Olbrich Gardens Expansion - Project 1

Project Details

  • Location

    • 3330 Atwood Ave.
      Madison, WI 53704
  • Project Type

  • Status

  • Estimated Schedule

  • Alder District

    District 6
  • Contract Number

Project Information

August 26, 2021 Update:

Olbrich Gardens Expansion in the News:

August 25, 2021 City of Madison News & Updates

Olbrich Gardens Expansion Earns Leadership Award for Green Features

Follow the Progress on our FLICKR page!

See our Progress in a Time Lapse Video - updated by EarthCam®

For instructions on how to use this link, please click HERE.

Project Status Update as of August 24, 2020

June/July/August 2020. Even though COVID-19 still has the Learning Center closed to the public staff is making periodic visits to their new offices and continue getting settled. Olbrich Gardens reopens the outdoor gardens to the public with limited hours. The garden horticulture staff starts planting the landscaping areas in June. Work is slow as they are working with limited staff and no volunteers. See our new pictures on the FLICKR page.

March 2020. Shortly after the Learning Center Staff started moving into their new spaces, filling closet storage areas with their teaching aides COVID-19 hits. Olbrich is shut down to the public, all new classes are on hold and staff is working from home.

January 30, 2020. The new Learning Center passed the Occupancy Inspection. The contractor continues to work on punch list items and small installs not required for occupancy.

January 2020: After completing the greenhouse focus now shifts to finishing up the new Learning Center. Significant progress is made on completing framing, interior finishes and installing cabinets, etc.

November 2019: The contractors put a significant focus on completing the new greenhouse during October and early November. The tropical plants and orchid collection were moved back home to Olbrich from their temporary off site greenhouse just before Thanksgiving.

Project Status Update as of August 01, 2019

A substantial amount of progress has been made on the exterior of the Learning Center and the Greenhouse since the beginning of July.

The Greenhouse has been completely framed of all structural members. Additional framing is ongoing for glass support pieces, on the vertical walls while glass has been going in on the roof for the last week or so. Interior items such as the gutter downspouts are being connected to the underground piping and the mechanical equipment that opens/closes the vent ridges are also being fitted and installed. The masons have been working on installing the waterproofing, insulation, and block veneer on the exterior knee walls.

The Learning Center is also moving right along, there is something noticeably different everyday. The first floor concrete flooring has been completely poured. Laminated wood beams and roof decking were installed and the second floor concrete was poured. The second floor roof framing and decking has been added and the roof deck should be poured next week. Steel and decking at the connection with the existing Lobby is nearly complete and that roof deck should also be poured next week as well. The masons have nearly completed the stone façade all the way around the building. After the roof decking is installed at the upper level they will finish the stone work on the second level of the circulation tower.

Exterior landscaping work has already started with the demolition of the existing path that connected the Atrium Building to the Great Lawn. In this area the new tram stop waiting area will be constructed. This will consist of two half circular walls with stone bench seating and a center planting feature.

Moving forward for the next couple of weeks we will see the masons finishing up, steel stud walls and windows being installed, and mechanical rough-ins being started on the Learning Center. The Greenhouse contractor will complete the glass installation on the roof and end walls only, mechanical rough-ins inside the greenhouse spaces as well as fans, fin heaters and other equipment will also be getting installed. The exterior landscaping will also continue with additional concrete removal, and the new path and courtyard layouts being located in preparation for installation.

Project Status Update as of July 03, 2019

The project continues to move along and pick up speed despite several rain delays in the last month.

The greenhouse sub-contractor is almost finished framing the greenhouse. Installing the glass roof is the next step. This will allow workers to work inside the covered greenhouse while they install lights, benches, plumbing and other equipment. The wall glass will be one of the last items installed allowing the contractors to work inside without getting too hot.

The Learning Center has also taken several jumps in the last month. The mason has completed installing the exterior concrete block and the stoned facade on the stair/elevator tower. They are in the process of installing the stone facade along the front classroom walls and estimate they will be done with the stone by the 3rd week in July.

