Children's museum wins 'Outstanding Structure of the Year' award

An interior look at the Children's Museum of Eau Claire

Photo By Kleine Leonard Photography

SEATTLE —  The National Council of Structural Engineers Associations awarded the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire (CMEC) the ‘Outstanding Structure in the New Building under $30M’ category and the 2023 ‘Outstanding Structure of the Year’ at the Structural Engineering Excellence (SEE) Awards ceremony.

The "Outstanding Structure of the Year" Award presented to KPFF
Photo by Business Wire

Accepting the awards was the Seattle-based engineering firm, KPFF, whose engineering work made the first ever application of mixed species Structural Round Timber (SRT) in a heavily loaded two-story structural system a reality. 
In addition to KPFF, the innovative building was a result of collaboration across multiple partners - from the visionary leaders at the museum, to world-renowned architecture firm Steinberg Hart, and WholeTrees Structures, a Wisconsin-based company that prefabricated the structural systems made of round timber and successfully turned soaring trees from carbon smart forests into dramatic structural columns and beams.

Some of the intricate work done by KPFF on the trusses used for the museum 
Photo by Business Wire 

The award signals the potential for the use of SRT in modern building design. The structural system of the museum consists of round timber columns and joist and girder trusses in place of conventional steel, demonstrating the material’s multi-story potential. SRT trusses support a heavy concrete floor and the roof alongside Ash and Sugar Maple columns carrying loads up to 200 kips.

Bringing the building from design to reality was a process of connecting internationally recognized architectural firm Steinberg Hart with foresters from both coasts and the Midwest. Port Blakely of Washington donated the Douglas-fir truss material and 7 Islands Land Company of Maine donated the stunning 30’ maple branched atrium columns, while the town of Sheboygan, WI, donated the ash columns.

The use of SRT was just part of Architect Malcolm Holzman’s artistic and sustainable vision of the project. 

“The building project has been truly amazing for our entire region,” said Mike Lee, Interim CEO, CMEC, “We have already served over 100,000 people this year, an increase of 135% from the peak at our previous location – with much more engagement not just among the kids, but the entire family, with the facility and exhibits – something we certainly attribute to the natural feel of the new space.”

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Dakota Smith | Editorial Intern

Dakota Smith is an undergraduate student at New Jersey City University studying English and Creative Writing. He is a writer at heart, and a cook by trade. His career goal is to become an author. At Woodworking Network, Dakota is an editorial intern, ready to dive into the world of woods and words.