A testament to the Colleges’ longstanding commitment to sustainability and environmental leadership, the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts has earned LEED Gold from the U.S. Green Building Council, making it the first building on campus to receive an official LEED certification. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is the most popular and widely used green building system globally.
“Hobart and William Smith are excited to receive this outstanding recognition for our new performing arts center,” says President Mark D. Gearan. “This honor illuminates the years of hard work, planning and communitywide collaboration that have been invested into the center, and it distinctly aligns with the Colleges’ goal to reach climate neutrality by 2025.”
LEED is a certification program for buildings and communities that guides their design, construction, operations and maintenance toward sustainability. The rating system is based on prerequisites and credits that a project meets to achieve a certification level. The rating system is point-based, and awards points for water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation and design, and regional priorities.
“It’s really exciting to see the efforts of everyone on campus, including many students over multiple years, that helped to make this certification a reality,” says Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Thomas Drennen, who has spearheaded the Colleges’ sustainability efforts for nearly 20 years and co-chairs the Presidents’ Climate Commitment Task Force. “Every senior in Environmental Studies has to complete a capstone course, and in 2010 a group of them laid the foundation for the initial steps of what it would take to make the performing arts center a LEED-certified building.”
“From the very beginning we declared the requirement of a LEED building, and making sure we achieved those results was an active and engaged process until the end,” says Associate Director for Planning and Construction Chris Button, who served as project manager on the construction and who is a LEED Accredited Professional with a specialty in building design and construction. “The Gearan Center for Performing Arts is the new standard for us moving forward.”
The building’s innovative design significantly reduces its environmental impact and includes energy-efficient windows that allow natural daylight, ductwork that was sealed against dust during construction, filter systems that keep air in the building clean, low-flow water fixtures, select types of paint and insulation, and the use of long life-cycle materials such as slate and brick. The project was designed to reduce square-footage of the building by making many spaces dual-purpose. An aggressive sorting and recycling plan was implemented, preventing about 75 percent of the construction waste from ending up in the landfill. Materials for the building were also as locally sourced as possible.
Compared to non-certified buildings, the annual savings of the Gearan Center include: a 42.7 percent reduction in energy cost, a 358,279 kWh reduction in electricity usage, and a 12,754 therm reduction in natural gas used by the building, totaling $71,330 in annual savings.
The Gearan Center is a 65,000-square-foot facility that houses the Colleges’ music, theatre, dance and media and society departments and includes rehearsal, classroom and performance spaces for each department. The building was designed by The GUND Partnership of Cambridge, Mass., and the construction was managed by Welliver, of Montour Falls, N.Y.
The Gearan Center’s LEED Gold recognition follows the recent opening of the Colleges’ newly established solar farm. The new farm, along with a second that’s underway, will represent one of the largest solar installations at any institution of higher education in New York State – delivering 50 percent of the Colleges’ electricity and providing students with hands-on learning experiences. As with the Gearan Center, students were also deeply involved with those efforts under the guidance of Drennen.
Hobart and William Smith have consistently been nationally recognized for their commitment to environmental leadership and sustainability. The Colleges were also featured in the 2016 edition of the Princeton Review’s “Guide to 361 Green Colleges” as one of North America’s most environmentally responsible schools.
Princeton Review’s new “Green Colleges” recognition follows a number of other accolades received by HWS for sustainability and environmental leadership, including being named to Sierra magazine’s annual list of the greenest colleges and universities, advancing more than 55 spots since first appearing on the list in 2009. HWS ranked No. 58 on Sierra’s “Cool Schools” list, earning the highest possible rating in the category for innovation in sustainability. The Colleges have also been named a Tree Campus USA® by the Arbor Day Foundation for the fifth consecutive year.