Ready, Admiral? Chicago Retirement Facility Makes Waves

Imagine living in lakefront property just minutes from a big city and surrounded by people your own age. You have access to learning, social activities, opportunities to volunteer, exercise or get out and about in the community. Sounds like the perfect place to go to college, right? Or retire, actually. Those are some of the perks of Admiral at the Lake, a continuing care and retirement community in Chicago that reopened last summer. Designed by the Dallas offices of Perkins+Will, the project features an abundance of windows allowing residents to enjoy views of the city.


“The location is on the lakefront and it’s senior housing and that makes it nice,” says Mark Kane, president of Softer Lite Window Company, the Chicago-based window installer on the project.

The previous building, torn down in 2007, was replaced with a $200 million structure, consisting of 200 independent living units, 39 assisted living units, 17 memory support units and 36 skilled nursing units. This is over a 12-story healthcare facility with a 31-story independent living tower. The 628,570 square-foot complex replaces the previously demolished structure, and the new facility, which includes a range of products from Kawneer Company Inc., an Alcoa business, and Traco, a division of Kawneer, is the latest in the Admiral at the Lake lineage. The organization was originally established in 1858 and is now affiliated with Kendal®, a nonprofit system of communities and services for older adults based on Quaker values.

Products used in the project included TR-8300 thermal aluminum heavy-commercial sliding glass doors and NX-8900 3 1/4 inch thermal aluminum architectural terrace doors in locations throughout the building. Kawneer’s 350 medium-stile entrances were used on the first floor of the building, where heavy traffic was anticipated. The company’s Trifab® VersaGlaze® 451T framing system provided enhanced thermal performance and a range of design options that fit the project’s requirements, according to information from Kawneer, while the Trifab VersaGlaze 450 framing system was used in the garage areas.

The job was no small project. As a post-tensioned concrete structure with a mixture of punched openings, stonework and painted concrete, it required careful coordination to make sure everything went as planned, especially for Kane and his team who had to ensure they didn’t puncture any cables when planning for fastener locations.

“The general contractor, Lend Lease in Chicago, was very thorough,” Kane says. “They did a lot of engineering up front with BIM models to identify where the cables were going to be so we wouldn’t hit them, but we had to verify [this] in the field.” There were situations, Kane adds, in which double checking was helpful, as there were occasions when another aspect of the job had not quite gone as expected and required extra work to verify where the cables were located. It wasn’t anything Softer Lite couldn’t handle, though.

“The majority of our work is retrofit, so while we’ve done new construction, it’s not our focus,” Kane explains. “This was a larger project for us. We don’t bid every new construction project out there, just those within our capabilities.”

And while a TR-700 window wall was used to provide “sleek and streamlined appearance for the building,” according to Kawneer, a variety of window sizes and types were also incorporated throughout the building. These included TR-710 4-5/8 inch offset casement thermal aluminum windows (outswing); TR-750 4-5/8 inch offset projected thermal aluminum windows (project out); and TR-780 – offset 4-5/8 inch depth fixed thermal aluminum windows.

“Overall it was a good experience and a successful project but didn’t happen without hard work,” Kane says.