With an aesthetic that references the boats nearby, the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center (MCSC) designed by HGA, brings sustainable design to the shore of Lake Michigan. The MCSC is a nonprofit organization that provides sailing instruction to local residents.

Because natural gas was not available as a heating and cooling source on the lakefront site, the MCSC uses a geothermal system for heating and cooling. It is composed of 14 300-foot-deep wells. In the winter, the pumps underground heat from a closed water loop to heat water  that in turn warms a first-floor radiant slab and an air system on both floors. In the summer, 55-degree water from the closed loop will cool the building. The expected payback period for the system is 11 to 15 years, according to Barbara Velez, MCSC development director.

The building’s wood frame also addresses heating and cooling issues as it was paired with spray-in foam insulation to minimize energy loss and increase the efficiency of the geothermal system. An unfinished galvanized Galvalume roof was specified to reflect the sun, and the cured design of the barrel-vaulted roof is meant to recall the arcing hull shapes of boats in the harbor. The primary structure is made of laminated wood bow-strung arches; the arches’ marine stainless steel cables, rod railings, and tension ties reference sailboat rigging. Paired with the roof is exterior cladding of prefinished] fiber-cement panels that are fully recyclable.

The building’s site position was chosen to keep solar gain off of the building’s high-performance low-E windows. Twenty-foot roof overhangs on the south side of the structure provide shade in the summer, while allowing low natural light to help warm the space in the winter. The other three sides are protected by long arching seven-foot-deep overhangs. Operable windows allow for natural ventilation. The orientation incorporates the lake, with 300-degree views on the second-floor community room opening out onto the harbor and lake, as well as downtown Milwaukee.

The facility includes a multipurpose hall, year-round first-floor classrooms; a large second-story community meeting room; restroom and shower facilities; and administrative space. Outside, it also offers a boat-maintenance area and a spot for outdoor gatherings and picnics. Other landscape features include rain gardens and native plantings that filter stormwater before it enters the lake.