The vapor barrier and 4” foam insulation for the floor slab have been installed. The heating contractor is laying the in-floor radiant heating/cooling pipes and the electrical contractor is laying all of the in floor electrical boxes and conduits. Approximately one-third of the final concrete floor was poured yesterday (July 2). This is the floor that connects the existing lobby to the Learning Center and the main corridor of the Learning Center. We anticipate the rest of the floor being poured later this week or early next week. Once the floor has been poured the contractor will begin installing the wooden beams and structure that will support the second floor and roof.

Project Status Update as of May 30, 2019

Both the Learning Center and the Greenhouse started taking shape this month.

The masons have been busy laying concrete blocks for the Learning Center. Last week they laid up the block that defines the vertical tower feature for the elevator shaft and the stairs to the second floor. This week they laid up the block for the front and back walls and made a sample mockup of the completed wall with the stone veneer for us to review. I expect that next week we will start seeing stone veneer going onto the exterior walls. The outdoor classroom floor was also poured this week.

The Greenhouse completed the structural floor slabs and poured the interior concrete knee walls. As of this morning, they began laying down the vapor barrier on the slab, installing the foam insulation and began laying the in-floor radiant heat tubing in the Tropical house. This will then be covered with a wire mesh and the final concrete floor. This process will be repeated several times over the next month as the contractors work on manageable sections of each greenhouse space.

Over the next few weeks we will be seeing roof and wall demolition where new buildings will be joining existing buildings, more steel being installed on the Learning Center and the stone veneer on the Learning Center.

Project Status Update as of May 07, 2019

The Olbrich project has gone vertical!

Since the update in early April the contractor has poured the entire structural slab for the Learning Center and half the structural slab for the Greenhouse.

Late last week the contractor began setting the steel columns along the window wall of the classrooms. The mason sub-contractor has mobilized and is setting up his equipment and will begin installing concrete block and stone later this week or early next.

The Greenhouse southerly half of the structural slab is complete and they are installing rebar on the northerly half.

Interior work for heating and cooling pipes continues. Daniels has installed a construction wall inside the Lobby in preparation for beginning demolition of the existing exterior wall where the Learning Center will connect with the Lobby.

In the next several weeks additional steel structure will be added and block walls will be started.

Project Status Update as of April 03, 2019

Since the last update at the beginning of March, the contractors have completed installing the helical piers for the Learning Center and the Greenhouse. In addition, the helical piers have been connected by foundation walls through 90% of the Learning Center and Greenhouse. The only remaining foundation work left to do is below the outdoor classroom and the exterior stair from the ground up to the second floor of the Learning Center. Foundations are also being back filled and compacted as the foundation walls progress away from the existing building.

Under floor piping below the classroom cabinetry and the mechanical room is nearing completion. Within the next 2 weeks we will see rebar being tied horizontally in preparation for the structural floor slab.

Various components of the storm sewer that will collect, route, and clean the rain water before it goes into the cistern were delivered today and will be installed later this month.

The foundation walls for the Greenhouse are complete and the contractors are forming and pouring the knee walls that the greenhouse structure will sit on. They are also working on some of the underground piping as the large dirt pile starts to disappear as backfill for the foundation.

The dewatering system was taken off line a couple of weeks ago. The large red filtering tank has been removed from the site and the well points have been pulled out of the ground as well.

Inside roughing in new heating, cooling, and fire protection piping continues.

Project Status Update as of March 04, 2019

Progress continues on the Learning Center and Greenhouse foundations despite Mother Natures attempts to sideline us.

The cistern was capped with precast concrete planks in mid-January. The cistern was then back filled to a common level so the contractor could continue putting in helical piers and pouring foundations working their way out from the Lobby connection to the outer edges for the Learning Center Outdoor Classroom.

