WE Energies | Public Services Building Steam Event


On the weekend of May 16-17, 2020, there was heavy rainfall in the Milwaukee area. During the storm, millions of gallons of water poured into the tunnel system and created a tidal wave effect causing damage to conduits and pipe insulation. The tunnel system failed in the early morning hours of Monday, May 18th at two breach points – one of them was the We Energies Public Service Building basement. Video footage of the event showed an access shaft shooting boiling water and steam 30-35 feet in the air. PSB took the brunt of the damage. Steam pressure blew off the access door in its basement, manhole covers were blown off along downtown streets, and there was steam and flooding through all levels of the PSB. The steam moved to all floors through the HVAC system. There was extensive damage to elevators, computers, conduit, electrical equipment, carpeting, cubicle partitions, furniture, ceiling tiles, wallpaper, light fixtures, fireproofing, and insulation.

Cotter joined the Findorff  & WEC team to provide project controls services to support the insurance claim. This required extensive inventory tracking for every part and piece in that building. There were ongoing damage assessment efforts for months with subject matter experts and legal consultants. Our role was to implement cost reporting, establish a change order process, and improve monthly cost forecasting. The team successfully re-deployed 630 workstations, private offices, and conference room furniture from AON’s Chicago & Green Bay offices. This alternative alone saved $10.8M. There was also a major push to prioritize cleaning efforts whenever possible rather than automatically replacing items.

We were proud to play a part, along with JH Findorff and the WEC team of employees and consultants, to dive in and provide an efficient and action-oriented response. The success of this team was due to the level of expertise that was brought to bear on the effort and a transparent communication process. It was a highly collaborative, solution-oriented project environment.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin



Square footage


Project completion

Project Team

The restoration of the Public Service Building was an incredible feat for the team. It was an unplanned project due to a weather event, but WEC quickly pulled together a well-rounded team that was competent, collaborative, and solution oriented. It was a “once in a career” type project and I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the solution and continue to learn from this project.

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