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Henderson Engineers Celebrates Completion of $456 million Baird Center Expansion

Henderson Engineers Celebrates Completion of $456 million Baird Center Expansion

Flexibility and Sustainability Take Center Stage in Transformational Project for Milwaukee Convention Center

LENEXA, Kan. — Henderson Engineers, a national building systems design firm, proudly celebrates the May 2024 grand opening of the $456 million expansion of Milwaukee’s Baird Center, the largest convention center in the state of Wisconsin. Henderson served as Engineer of Record for the groundbreaking project, which doubles the facility’s footprint to 1.3 million square feet.

Spread across a two-block radius, the expansion features a new grand entrance that looks toward Milwaukee’s Deer District mixed-use development, connecting the convention center to a key entertainment and social corridor in downtown. In addition to extending the facility’s exhibition hall to 300,000 contiguous square feet, the redevelopment increases the number of meeting rooms from 28 to 52, bumps up the number of loading docks from 16 to 22, and adds more than 400 enclosed parking spaces. Other project highlights include all-gender restrooms, dedicated quiet rooms, lactation spaces, sensory rooms, and a rooftop ballroom and terrace offering breathtaking views of the city.

“The Baird Center has been serving Milwaukee well for the past 26 years, and it’s an honor to have been entrusted with shaping its future for decades to come,” said Russ Murdock, Henderson’s convention center practice director. “Flexibility is a priority for modern convention centers as these facilities are increasingly focused on serving multiple functions at once rather than the traditional approach of mainly booking large single exhibitions. This expansion gives the Baird Center the ability to seamlessly run multiple shows and events at the same time thanks to the diversity of meeting spaces that are now available, providing them the opportunity to utilize the building’s footprint to its full potential.”

With patron experience in mind, Henderson gave special attention to ensuring public spaces are fully equipped with building systems to support varying crowd capacities without interfering with the aesthetic feel. The most significant of these systems are the facility’s fire and life safety apparatus, which feature massive exhaust ventilation systems to prevent smoke accumulation within assembly areas in case of emergency. In collaboration with project architects EUA and TVS, Henderson hid exhaust fans and grills behind beautiful, custom-designed air intake screens to make them virtually unnoticeable.

On the sustainability front, Henderson designed infrastructure that takes advantage of an existing downtown district steam loop to generate hot water and to provide heating. Excess heat produced from this process is designed to be used for the facility’s snow melt system during the frigid Wisconsin winter. By incorporating steam, the expanded Baird Center is 23% more energy efficient than the typical new convention center. Henderson also spearheaded other sustainable approaches including a solar roof, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and LED lighting. The project is overall designed toward LEED Silver green building standards.

“Steam is not a common power source for new facilities, but using infrastructure that the city had already invested in made sense from a sustainability perspective because we not only needed less materials, but steam also has a lower environmental footprint than fossil fuels,” explained Murdock. “All our sustainability approaches ensure that the Baird Center is not only a benefit for the community from a business and tourism perspective, but also when it comes to the long-term health of the surrounding environment.”

Henderson’s full scope of work for the project was audio-video, electrical, energy modeling, fire and life safety, mechanical, plumbing, technology, and security. More than 30% of this work was delivered in partnership with Wisconsin-based businesses BCL EnterpriseDK-39,  IBC EngineeringOneida Total Integrated Enterprises, and Pro Audio Systems. Gilbane | Smith served as the general contractor.


Henderson Companies is the 100% employee-owned parent company of Henderson Engineers and Henderson Building Solutions. Henderson Engineers is a national building systems design firm focused on six core sectors: business, community, grocery and distribution, health, retail, and venue. Henderson Building Solutions is a national design-build construction management and commissioning firm that provides a seamless bridge between design, construction, and ongoing maintenance. Founded in 1970 and 2013 respectively, we’re licensed in all 50 states and bring buildings to life through 1,000 employees across our offices in New YorkPhiladelphiaTampaNashvilleBentonvilleDallasDenverHoustonKansas City (Lenexa, Kansas, and downtown Kansas City, Missouri), PhoenixLas Vegas, and Los Angeles. To learn more, visit our websites at www.hendersonengineers.com and www.hendersonbuilding.com.