Burnham Nationwide Plays an Integral Part in the United Center’s Relationship with the City of Chicago


Burnham Nationwide Plays an Integral Part in the United Center’s Relationship with the City of Chicago

The United Center is home to the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks, as well as concerts and other events throughout the year. In 2015, construction began on a six story, 190,000-square-foot building that connects to the United Center via a public atrium for fans and guests to gather before, during, and after games or events. The addition also includes offices for the Chicago Bulls, Blackhawks, Levy Restaurants, and United Center employees and a 10,000-square-foot retail store on the ground floor. It is scheduled to be completed Fall of 2016.

Burnham Nationwide is expediting a variety of critical components of the permitting process for both the new building and work being done on the interior of the United Center. This includes all of the permits for the new addition, from the foundation and full building permit to the glass atrium and bridge connecting the addition to the United Center. Burnham’s code compliance experts also presented to the Committee on Building Standards and Tests (S&T Committee) on plans for renovations to kitchens in the interior of the United Center.

Burnham Handled the Full Permit Process for the United Center Addition

Burnham Facilitated Fire Department Approval

The architectural plans for the addition include a glass atrium which connects the new building to the United Center. Another interesting part of the design is a bridge running from inside the atrium to the second floor of the United Center. Burnham helped alleviate Fire Department concerns regarding the atrium sprinkler systems and the bridge’s fire safety.

We helped the architects and engineers demonstrate the fire safety by setting up the necessary meetings with the Fire Department Chief Engineer. Through our experience working closely with the Fire Department, we were able to reach out directly to schedule a meeting with the right contacts and coordinated with the design team’s out of state schedules in order to make the meeting successful.

Burnham Facilitated the Geotechnical Permit Review and Office of Underground Coordination Approval for the New Building Foundation

The foundation for the addition is connected via the basement of the United Center. The foundation permit for the new addition includes construction of the caissons, which, because of the way it was designed to connected to the original building, requires the caissons to be built so deep into the ground there were potential earth retention issues. This required the involvement of Geotechnical Permit Review and Office of Underground Coordination (OUC) approval.

Geotechnical Permit Review and OUC approval are two complex processes that work hand-in-hand. Geotechnical Permit Review is required for all foundation, excavation work or soil penetrations that are deeper than 12 feet and that are part of a building permit. The OUC reviews all requests regarding existing utility information and the review and approval of construction work in or adjacent to the Public Way. OUC requires that plans must already be approved by the Geotechnical Reviewer before being submitted.

Burnham set up multiple meetings with the Geotechnical Reviewer, who must review and approve the preliminary plans before moving on in the process. After two meetings with the Reviewer, the drawings were ready to be submitted to OUC. At that time, the Reviewer gave Burnham a distribution list of the OUC reviewers we were allowed to reach out to prior to the project being uploaded to their review system and sent to the OUC review members.

OUC then distributes the plans to the 27 city agencies and utilities that make up the department for approval. While it is not uncommon to have questions from OUC review members before gaining complete approval, on this project there was only a comment from one utility. Burnham coordinated with the design team and the OUC reviewer at the utility in order to resolve the issue and receive approval.

Presenting to S&T Committee for United Center Kitchen Renovations

Burnham concurrently worked with Levy Restaurants on renovations to 14 different kitchens in the United Center. The restaurant group proposed adding new ovens for warming food to the kitchens being renovated. However, the current Chicago Building Code requires that ovens must have commercial hoods that tie into the existing exhaust system to capture and confine cooking vapors and residues. This would be prohibitively expensive and unnecessary because the ovens were only used for warming, not cooking. Levy Restaurants needed a reasonable solution that would allow them to undertake a cost-effective renovation.

Levy Restaurants came to Burnham because of our extensive experience representing clients before the S&T Committee. The S&T Committee is charged with insuring the public safety by reviewing and approving any new building materials, method, or system that is not currently included within the Code. During the presentation to the committee you are required to prove how your designs are equal to or better than the current Chicago Building Code by using relevant examples and case studies from other municipalities.

We handled the entire S&T Committee process, from filling out the application to creating the narrative and presentation. The presentation detailed the issue and the proposed solution, noting what section of the Code we were referring to and why we were diverting from it. The presentation also included case studies that provided examples of other instances where ovens without hoods were used solely for the purpose of warming food

After the presentation, the S&T Committee provides a response either agreeing that the plan meets or exceeds current Code or requesting changes to the architectural drawings. After Burnham’s successful representation before the S&T Committee, Levy Restaurants received a signed approval to move forward with their plans.

Burnham’s role on these projects is integral to the success of the United Center’s relationship with the City. The United Center is one of the most recognizable buildings in Chicago, and gets a lot of special attention from the City, community neighbors, and the media. We at Burnham are proud to work with the United Center on these projects and look forward to continuing our relationship in the future.


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