Dane County Regional Airport

Given the commonplace machine age aesthetic pursued by most airport projects, the Dane County Regional Airport stepped outside the norm by implementing a Prairie School adaptation as the design expression for their 68,000,000 terminal and concourse expansion. Additionally, they traveled into uncharted terrain by supporting progressive, environmentally sensitive solutions for new construction and for renovation of existing spaces. Now complete, the airport is a blueprint for others to follow.

As unique as it is comfortable, the new terminal building draws on Wrights inspiration and the regions architectural roots, which sets the airport apart from most other facilities of its kind who have adopted a universal design immediately recognizable to anyone who travels. The design approach chosen is a contextual form of Regionalism that produced a functional public transportation facility uniquely and immediately suggestive of Madison. An adaptation of the Prairie School architectural style is featured to provide an aesthetic backbone for present and future building projects. The exterior color palette draws from the hues of nearby bluffs and foliage. The existing terminal building although not a Prairie Style structure complements this approach with its earth tones and horizontal bands of color.

Long considered an ecological pariah, an airport seems an unlikely choice for showcasing environmental enhancement. Providers of public transportation are energy intensive for both facilities and aircraft. Aircraft are directly responsible for excessive noise and air pollution. Storm water management headaches abound yet the need for facility expansion grows each year. Grand public gathering spots are subject to escalating security concerns. Such is the dilemma of reconciling divergent attributes when commencing on an airport terminal renovation and expansion project.

Madison, Wisconsin is recognized for its political and environmental activism. Dane County adopted a Green Building Policy to encourage responsible design and construction practices. The recently completed Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, Wisconsin embraced and exceeded the policy recommendations.

During the master planning phase, the owner and design team agreed upon an overriding motto: Architecture in the service of Community. A design aesthetic and material palette immediately familiar to the American Midwest was chosen for the present and future projects. Three primary program goals were identified:

1. Transform an undersized, functional and yet otherwise anonymous airport terminal into an expanded fiscally responsible gateway to the community serving the State Capital, State University and an established cultural and business environment.
2. Become a model for green building practices for the entire aviation industry.
3. Provide significant re-investment in the local community that is directly responsible for the economic viability of the airport.

Airports rarely close, so construction activity must ever start and stop, a shell game of moving barricades. In addition, multiple Federal agencies dictate security measures, building restrictions and staffing. These costs had to be absorbed into the project budget. The design team endeavored to integrate Federal mandates and green measures in a seamless fashion. While the benefits may not be consciously apparent, the owner is experiencing substantial energy, operational and maintenance related savings.

Key sustainable features include the following:

Re-using an existing building remains the preferred sustainable practice. The design team implemented the existing masonry and concrete shell into the overall design.
Existing construction demolition waste was separated and either re-installed into the new facility or provided to the local material re-processing centers. 97 in excess of 1,000,000 pounds of construction waste was re-cycled and thus diverted from landfill disposal.
All new electrical systems utilize energy efficient fixtures universally controlled with daylight and occupancy sensors.
A thermal storage ice-making facility produces ice in the evenings when electrical utility rates are reduced, and naturally melted during the day to provide chilled water to meet the cooling demands for the entire facility. The payback period for this system is 7 years.
In-floor radiant hydronic heat provides a consistent thermal comfort zone without excessive forced air movement and related air quality issues.
The majority of construction products were extracted/manufactured within 500 miles of project site thus minimizing transportation costs and impacts.
High efficiency building systems are fully commissioned.
Daylighting technologies: fritted, low E, high performance glazing, roller shades sunscreens
Low VOC, mold resistant, high recycled content durable construction materials/finishes/assemblies were used throughout.
275,000 square feet of white membrane roof was installed to reduce the heat island effect.
A Quality based General Contractor process weighted on proximity to project site was utilized for GC selection.
Local vendors/craftspeople/materials were utilized throughout facilitating pride, ownership and regional familiarity.

As unique as it is comfortable, the new terminal building assumes a place alongside the prominent public institutions throughout Madison. Rich in detail and meaning, the public is rewarded with new discoveries with each visit. Lasting materials and assemblies are detailed to blur the past, present and future. Subscribing to the novel idea that flying can be a pleasant experience; the Dane County Regional Airport project chose a path of time tested regionalism: working communities supporting local businesses while protecting natural environments.


Project Type


4000 International Lane , Madison , 53704 ,