Division A
Category 9 - Special Event
Open House & Sustainable Showcase
Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc.
Elise Lipoff, MBA

Research/ Situation Analysis: A green building is a structure that has been constructed or renovated to incorporate design techniques, technologies and materials that have less dependency on fossil fuels and reduce the overall carbon footprint of the building.  The reduced impact would include minimal site disruption and fewer pollutants released during construction and occupation. Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc. is committed to environmentally-sensitive design and construction as a long-term business philosophy. In 2007, the decision was made to build a new sustainable headquarters facility in the Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park. The owners used their own money to build the facility and utilized this project as a “giant test tube,” to further educate our staff, project managers and executive team members on the best practices of sustainable construction. Our research from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) revealed that our building, once designated, would be the first LEED® Gold Building in the State of Florida to be built, owned and operated by the same company.  In early 2009, the building was completed. WASC had learned the “best practices” of green building, and wanted to share their lessons learned with our community and utilize this new specialty to generate new business. Our target audiences were potential clients and referral sources.
Objectives: Objective #1was to educate 500 people on the benefits of green building by using our facility as a teaching tool; Objective #2 was to ensure 100% attendance of the 11 subcontractors who provided their sustainable product or services to the construction of our facility; Objective #3 was to acquire one new client or one new construction project from this event within the 2009 year.

A five-person Open House Planning Committee (OHPC) was formed three months ahead of the event date. The OHPC was responsible for the overall design of the event, coordination of Sustainability Showcase, graphic design of the invitation and all printed materials, production of Green Video, coordination of sign and displays, catering, develop the “Learning LEED” employee education sessions, promotional materials, invitation distribution, press releases, fact sheet, budgeting and analysis. The Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc. Open House and Sustainability Showcase was researched, planned, designed and created.  1,300 invitations were mailed. Signage was created and produced for the Open House event to encourage guests to walk next door and walk through the Showcase. All 11 subcontractors exhibited their sustainable products and services. During the many building tours given that evening, company President, Dave Sessions would begin and end the tours at the Sustainability Showcase, allowing attendees to touch, see and experience all of the elements of green building.

The OHPC implemented the following activities in the weeks leading up to the event: “Learning LEED” employee education sessions that prepared the staff to give hundreds of building tours, running mock tours of the facility for other employees, mailing invitations, printing of all materials, creating the Sustainable Showcase with our subcontractors and building the buzz of event through local media outlets. The OHPC had intended for the following key elements to make the event memorable in the eyes of attendees: the Sustainable Showcase located in the vacant side of the building, displayed the sustainable products and materials that were used in the construction of this building; the 13 LEED AP’s/Project Managers wore “Ask Me About LEED” stickers to initiate conversation between guests and staff members; a screening room that showed our Green Building video that was produced specifically for this event; in the conference room, a PowerPoint presentation played on a loop and it included a sampling of major projects completed over the company’s 38 year history; brown insulated lunch bags were given to attendees as they left the event, which reinforced our commitment to sustainability.

Objective #1: The Open House took place on April 24, 2009.  The goal of 500 attendees was surpassed. Of the 1,300 invitations sent, the response rate was approximately 2:1. In total, 605 attended: 363 influential members of the community, 53 employees, 72 subcontractors, 25 architects, 7 media and 85 friends and family members.  Post-event, 45 requests came from local organizations who wanted to tour the building and learn more about green building. Three articles were published shortly after the event on our facility featuring our company’s green specialty and the subcontractors’ services. Objective #2:  All 11 subcontractors displayed their products and services. Several new clients were obtained by the subcontractors as a result of the Showcase. Objective #3:  The event triggered one new client and two new projects, the Booker High School Rebuild and the Asian Art Museum on the campus of the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art. The new client acquired was Out of Door Academy, who also awarded us a project, their Green Arts Center.

Budget: We had budgeted $15,000 for the event. Actual cost was $14,364.50, which includes $3,370 for the staff time required to develop and implement this event. The ROI on this event was 103.42%., and we netted $1.5 Million for the new projects that resulted from this event. The breakdown of the budget is included in the binder under Planning Documents.