The receiving sump for the storm sewer system that collects the roof runoff was installed in mid-February. This sump will eventually pump the storm water through a series of filters into the cistern where it will be stored until needed in the Conservatory and Greenhouse.

Installation of the buried sewer lines that will serve the Learning Center were installed in late February.

Plumbing, Heating, Electrical, and Fire Protection contractors have been busy inside the complex adding new piping and services that will service both the Learning Center and the Greenhouse. Fire protection piping and sprinklers are being added to the entire complex.

The next several weeks will continue with finishing up the helical pier installations, pouring foundations, and beginning to set structural steel columns and beams.

Project Status Update as of January 02, 2019

Fairly moderate temperatures and little rain or snow allowed the contractor to make some real good progress during the month of December.

The helical piers for the rain collection cistern were completed and the 94 foot by 23 foot by 1.5 foot thick cistern floor slab was poured in early December. The cistern walls were then formed and poured the Friday before Christmas and as of this morning the contractor was beginning to remove the wall forms.

Installation of the helical piers for the Greenhouse foundation continued during this time as well.

During the next few weeks the contractor will be back filling and compacting around the cistern walls, installing the precast concrete plank roof over the cistern, and installing the remaining helical piers required for the rest of the Learning Center structure.

Project Status Update as of November 27, 2018

Daniels Construction has continued to refine the construction site by installing and compacting base material and marking out locations for the foundation elements particularly locations of the helical piers being used for foundation support.

Helical piers are being installed in the cistern footprint at the Learning Center as well as within the Greenhouse Footprint. This work will be ongoing for the next several weeks. Check out the link above to our FLICKR page to see the video of this process.

As the installation of the piers progresses, concrete caps will installed as the beginning of the foundation. Currently Daniels is beginning the concrete formwork for part of the cistern walls and sump.

We also have an observation camera on site. This camera is being leased by Daniels from a company called EarthCam®. EarthCam® provides a time lapse video of construction progress. The video is updated each week with the previous weeks progress. The update usually happens on Tuesday mornings. See the link above for access to the video and an instruction page on how to use it.

Project Status Update as of October 30, 2018

Over the past several weeks Daniels Construction has been dewatering the site and has completed the excavation for the Learning Center foundation and the rain collection cistern. Work on the new foundation will begin in the next 10 days or so with the installation of the helical piers and the concrete pier caps. This will be followed by construction of the foundation walls, cistern and below grade utilities both inside and outside the building footprint.

The Greenhouse has been completely removed. All metals, glass and plastics were recycled. The concrete used for floor slabs and foundations were crushed on site to be recycled for use on this project as base materials for the new structures. Dewatering the Greenhouse site will begin later this month followed by the excavation and pier installation for the foundation.

Project Status Update as of October 2, 2018

The abundance of rainfall received in September and another 4+ inches in the last couple of days is going to be challenging for the contractor (Daniels Construction) when they begin de-watering operations in the next week or so. Ground water is up over 2 feet since this time last year and the current level of Lake Monona has back filled the storm sewer pipe connected to Starkweather Creek.

The contractor has completed demolition of over 50% of the existing greenhouse. Building materials are being sorted for recycling. Metal, glass, and plastics are being separated from items that cannot be recycled. Concrete is being stock piled and will be crushed and re-used on site during various stages of the project.

Existing path pavers have been removed from the Learning Center construction area and the topsoil has been stripped off the site and stock piled. The top soil will be returned next summer when the exterior work is scheduled.

During the next few weeks the contractor will be dewatering the site, excavating for the foundations, staking the building footprint out, and begin installing the helical piers needed for the foundation.

