Working sustainably isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for business. That lesson was re-iterated for us on our third stop of the Creative Animal Tour in Sarasota, Florida at Willis Smith Construction.

This open house location threw some people for a loop at first, however, our goal is to shine a spotlight on people, places, and organizations who are fine examples of how to live, work, and play – more sustainably. Willis Smith Construction is doing just that.

We had the opportunity to meet one of Willis Smith’s high-ups while we were in the Keys this January. The company is working full blast on Mote Marine Laboratory’s new research station on Summerland Key (rated to survive category-5 hurricanes, which is no small feat). We were impressed when he told us about their track record of building LEED certified buildings. But we knew we had to show them off when we found out that they put their money where their mouth was and built their company headquarters as an experiment in sustainable construction.

Upon completion, the building received a high gold ranking by USGBC, otherwise known as the U.S. Green Building Council. Their LEED Certification process (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rates the environmental sustainability of a given building based on its’ materials, water and energy efficiency, and indoor environmental quality. To learn more about what goes into LEED Certification, check out this website: http://www.usgbc.org/leed

A few weeks later, we were pulling into Sarasota with the Tiny House in tow and preparing for an open house at the Willis Smith Headquarters. We had over 300 people from all walks of life tour the house. From construction professionals, city council members, and even the local media came out and enjoyed a tour of the house as well as food and drinks from half a dozen local vendors.

In the meantime, Tim was able to step away to tour the building, fly the drone, and do an interview with the company CEO, David Sessions. He was able to explain what went into the construction of the building in an in-depth and practical way.

“The low hanging fruit is efficiency…”

A few practical take aways from the interview are applicable to everyone, whether it’s for a brand new construction project, or a house that has been lived in for ages.

WINDOWS:

Natural light is great, however, windows are literally a hole in the wall. Willis Smith did a number of things to make their windows more efficient, starting with purchasing high quality windows to begin with. Then they added a special film to the glass and added shades to keep the sun’s heat out, and the energy savings in. You can do the same in your house or business using solar control film, mounting exterior shades, or arguably the easiest solution: draw the blinds.

WATER:

Willis Smith went to great lengths to make their building water efficient. Harnessing the power of drip irrigation for their native Florida landscaping and installing low flow restrooms and a great first step, but using reclaimed water for those toilets to flush!? These guys are awesome. No matter what type of toilet you use, there are steps you can take to make your flush less dramatic. On the high end, there are options like installing a new toilet, either high-efficiency or even a composting toilet or building a water reclamation system. But on the low end, you can also get a toilet tank bag (http://bit.ly/2mqjw8K) or, follow the rule of, “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” and save a few gallons.

SOLAR:

The Willis Smith solar array is impressive. They are a truly net-zero building, meaning that they produce as much energy as they use over a 12-month period. At the consumer level, this can be a big investment, but there are other ways you can use solar energy to live more sustainably. You can use the sun’s energy to heat your water and to grow your food; but the number one way for most homes to harness the power of the sun: Install the world’s most energy efficient clothes dryer – a clothesline.

We hope you are inspired by Willis Smith Construction and CEO David Sessions. If you are in Florida and are thinking about building a LEED certified building, check them out here:

http://www.willissmith.com