Opus Team Achieves LEED Silver for Tommie North Residence Hall


The Project: Tommie North Residence Hall 

Tommie North is a five-story, 210,000-square-foot residence hall at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Completed in 2020, it provides on-campus living opportunities for approximately 480 first-year students.

With a goal of carbon neutrality by 2035, sustainability is core to the University's mission and is infused into academic programs, student life, dining and campus operations and facilities. For Tommie North Residence Hall, the University needed a design-build partner they could trust to deliver the most sustainable building possible – on time and within budget. Based on a long-standing 30-year history, they chose Opus.

The Challenge

The University's sustainability goal for Tommie North was to be LEED certified building. The most widely-used green building rating system in the world, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has four incremental levels of achievement: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The level attained is determined by points earned for building features that contribute to healthy, highly-efficient and cost-effective structures.

At the beginning of the project, Opus' engineers, designers and construction experts mobilized as one team to achieve the highest certification level possible for the building, while remaining within the University's budget. They were able to achieve a LEED Silver designation for Tommie North.

The Solutions

​The LEED Silver rating was obtained by implementing solutions like energy efficiency, sustainable site development, materials selection and water savings.

“Energy and atmosphere is the most significant credit section within the LEED rating framework," said Alex Lord, Project Manager. “We searched high and wide to find mechanical and building products that provided the best sustainability return on investment for the University."

For heating and cooling, Opus installed chilled beam units in the dorm rooms that met LEED stipulations for energy efficiency and the University's requirements for minimal maintenance.

Window performance ratings are also a big piece of the energy model. Each dorm room required an operable window and for large institutions like University of St. Thomas, windows can be a headache to maintain, especially when misused.

“We obtained multiple window samples and basically pulled them apart to understand their operation and functionality before presenting them to the client," Lord said. “They chose awning windows produced by a reputable brand that met both their needs from a maintenance standpoint and the performance requirements we needed for LEED."

Prior to building Tommie North, Opus demolished an old dorm on the site and basically removed everything – down to the dirt. By carefully separating and removing recyclable materials from waste, Opus was able to divert and recycle more than 75% of the old building.

Some additional sustainable features included LED lighting, low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) finishes, low-flow plumbing fixtures, three electric vehicle charging stations and 179 secured bike racks for student and faculty use.

The Results

Obtaining the LEED Silver designation for Tommie North furthers the University's sustainability goals and will reduce the University's energy and maintenance expenses for years to come.

“Opus delivered an innovative and sustainable residence hall that provides an exceptional living experience for first-year students," said Jim Brummer, Vice President of Facilities Management for the University of St. Thomas. “Their collaborative design-build process and expertise in green construction are just a couple of the many reasons Opus continues to be a partner of choice for us."

Through careful sourcing and thoughtful construction management practices, Opus returned a significant portion of the LEED budget allowance back to the University, which they were able to apply to other construction upgrades.

“We thank the Opus team for their work on Tommie North and the LEED Silver certification," said Amir Nadav, Director of Sustainability for the University of St. Thomas. “This achievement helps the University integrate sustainability into the student experience at St. Thomas and advances our commitment to building a better world for present and future generations."

Opus received a Design-Build institute of America-Upper Midwest Region Excellence Award for the Tommie North Residence Hall project. The award recognizes excellence in the areas of interdisciplinary teamwork, problem-solving, advanced and innovative application of total integrated project delivery and unique solutions for project challenges. It was the third time Opus earned a DBIA-UMR distinction for a University of St. Thomas project; previous award-winning projects included Anderson Student Center and Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex