Green light: SMU-in-Taos housing receives LEED certification

Casita Clements, SMU-in-TaosCasita Clements, a recently constructed student residence at 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 July 23 for a faculty casita that will be renovated and expanded to meet LEED standards.

> More on the LEED rating systems

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 that future state-funded projects larger than 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.

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