Connection Magazine: The Architecture and Design Journal of the Young Architects Forum Article: “Mergers and Acquisitions, Understanding the Process and Navigating Career Trajectory after Expansion”

In this recent Connection Magazine: The Architecture and Design Journal of the Young Architects Forum article, SSOE’s Laura Morton, AIA, NCARB, Senior Architect, and Betsy Hurner, Vice President of Corporate Development, discuss mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the AEC industry. They share their experience during SSOE’s recent acquisition of the 100-year-old Southeast U.S. firm formerly known as Stevens & Wilkinson. Within the article, Laura offers her viewpoint as an architect at the firm being acquired, while Betsy elaborates on the M&A process at a large A/E corporation. Read more

MidlandsBiz Q&A with Timothy Williams on PK-12 Design Trends

Trends in Educational Design

(Article posted on Jan. 31, 2019 on midlandsbiz)

Tim Williams - Stevens & Wilkinson - Columbia, SCWe love the idea of designing schools that foster learning and collaboration. Timothy D. Williams, AIA, from SSOE, has more than 30 years of experience managing teams for K-12 facilities, hospitals, churches, hotels, corporate and retail facilities, restaurants, and municipal, county and industrial buildings. Tim is a graduate of Clemson University’s School of Architecture where he received both his Bachelor of Arts in Design and a Master of Architecture.

What are the current trends you’re seeing in Pre-K-12 (PK-12) school design and construction?

Tim Williams:
One of the current trends we are seeing in the design of PK-12 facilities is the flexibility and adaptability of learning spaces to meet the current and future needs of students. This, by far, has become one of the most important trends in school design.

Why? Well, learning spaces are no longer teacher-centric. They must be student-oriented and encourage collaboration while accommodating groups of all sizes. The furniture used in classrooms, for example, must also be flexible to meet these needs. The transparency and connectivity of spaces has eliminated the traditional corridors and rows of seating in classrooms. We are seeing more flexible seating options, as opposed to traditional lecture-based seating. The addition of makerspaces and areas where students gather to make and create have become an important part of 21st century schools.

Each classroom must also be built to accommodate both current and future technology. Technology changes rapidly in PK-12 so the integration of flexible data and power outlets and applications that can function on any platform is imperative.

One of the biggest changes we are seeing right now has to do with the concept that every student goes to college. For the most part, this concept is becoming somewhat obsolete. The development of more career and technology education centers (i.e. C.A.T.E./C.A.S. Centers) that provide programs for students who might be looking to begin their careers right after graduating are becoming more prevalent.

How has the design structure changed in PK-12 schools over the last five years? Can you provide some specific examples?

Tim Williams:
The process for designing PK-12 schools has completely changed. In the past, schools were designed to fit instructor-centric learning concepts with very little flexibility. This is no longer the case.

Today, school leadership researches and works with the design team at SSOE to create an educational environment that works within the prescribed pedagogy. In other words, we are designing the buildings to be consistent with how the school district wants to teach.

At Richland School District Two’s Lake Carolina Upper Elementary School, for example, SSOE designed classrooms that allow teachers to be more conversational with groups of all sizes. The educational spaces at this school allow students to move freely through the classrooms and collaborative areas, which were designed to encourage interaction between classrooms and incite more hands-on group activities.

Additionally, school districts want buildings to be sustainable. SSOE makes this possible by incorporating green roofs, day lighting, solar energy, proper insulation, proper building envelopes and appropriate building orientation, which can cause energy costs to be substantially reduced. The addition of large-view windows into mechanical spaces and access to solar panels are also instrumental to show students how the building works and operates.

What are the challenges often associated with designing PK-12 schools? How have you worked around those challenges?

Tim Williams:
We often encounter challenges balancing security and transparency and also budget and programming. Schools’ needs and programming often supersede the budget in the PK-12 industry. At SSOE | S&W we work diligently to match the budget with the program by designing schools that are straightforward and simple in addition to being easily constructed and maintained.

