Rice Education Building wins “Project of the Year” in design awards

The conference room of the Walter L. Rice Education Building fills one end of the building, situated on the banks of the historic James River. Photo by Allen Jones, VCU Creative Services.
The conference room of the Walter L. Rice Education Building fills one end of the building, situated on the banks of the historic James River. Photo by Allen Jones, VCU Creative Services.

The Walter L. Rice Education Building at the VCU Rice Center has been named the region’s Overall Project of the Year in the Mid-Atlantic Construction magazine’s Best of 2009 awards program.

“This selection proves that great things can come in small packages,” Bruce Buckley, editor of Mid-Atlantic Construction, said of the $2.8-million 4,890-square-foot winning project. “Our jury reviewed a record number of entries — including several megaprojects — and The Walter L. Rice Education Building rose above the rest in the eyes of our jurors.”

“The Walter L. Rice Education Building blends exceptional design with careful construction,” according to a news release from the magazine [PDF]. “It is the first building in Virginia to be awarded the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED platinum certification, and received 54 out of the required 52 credits.

“The building serves as the focal point for administrative, educational and outreach activities conducted by faculty, students and staff of the Rice Center, VCU’s environmental field station,” Buckley said. “The sustainable aspects of the building also serve as an educational tool for students.The team had to adhere to an aggressive schedule while being cautious not to disrupt any of the research activities taking place on the site or adversely affect the ecosystem.”

Brian Ohlinger, associate vice president for Facilities Management at VCU, said the award for the education building design was particularly meaningful for VCU as it enters into a yearlong celebration of the Year of the Environment. VCU has assumed a position of leadership in the practice of sustainability and encouraging others to be environmentally conscious.

“This is a big deal for us and for Virginia, Ohlinger said. “We have won recognition for other projects in the Higher Ed Institutional category, but never overall Project of the Year.”

In addition to the Rice Center, Ohlinger says VCU has committed to ensuring that all new construction on its campuses meet LEED silver standards at a minimum.

The VCU Rice Center was created from an ecology-rich parcel of land that Inger Rice donated to VCU in 2000. It is located on the north bank of the historic James River, southeast of Richmond in Charles City County. VCU Life Sciences uses the property for research, education and outreach activities, many of which focus on large rivers and their riparian landscapes.

For the education building, KBS of Richmond was the general contractor. Train & Partners Architects of Charlottesville, Va., was the project architect.

The jury honored 40 projects in 16 categories, including Cultural, Governmental/Public, Green Projects, Healthcare, Higher Education/Research, Industrial, Interior Design/Tenant Improvement, K-12 Education, Multi-Family Residential/Hospitality, Office, Renovation/Restoration, Retail, Small Projects, Sports/Recreation, Transportation and Worship.