Golisano Institute for Sustainability

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Golisano Institute for Sustainability

Issue 4 of 2014


Located on the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) campus, the new Golisano Institute for Sustainability (GIS) serves as a Western Gateway to one of the premier universities in upstate New York. The GIS wanted a signature headquarters building that would serve as a living laboratory for scientific discovery and experimental learning. The Institute desired a facility where students could focus their studies on developing sustainable technologies for manufacturing, transportation, energy production and construction.

The Institute for Sustainability project faced challenges that could only be successfully overcome because of the integrated design-build team. Design-builder LeChase Construction Services, LLC partnered with SWBR Architects, FXFOWLE, M/E Engineering, Stantec and the 7Group to design and build the 84,000-square-foot, four-story research and three-story academic and office building connected by a four-story galleria. Key stakeholders met regularly with members of the design-build team to share their different visions for the building and the design-build team was able to seek common ground to bring everyone together to unify decisions and form a clear path forward. Additionally, a $13 million grant came in after completion of the schematic design phase. It was only because of the flexibility of design-build delivery to change plans that the team was able to use this grant to expand the facility another 36,000 square feet (a 75 percent in­crease in the size of the building) while also maintaining budget and schedule integrity.

“LeChase, as the design-builder for this project, as well as the LEED® project administrator and sustainability consul­tant, facilitated diverse perspectives from the owner, design team, faculty and the greater community,” says Steve Beck, chief sustainability officer and director of science and technology at LeChase Construction Services, LLC. “We were able to achieve consensus among all of the stakeholders and forge a highly functional team, which resulted in a facility that exceeded expecta­tions as demonstrated by the awards that the project has received. And all of this was achieved while under the constraints of budget and schedule.”

Completed in April 2013, the GIS research center is home to integration laboratories, classrooms and office space designed to support the Institute’s research in sus­tainable production, energy, mobility and information technology systems. It is a complex academic research facility with many high-performance design features that make it a unique and spectacular collaborative learning environment. Having earned LEED Platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, the Institute also features a smart microgrid and a computing data center so that visitors can see firsthand the use of sustainable building technologies and energy systems. The building offers several memorable features including rain gardens and an accessible green roof with photo voltaic systems on display. The landscape design also incor­porates native and non-invasive species requiring minimal water and maintenance. In addition, the Institute features a geother­mal system using liquid that circulates from eight 150-foot deep wells through pipes in the galleria floor, helping to keep the build­ing warm in winter and cool in summer.

Honored with a co-2014 National Award of Excellence in Design along with The Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse, and both a 2014 National Award of Excellence and 2014 National Award of Merit in the Education cate­gory from DBIA, this living laboratory attracts students from around the world to learn about sustainable design and product development. GIS is among the first in the world to offer a sustainability Ph.D. program. And, as one of the world’s few cutting-edge research and education centers for sustainability, the design-build team worked closely with the faculty of the GIS department to provide technical information that is currently being incor­porated into the academic curriculum.