Security, especially now, is becoming another challenge. It can be difficult to make sure the campus and classrooms are secure without making the school look like a correctional facility. This encompasses everything from the type of fencing specified to the careful incorporation of windows. SSOE works through a security overlay during the design phases that outlines layers of security from the perimeter of the site down to each classroom. Our team extensively studies all of the ways an intruder might try to breach security measures within the design. Once this research is completed, the team makes the necessary changes to the design to prevent intruders from having visual and physical access to students. In the event an intruder breaches all security barriers, safe areas within classrooms are also incorporated into the design to provide both visual and physical security that will protect students and teachers, thereby adding an additional layer of security. Some of these spaces might include windowless workrooms, storage rooms and conference rooms that are accessible only to students and teachers.

How has SSOE work on PK-12 schools positively impacted Columbia?

Tim Williams:
SSOE has completed multiple schools throughout the Midlands for districts that include Richland One and Two, Lexington School Districts One and Two, School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties, as well as additional districts throughout South Carolina and Georgia.

In South Carolina, we are currently working in Richland Two, Lexington Two, Charleston County, Jasper County, York 4, and Bamberg Two school districts. SSOE’s overall goal is to work on culturally significant projects. I believe PK-12 is one of the most important areas of our work as it involves designing spaces that shape the minds of our children, who will then go out and become great leaders in the world. As a firm, SSOE cares about how design affects active, innovative learning environments and the people they serve. By focusing on the art of teaching during each design phase, we are constructing buildings that become great schools.

Is there one PK-12 school project in Columbia that illustrates your core principals and where design trends are heading?

Tim Williams:
One project that comes to mind is our revision of Richland School District Two’s detailed program. We were able to design a new PK-5 elementary school that reflects the district’s latest philosophy for instructional space in elementary schools. The Lake Carolina Upper Campus Elementary School was designed for an initial capacity of 800 students with an infrastructure and core functions capable of accommodating up to 1,200 students.

The main design objective was to facilitate collaboration and project-based learning by creating a variety of educational spaces. When SSOE met with the Richland School District Two staff to learn about their goals and objectives and to create a mission statement for them, what emerged was a design concept now known as the “Treehouse for Learning.” This unique concept encompasses topics such as how to arrive at the school, how to emulate a sense of exploration, and how to stimulate imagination and encourage collaboration. Other aspects of the design requirements included: the blurring of indoor and outdoor spaces, visual transparency of spaces within the learning environment and the utilization of the building as a learning tool.

Timothy D. Williams, AIA: Tim is a performance and results oriented individual with more than 30 years of experience providing services in programming, master planning, design, construction documents, and construction administration. Tim’s experience includes managing teams for K-12 facilities, hospitals, churches, hotels, corporate and retail facilities, restaurants, and municipal, county and industrial buildings. Tim is a graduate of Clemson University’s School of Architecture where he received both his Bachelor of Arts in Design and a Master of Architecture.

SSOE Group’s Randall Holmes Appointed to AIA Greater Columbia Board

COLUMBIA, South Carolina, September 27, 2023 – SSOE Group (, an internationally ranked architecture and engineering firm, is proud to announce that Randall Holmes, AIA, Associate Architect, has been named a board member of the American Institute of Architects of Greater Columbia (AIAGC). Read more

Darla Moore School of Business Building Earns LEED Platinum

COLUMBIA, South Carolina, January 12, 2017, SSOE Group (, an internationally ranked architecture and engineering firm is proud to announce The University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business building has earned LEED Platinum certification, the highest certification awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Championed by Darla Moore, for whom the school is named, the building opened in August 2014. It is the first public building in South Carolina to earn LEED Platinum. The Moore School joins business schools at Harvard and Stanford universities among a few U.S. business schools to earn the exceptional rating.

“I’m very proud that the Darla Moore School of Business has earned LEED Platinum certification,” said Moore School Dean Peter Brews. “This places the Moore School among an elite group of buildings earning the highest possible certification for sustainability – a goal that the school set early on in the design and construction of our new building.”

