Seattle-based Magnusson Klemencic Associates – for innovation and excellence in civil engineering design.

In Education, Ross B. Corotis, Ph.D., P.E., S.E., F.EMI, Dist.M.ASCE, NAE, professor of engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder – for demonstrated excellence in furthering civil engineering education.

In Government, Paul D. Kovacs, P.E., M.ASCE, chief engineering officer, Illinois State Toll Highway Authority – for demonstrated leadership of public sector projects and programs.

In Management, Ewa Z. Bauer-Furbush, P.E., M.ASCE, NAC, chief engineering officer, Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District – for exceptional management skills in her professional career.

The Autodesk Build Space Technology in Boston won the Charles Pankow Award for Innovation. Distinguished Member Richard L. Tucker won the Henry L. Michel Award for Industry Advancement of Research. Peggy Smedley, renowned podcaster and writer, earned the ASCE Excellence in Journalism Award.

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