A stunning five-story structure featuring an all-glass atrium now greets visitors to the 27-acre TruStage™ campus in Madison, Wisconsin. The new LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold-certified structure replaces a circular amenities building described as “operationally obsolete” by John Rodell, TruStage’s Workplace Modernization Project Manager.
The new building, designed to encourage collaboration and better reflect its inclusive identity, welcomes employees and customers to its corporate headquarters. The company, founded in 1935, provides insurance, investment and financial services.
The previous building, with only 65,000 square feet, no longer met the company’s needs. Its auditorium had the capacity for 290 seats which was inadequate for its current outreach goals. The new 195,000-square-foot Lighthouse has five stories above ground and two floors below, with an auditorium that seats up to 400 people.
TruStage (formerly known as Cuna Mutual Group) turned to Pearson Engineering, Madison, Wisconsin, to assist with all phases of the project. Pearson has provided HVAC consulting services for the company since 1999.
Initially, Pearson was part of the assessment and conceptual design team with Affiliated Engineers. “Our role was to help with the interface with the campus and provide insight to the campus systems,” explains Jason Beren, P.E., Pearson’s senior project engineer.
“Pearson had a very in-depth knowledge of the existing campus, which was tremendous because the TruStage building systems are so connected. That knowledge was very valuable to have as part of our planning and execution,” says Rodell.
Construction began in March 2020, and the building was turned over to TruStage in July 2022. COVID impacted the schedule, but it was opened to staff on Labor Day 2022.
Pearson Engineering worked with the design team to determine how the new building would integrate with the existing campus.
“We helped the owner throughout the building’s development, from planning through construction and operations,” says Beren.
After the initial stage, Pearson became the client’s third-party commissioning agent. In this role, Pearson provided:
Obtaining LEED Gold
Rodell notes that TruStage wanted the structure to be built to LEED Gold standards.
“Commissioning is a very important and large component of having a LEED-certified building,” Rodell explains. “Pearson would make sure that the systems were indeed performing as designed. And if not, they would come up with solutions to make them perform well.”
Once the contractors completed their work, the Pearson team inspected the equipment to see if it was installed per the design and met the client’s needs.
Ultimately, the Lighthouse must provide a pleasant environment for its occupants. If a building is too hot or too cold, Rodell says he hears about it.
“We put a lot of trust into the Pearson team to make sure we didn’t have a lot of those complaints,” he adds.
David Chand, TruStage Senior Facility Manager, joined the company in August 2022, when the Lighthouse was 90 percent complete. He worked with Beren and Pearson’s Kyle Halverson, P.E., to ensure the equipment was functioning the way it was supposed to.
“Pearson’s experience with TruStage has been invaluable to me,” says Chand. “The company understands how the campus all ties together.”
Providing comfort for the building’s users is a top priority. That goal is combined with the desire to target conditioning to save energy.
TruSpace turned to Pearson to help adjust the conditioning once the building opened. Spaces were initially tied into the occupancy motion sensors from the lighting.
“After the building was open and functioning, we realized that this wasn’t the best way to run this building,” Chand says.
After analyzing the situation, Pearson divided the building into zones and gave each zone a schedule. That way, certain areas of the building are conditioned and ready for occupancy when the users arrive.
Chand notes that certain parts of the building must always be conditioned. And then there are other spaces, such as the meeting rooms and auditorium, that only need to be conditioned if they’re scheduled for use.
Pearson also worked with TruStage to resolve other HVAC issues, such as rooms that were too warm or too loud. In addition, Pearson provided support for the conceptual development and design to relocate the chiller plant. As part of this endeavor, a new pump house is being constructed to accommodate the chillers responsible for serving the Lighthouse and over 600 feet of underground piping connecting the two.
Holiday Visit Avoids Disaster
Pearson’s devotion to providing quality service became evident during the 2022 Christmas holiday. Because it was the season’s first cold snap, Beren stopped by the unoccupied TruStage campus on Saturday, Dec. 24, to check on the new Lighthouse building.
“I discovered the Lighthouse’s entrances were cold and that the building was operating in negative pressure. Excessive cold air was rushing in,” Beren reports. “I contacted the controls contractors and worked with them over the phone to make sure the kitchen exhaust system was shut down, which restored the building’s pressure balance.”
While Beren was at the Lighthouse site, he was alerted to an alarm coming from the adjacent 5910 building. Concerned, he decided to investigate the situation using an infrared camera. To his surprise, he observed abnormally cold temperatures in the ceiling grid at the back entrance.
Realizing the potential danger, Beren fetched a ladder to conduct a more thorough examination. Upon closer inspection, Beren discovered that the temperature in the ceiling plenum was a surprisingly cold 22⁰F. It was evident that if left unattended, the sprinkler pipes within the plenum would soon freeze, posing a significant risk.
Understanding the situation’s urgency, Beren promptly contacted TruStage’s maintenance lead for assistance. He promptly arrived at the scene and worked with Beren to implement a temporary solution for the upcoming long, cold holiday weekend. By doing so, they effectively prevented the sprinkler pipes from freezing and mitigated the potential damage that could have occurred.
Chand was grateful that Pearson discovered and assisted in resolving these two issues. “Because of their help, we avoided frozen pipes that could have caused systems problems that would have been expensive to repair,” he says.
He added that Pearson’s experience with the TruStage campus has been invaluable. Chand says he learned how all of the campus buildings are tied together.
Pearson Adds Value
“I would definitively recommend Pearson Engineering,” Chand says. “Their expertise has been a great benefit to TruStage. There hasn’t been a problem where they haven’t been able to come up with a solution.”
Because of Pearson’s commissioning efforts, Rodell says the team verified that the design and installation met the owner’s project requirements.
Pearson’s long-term relationship with TruStage has been very beneficial, Rodell adds. He predicts that Pearson would conduct the needed research and investigation for other clients to ensure the firm delivers appropriate solutions.
- -- David Chand, TruStage Senior Facility Manager