Project Status Update as of September 17, 2018


  • Conservatory and Greenhouse Staff have successfully moved the reserve plant collection and supporting equipment to an alternate greenhouse location near Oregon WI. Staff will be maintaining the backup tropical plant collections and will be producing the plants for upcoming shows, sales, and next years gardens at that location while we are under construction here.
  • The Outdoor Horticulture Staff, Parks Construction Staff, and Maintenance Staff were busy last month preparing for the construction project by removing statuary, lighting, vegetation, selected trees, and the hoop houses.
  • We had our ground breaking ceremony on September 6. See the NEWS

Joe Daniels Construction Co. Inc. is currently moving into the project site, setting up perimeter project fencing, required erosion control fencing, and is preparing to begin removals and demolition in the week or so. This will be followed by stripping and stock piling top soil, and beginning excavations for the building foundations.

Project Status Update as of July 24, 2018

Status: Contract Processing

Construction Start: Sept. 10, 2018

Expected Completion: Sept. 2019

Bids were received and opened on July 12th. The apparent low bidder is Joe Daniels Construction Co., Inc. of Madison. The low bid must now be reviewed and approved by the Board of Public Works (July 25) and Common Council (August 7) after which the contract will be signed by the contractor, various city staff sections, and Mayor Soglin. We anticipate this process will be completed by late August.

Over the next several weeks Olbrich Gardens, Parks Forestry, and Parks Construction staff members will be getting ready for the construction to begin.

  • The new Learning Center will be nestled into the gardens immediately adjacent to the existing Lobby and it extends over the existing Tram Path. Olbrich Staff will be preparing this area for the contractor by removing sculptures, landscape lighting, benches, planters, and all of the smaller plant specimens from the construction area.
  • Parks Forestry will be removing larger trees to make way for construction access and all of the new features to be installed as part of the contract. These features will include the Learning Center, Greenhouse, relocated tram and pedestrian paths, Lussier Terrace, and the required fire access lane.
  • Parks Construction will be preparing new “back of house” spaces for the relocation of the four hoop houses which must be moved to make way for the new Greenhouse.
  • Conservatory/Greenhouse Staff will be relocating equipment and tropical plants to multiple locations to prepare for the demolition of the existing Greenhouse which will make room for the new Greenhouse.

We anticipate Daniels Construction to begin work on or about September 10th. Their first several tasks will be putting up perimeter safety fencing, removing existing pavements, and stripping/stockpiling topsoil in preparation for digging the foundation. Construction is estimated to be completed in September 2019.

As every gardener knows; you have to make a bit of a mess, for something wonderful to blossom later. We encourage our visitors to enjoy the gardens, attend special events, and watch the progress of the construction over the next year.

Coming SOON.......Watch for our FLICKR page to follow our progress!

Project Description

Project 1 will provide two new elements to the Existing Olbrich Botanical Gardens (OBG) Campus:

  • The first element will be a new Learning Center to provide dedicated space for a variety of early childhood through adult educational programs offered at OBG. The Learning Center will consist of a large open space that can also be sub-divided into two or three classrooms as needed for programming flexibility. In addition, there will be an outside classroom for programming that can get a little messy; staff will have dedicated office space on the second floor.
  • The second element will replace the existing antiquated production greenhouses. The original greenhouses constructed in 1992 have reached their life expectancy and were of a European design that can no longer be supported with replacement materials and equipment.

Aerial Perspective View of the Learning Center

Representación del nuevo centro de aprendizaje en los Jardines Botánicos Olbrich.

Project Objectives:

The architects, consultants, and city staff will have three primary objectives during the design process:

Project Schedule:

  • 1st Advertisement of Bid: June 01, 2018 Documents available on Bid Express
  • Bid Due: Thursday, July 12, 2018 @ 2:00 pm
  • Construction Start: Sept. 10, 2018
  • Expected Completion: Sept. 2019

Progress Updates: Click here to view our Project Presentation

May 14, 2018: Q2 2018 Progress Update: MSR is wrapping up the construction documents phase in preparation of going out for bid on June 1.