In addition to enhancing the school’s teaching and research activities, the building and its green design has played an important role in the recruitment of students and faculty. Student ambassadors give tours every week that showcase the facility’s many green features.

The USGBC’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program is the nationally accepted standards for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. There are four LEED certification levels: certified, silver, gold and the highest, platinum.

LEED certification is based on a point system in seven categories that include water efficiency, energy, indoor environmental quality, materials and resources and innovation in design.

The school was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Net-Zero Energy Initiative (Commercial Building Partnership Program), to partner with DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and other national energy labs to incorporate the latest energy-saving technologies into the building’s design. The U.S. DOE chose to partner with the Moore School for its commitment to incorporate sustainability into its teaching and research and for using its building to make the business case for sustainability.

The Moore School is the third LEED Platinum certified building for the architectural firm Rafael Viñoly Architects.

“We are honored that the Darla Moore School of Business received the highest green building commendation in the United States,” said Viñoly, lead designer and founder of the architectural firm. “It is a gratifying achievement to meet the university’s goals for academic excellence and a forward-looking vision for partnership with the community, all while setting a benchmark in terms of design and sustainable use of resources.”

The Viñoly team said some the biggest green design challenges were the building’s cantilevered and glass design to maximize natural light and minimize heat gain, the outdoor terrace and roof garden spaces and balancing individual user control with overall building cooling efficiencies in office, classroom and conference spaces.

The building was designed with energy and future use in mind. The green roofs capture storm water for reuse and irrigation, and the building was designed for the potential addition of photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight to energy. Specially designed walls and raised floors allow the school to adapt and reconfigure space to meet future use and needs.

Keith Branham, who served as SSOE’s chief engineer on the Moore School building, said the project required high-level collaboration and involved many of the university’s engineering graduates who are particularly proud of the hybrid heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems.

“The building’s hybrid HVAC systems incorporate under-floor air, active chilled beams and variable air volume systems, all designed to reduce the amount of power needed to move air for heating and cooling,” said Branham whose team designed a separate HVAC system for the W.W. Hootie Johnson Performance Hall to ensure quiet air conditioning without affecting the acoustics of the hall. The performance hall serves as a 500-seat lecture hall as well as a performance space for the university’s School of Music. An intensively used space day and night, the hall represents a novel partnership between the business and music schools.

David Dewar, senior project executive with Gilbane Construction, said designing and constructing a building at LEED Platinum standards is “intrinsically complicated” and required a detailed trickle-up approach from crew to management to ensure that procedures and documentation were followed.

Dewar says his favorite green feature is the drinking fountains.

“All drinking fountains in the Moore School include a bottle filler that enables students to fill their reusable water bottles. By using a water bottle, less water is purchased in disposable plastic bottles, which reduces the environmental impact by eliminating plastic products in landfills,” said Dewar who adds the Moore School as the first LEED Platinum building to his many Gold and Silver-level projects.

Led by former dean Hildy Teegen and former university sustainability director Michael Koman, with the involvement of the business community, faculty, staff and students, the Moore School building is the most ambitious green building project in the university’s history.

The university has been a leader in collegiate sustainability for more than a decade. To date, the university has more than 10 LEED certified buildings, of which four – the Honors Residence, the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library, Patterson Residence Hall the Rice Athletics Building – have earned Gold status. Five buildings have earned Silver, and six buildings are pending LEED certification.

The university ushered in an era of building green in 2004 when it opened Green (West) Quad, the state’s first public LEED building and the first green residence hall in the United States. It has been a major driver of South Carolina’s building green success, having played a pivotal role in building the state’s infrastructure for green construction through the training of building professionals, including architects, contractors and engineers, and spurring a green-product market in the Southeast.

# # #

*News release published by the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business

Darla Moore School of Business LEED Certification Fact Sheet: The U.S. Green Building Council administers the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program, which sets forth the nationally accepted standards for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. There are four LEED certification levels: certified, silver, gold and platinum.

Moore School LEED Award: LEED Platinum in the category of New Construction: Building Design and Construction (BD+C). The building was officially certified Dec. 12, 2016.

