Tight deadlines and quarters are not unusual for student housing projects, but it’s always a race against the clock. Then add a worldwide pandemic and there’s a whole new set of challenges to face. Defying the unforeseen trials imposed by COVID-19, Ryan Companies and its trusted partners not only completed Tommie East Residence Hall for the University of St. Thomas on schedule, but surpassed its goal of achieving the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification by securing LEED v4 Platinum.
One of the most significant challenges during the pandemic was the need to safely distance on-site workers who needed to complete tasks in small spaces. This required altering schedules to limit the number of workers assigned to these jobs, which prolonged completion. Despite the obstacle, the residence hall was finished in time for students to move in.
“The close-knit relationships we have with our subcontractors was key,” said Eric Engh, senior vice president of construction at Ryan. “A complex design-build project like this, especially during a trying year, couldn’t have been achieved at this caliber without the trust and commitment between everyone involved.”
Scoring 80 points on the USGBC scorecard, Tommie East is currently the first in the Midwest in its category under the certification, one of six in the U.S. and seventh in the world. Partnering with Collins Electric Co., Eco Achievers LLC, Horwitz Inc., Elness Swenson Graham Architects Inc., and Kimley-Horn & Associates, Ryan was able to work towards the platinum certification from the beginning and make the necessary additions in the final hours to actually obtain it. Among the most noteworthy factors were the overall building systems, design and materiality that created an energy efficient structure. Site selection also scored high. In fact, all possible points for this category were earned for reusing a previously developed site, density of units, access to significant green spaces and public transit, as well as the amount of bicycle storage provided.
In addition to St. Thomas’s commitment to advanced green building standards, the new residence hall for second-year students is intended to nurture its undergraduate community through thoughtful housing. The forward-thinking structure, which is located on the University’s Saint Paul, Minn. campus, had to harmonize with century-old campus buildings. The five-story, 139,300-square-foot residence hall— clad in native Kasota stone and red brick and featuring handsome interior finishes—delivers on the university’s objectives with warm, bright, social spaces that can be shared by up to 260 students. The main floor includes a community lounge with fireplace, game room and bike room.
“We at St. Thomas know our facilities are world class, but it is not every day that the most widely used green building rating system in the world recognizes you as one of the best,” said Julie Sullivan, president University of St. Thomas. “Our commitment to sustainability is rooted in Catholic social teaching and Pope Francis’ call for us to respect our interdependency with one another and future generations as we commit to protecting and sustaining our common home. Tommie East’s sustainable design is one example of how we can truly live our convictions.”
Tommie East opened in fall 2020 and is officially categorized under Building Design and Construction: Multifamily Midrise in the USGBC’s LEED database.