LEED® Gold Certification Awarded to Ringling College Academic Center and North Hall Student Housing Buildings Built by Willis A. Smith Construction

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New Campus Buildings models for sustainability and the ongoing education of environmental responsibility for Ringling College of Art and Design students

Ringling College Academic Building Exterior

We believe it is critical that our students experience and understand the importance of ensuring sustainability in design of living and learning spaces.

Ringling College of Art and Design and Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc. announced today that both of its new campus buildings - the Ringling College Academic Center and its North Hall Student Housing buildings - have been awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold Certification and are distinguished as Gold-certified facilities by the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED® Green Building Rating System™.

“The new Academic Center which opened fall of 2009 has become a cornerstone of our campus and the new North Hall, opening at the same time, has become our premier residence hall. Both buildings blend beauty, community building, social responsibility and efficiency with the architectural elements of functionality and contemporary design,” stated Larry Thompson, President of Ringling College of Art and Design. “One of the core values of the Ringling College campus is social responsibility and these two new buildings exemplify the College's commitment to Green Design for all new campus buildings. We believe it is critical that our students experience and understand the importance of ensuring sustainability in design of living and learning spaces.”

Both structures were designed by Architect Donald Lawson of The Lawson Group and were built by Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc., both of Sarasota. The Willis A. Smith project team included David E. Sessions, Project Executive; Taylor Aultman, LEED AP and Project Manager; Clark Wright, Assistant Project Manager and Bob Buggle, Superintendent.

The Academic Center is an 82,000 square foot, five-story sustainable building. The first floor has a 200 seat auditorium, three galleries, two classrooms, the Design Center and a café lounge area. The second floor comprises six classrooms flexibly designed to also serve as an auditorium. The third and fourth floors are configured to be used as needed spaces and the fifth floor contains eight studios.

The North Residence Hall is a 75,000 square foot, five-story structure. The first floor features offices, classrooms, a mailroom, recreational room, and a student project room. The second floor contains 26 single dorm rooms, two triple dorm rooms (total 32 beds), one student project room, one study room, a warming kitchen and two laundry rooms. The third, fourth and fifth floors have 26 single dorm rooms, two triple dorm rooms (total 32 beds), one student project room, one study room and two laundry rooms.

“Having worked for Ringling College of Art & Design for 15 plus years, all of us at Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc. are pleased that the college has enthusiastically embraced sustainability for its new facilities,” boasts David E. Sessions, LEED AP, President of Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc. He continues, “Construction of complicated education facilities is always a challenge that requires skill and close teamwork so that in the end, we can all be proud of the result.”

LEED® is an internationally recognized certification program that measures a building’s performance across all environmental metrics including energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

To meet the precise requirements to become LEED® Gold certified, the Ringling College Academic Center and North Hall incorporate many sustainable design elements and practices including:

  • Water Efficiency: With the use of low flow fixtures, shower heads, and dual flush toilets we were able to reduce water usage by over 70%. This is what LEED considers Exemplary performance.
  • Optimized Energy Performance: The energy models for both buildings have been optimized with the use of motion sensors, timers, and light level sensors to control the building lighting. Highly efficient Air Conditioning systems have been installed and power use supplemented by the 40 solar panels (7000 Watt system) on the Academic Center and 36 solar panels (3600 Watt system) on the North Residence Hall.
  • Indoor Environmental Quality: Sealants, paints, carpeting and composite wood products with low or no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) were used in the construction process. In addition, the interior work spaces of the facility receive XX.X% daylighting, insuring a healthy indoor environment.
  • Materials and Resources: 876 tons of construction waste or 77% of the total potential construction waste was recycled and not placed in a landfill. This includes material such as concrete, wood, metal, and cardboard. Ringling College also relocated/reused four existing buildings.
  • Sustainable Sites: Water Efficient Landscaping uses low flow irrigation and Florida native plants. Irrigation can me turned off after a year and landscape will be self sustaining.
  • Education: Ringling College has commited to promote Green awareness through giving Educational Tours and conducting Post-Occupancy Surveys.
  • Alternative Transportation - new bike racks accomodating 126 bicycles have been installed on campus.    

The U.S. Green Building Council is the nation’s foremost coalition of leaders from every sector of the building industry working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. Its’ purpose is to create an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous surrounding that improves the quality of life.

About Ringling College of Art and Design
Ringling College of Art and Design is a private, not-for-profit, fully accredited college offering the Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in 13 disciplines: Advertising Design, Computer Animation, Digital Filmmaking, Fine Arts, Game Art & Design, Graphic & Interactive Communication, Illustration, Interior Design, Motion Design, Painting, Photography & Digital Imaging, Printmaking and Sculpture, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Business of Art & Design. Located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the picturesque 47-acre campus now includes more than 100 buildings, and enrolls 1,320 students from 46 states and 46 countries. It is recognized as being among the best and most innovative visual arts colleges in the United States as well as a leader in the use of technology in the arts. http://www.Ringling.edu

Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc. is a Sarasota based Construction Management firm primarily serving Southwest Florida since 1972. As the oldest construction firm in Sarasota, the company enjoys an excellent reputation with a solid background in commercial, industrial, educational, healthcare, museum specialty work and sustainable construction. The company is also a member of the Florida Green Building Coalition, U.S. Green Building Council, and Sustainable Sarasota. They now have 14 LEED® Accredited Professionals (green building experts) on staff. The firm has made great strides in asserting itself as a leader in ‘green’ construction and has been awarded several contracts based in a large part on their experience in this field. A few of their notable green projects include: Willis A. Smith Construction’s 18,000 square foot Corporate Headquarters Building at Lakewood Ranch, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch corporate offices, Ringling College of Art and Design Housing and Academic Building and The Wellness Community at Lakewood Ranch.

For additional information, contact:

Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc.
Elise Lipoff

Ringling College of Art and Design
Christine Meeker-Lange

Rich Schineller


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Christine Meeker Lange
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