Casita Clements, a recently constructed student residence on the campus of SMU-in-Taos, is the first commercial or institutional building in the Taos area to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification for sustainable, environmentally responsible construction. The 3,457 square-foot adobe structure has been awarded the elite “gold” certification.
Six other student casitas on the Taos campus were recently renovated to meet green building standards and are currently being reviewed by the council for LEED certification. In addition, SMU-in-Taos broke ground on July 23 for a faculty casita that will be renovated and expanded to meet LEED standards.
Casita Clements is one of only four university buildings statewide to achieve LEED certification. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed an executive order in 2006 requiring future state-funded projects over 15,000 feet be built to meet LEED “silver” standards, mandating green construction for future projects at state universities. As a private university, SMU is not bound by that order but undertook the commitment voluntarily.
“I think that is a great distinction to make,” said Julie Walleisa, an Albuquerque architect who chairs the New Mexico chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. “In my mind, it counts more that SMU wasn’t required to do this. And getting gold certification puts you above that requirement for state buildings.”
The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program offers four levels of certification: certified, silver, gold and platinum. Candidates are judged on a point system that measures energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. The LEED program includes in the same category new construction for commercial and institutional projects ranging from retail buildings to campus residential projects and laboratories.
SMU administrators have committed to building facilities to LEED standards on the University’s main Dallas campus as well, but say they feel a special commitment to environmental sustainability in northern New Mexico through the Taos experience.
“Part of the educational context of our program rests on our focus on sustainability, permeating our curriculum, facilities, student activities and even our dining experiences,” said Mike Adler, SMU-in-Taos executive director. “Our emphasis on recycling, use of renewable energy sources, locally grown foods and green construction provide learning experiences for faculty, students and visitors on the campus.”
The SMU campus at Fort Burgwin, located south of Taos on State Highway 518, has been an educational and research center of Southern Methodist University since 1973, offering courses and an archaeological field school at Pot Creek Pueblo. The original student and faculty casitas were too rustic to provide comfortable quarters during cold weather months, so programs historically were restricted to late spring and summer. Broad campus improvements, including new and renovated casitas, have been made possible by a $4 million lead gift from former Texas Gov. William Clements, Jr., his wife, Rita, and other supporters. As a result, SMU-in-Taos is now able to offer programs throughout the year.
Gifts for enhancements at SMU-in-Taos are part of SMU’s major gifts campaign, SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which is raising endowment for additional student scholarships, faculty positions and academic programs, and the campus experience both at SMU-in-Taos and the main campus in Dallas.