Several issues have come up in the last few months that have caused us to expand the scope and budget of the overall project:

  • Poor soil conditions will be handled with an alternate style foundation construction.
  • To meet current Fire Code the entire complex (except for the Conservatory and Greenhouse) will be completely fire sprinklered.
  • We will be constructing a 60,000-gallon cistern (giant rain barrel) to recycle roof runoff to help meet our Storm Water Management requirements.
  • A significant amount of the public paths and terrace will be relocated to accommodate the Learning Center as well as the construction equipment. New terraces and paths will be installed to replace them.

April 04, 2018: Q1 2018 Progress Update: MSR is halfway through the final design phase – Construction Documents (CDs). In this phase MSR is developing the plans and specifications to a level that will be used for the bidding documents. Currently Olbrich and other City Staff are reviewing the plans and specifications in preparation for the final push in May to complete the bid documents. We are currently still on schedule. See above Project Schedule for dates.

January 10, 2018: Details of the project are taking shape. Learning Center and Greenhouse floor plans, finishes, and interior details are taking shape. Modifications to the existing gardens are being designed where this project will be displacing existing paths and planting exhibits. Life Safety code issues are being addressed in regards to fire truck access, and sprinkler upgrades. The PV solar panel system is a go and will be funded through the City of Madison Sustainability Improvements Budget. We are also looking into capturing storm water from our roofs to be reused for irrigation in the Conservatory to reduce the amount of city tap water that needs to be conditioned before watering the tropical plants.

September 2017: MSR has completed the Schematic Design phase. Massing concepts of the Learning Center have been significantly refined into a preferred floor plan. Classroom spaces will be on the first floor with staff spaces on the second floor. Exterior elevations have been provided and rendered with proposed materials labeled.

June 2017: MSR has completed the Pre-Design phase. This phase included reviewing the existing 2013 Master plan, making recommendations for adjustments to the Master Plan, and identifying future expansion and remodeling projects for Olbrich Botanical Gardens. General siting of the Learning Center and relocation of the Greenhouses were completed. Massing diagrams were reviewed for the proposed floor plan as well as proposed exterior elevations.

March 2017: Entered into a design contract with Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle, Ltd. (MSR Design) of Minneapolis, MN. Principal Architect in charge is Traci Lesneski, Design Architect is Thomas Meyer, Project Architect is Stephen Bellairs, and Chris Wingate is Project & Sustainability Designer.

Olbrich Gardens Expansion in the News:

August 25, 2021 City of Madison News & Updates

Olbrich Gardens Expansion Earns Leadership Award for Green Features

January 28, 2021 ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors) of Wisconsin

Projects of Distinction: Olbrich Gardens Expansion Silver Award

August 13, 2020 The Herald-Independent

Olbrich Botanical Gardens Learning Center addition earns LEED Platinum certification

August 03, 2020 City of Madison News Release

Olbrich Botanical Gardens Learning Center Addition Earns LEED© Platinum Certification

April 24, 2019 City of Madison News Release
Olbrich expansion, greenhouse addition moves forward
Timelapse of April 23, 2019 Learning Center's concrete pour

September 06, 2018 NBC15.com
Olbrich Botanical Garden's breaks ground on $12 million expansion

July 24, 2018 Wisconsin State Journal
Madison inviting residents to invest in Olbrich Botanical Gardens project

Summer 2018: Olbrich Garden News
The Best-Laid Plans...Often Go Awry

Spring 2018: Olbrich Garden News
Olbrich's Expansion Project-An Interview with Project Manager Randy Wiesner

Winter 2018: Olbrich Garden News
Ask the Architects

October 16, 2017: Wisconsin State Journal
Olbrich Botanical Gardens preparing for $10 million expansion

Project History:

May 15, 2018 File #51436
Amending the Capital Budget for this project

May 01, 2018 File #50924
Authorizing the Mayor and City Clerk to execute an amendment to the MSR Design contract.

March 07, 2017 File #45810
Authorizing the Mayor and City Clerk to enter into an agreement with Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. to provide professional architectural/engineering design services and construction administration services.

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