Improving Resilience: Chicago Tower Undergoing Curtain Wall Restoration

Extensive project provides challenges for crews to improve structure, natural light.   January 31, 2023

By Dave Lubach, Managing Editor

In a cold-weather climate like Chicago, protecting the building and occupants from Mother Nature is of top priority, especially in high-rise commercial buildings that house a number of different tenants. 

The restoration of a curtain wall at Accenture Tower at 500 West Madison Street in Chicago is taking place to keep the 42 story Class A office and retail property tower among the elite properties in the country. 

The tower was completed in 1987 and has twice been named The Outstanding Building of the Year by The Building Owner and Managers Association. There are 40 stories of office space and 80,000 square feet of retail space in the 1.46 million square foot building. 

Western Specialty Contractors started a restoration project in 2021 to remove and replace the original 35-year-old sealants for the 588-foot-tall building. The project is expected to be completed in 2025. 

The long schedule for completion is because of the tower’s two maintenance house rigs, which are working platforms attached to the curtain wall’s structural tube members and internal track system that are similar to swing stages and operated remotely to allow maintenance crews to access about 80 percent of the exterior. The house rigs limit the number of crews able to work on the building at one time and do not provide access to the base or a bridge on a nearby street. For areas that are not accessible by the rigs, crews use an extensive rope access/controlled descent process. 

The new curtain wall on the façade will protect the building and occupants from inclement weather, but also allow more natural light deeper into the interior space. The curtain wall system will also improve the building’s water infiltration, wind loading and seismic force efforts, according to Debbie Kalck, branch manager for Western’s Chicago Facades Branch. 

Dave Lubach is managing editor for the Facilities Market. 


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