About LEED Platinum in BD+C:

Certification criteria                                         Moore School / Maximum possible score

  • Sustainable sites                                         23 / 26
  • Water efficiency                                          10 / 10
  • Energy & atmosphere                                 22 / 35
  • Material & resources                                   6 / 14
  • Indoor environmental quality                    10 / 15
  • Innovation design                                        6 / 6
  • Regional priority credits                              4 / 4

Total:                                                                  81 / 110

LEED certification levels:

Certified               40 – 49 points
Silver                    50 – 59 points
Gold                      60 – 79 points
Platinum              80+ points

Platinum facts:

  • South Carolina has 15 LEED Platinum buildings, nine of which are private residences.
  • The Moore School is the largest LEED Platinum building (265,000 square foot) in South Carolina. The next largest is Half-Moon Outfitters Distribution Center in Charleston.
  • The Moore School is the only public higher education building in South Carolina. Wofford College’s Glendale Shoals Environmental Studies Center is 2,000 square-feet.
  • There are 252 LEED Platinum (new construction BD+C) buildings in the United States, with no higher education building comparable to the Moore School.
  • The Moore School’s electricity usage is 33 percent less in the new business building, which amounts to $151,000 less in annual costs.
  • Natural gas usage is 54 percent of the campus average.
  • Water usage is 37 percent of the campus average.
  • The Moore School won the USGBC’s 2014 Exemplary Project Award.
  • The Moore School established a Page Prize for Sustainability Curriculum to recognize innovation in higher education.

Clemson Core Campus Precinct Recognized by AIA South Carolina Chapter

COLUMBIA, South Carolina, April, 24 2018, SSOE Group (, an internationally ranked architecture and engineering firm, announced today that the Clemson University Core Campus Precinct earned a 2018 Merit Design Award by the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) South Carolina Chapter (AIASC).

Following a 2002 Campus Master Plan decision to demolish and replace three major buildings in the middle of its main campus, Clemson University and SSOE set out to fundamentally reimagine the university’s entire Core Campus Precinct. The design team, consisting of Stevens & Wilkinson, VMDO Architects and Sasaki, diligently worked to develop a clear and engaging vision for the Precinct’s evolution. What came of this was a forward-looking approach to housing, academics, dining and student life programs combined into an intense, innovative and dynamic mixed-use center where current and prospective students can now connect with Clemson’s traditions in a new and exciting contemporary atmosphere.

“The Core Campus Precinct project embodies all the aspects of the ‘Clemson experience’ and is one of the most complex higher education projects of its kind,” said Ashby Gressette, AIA, principal at SSOE. “This new building has paved the way for other institutions to create similar spaces of this nature, and we look forward to seeing its influence in the higher education sector of our industry.”

Comprised of nearly 286,000 square feet, with a construction cost of approximately $83 million, the Core Campus Precinct achieves the growing demands for contemporary housing and dining options. The primary goals for this project included capturing the best of the “Clemson experience;” advanced coordination of future projects outlined in the Campus Master Plan; creating a facility to enable recruitment and retention of students; and achieving LEED Silver Certification, which U.S.G.B.C. confirmed the project accomplished late last year.

The purpose of the Design Awards program is to encourage and recognize distinguished architectural achievement, to honor architectural teams, their clients and consultants who work together to improve the built environment, and to demonstrate and raise public awareness of the architect’s role in shaping the quality of life through superior design.

AIASC announced this year’s award recipients at their annual Design Conference in conjunction with ArtFields, a renowned nine-day art competition. Held in the small town of Lake City, S.C., the conference began on April 18 and ended on Friday, April 20. This year’s theme, Community: By Design, focused on the power of art and design in creative place-making, especially as it pertains to small rural communities.

SSOE greatly contributed to the success Lake City has experienced over the last decade by designing the projects that helped ArtFields come to life, projects including the National Bean Market Museum where the ceremony for this year’s Design Awards was held. In addition to the National Bean Market Museum, SSOE also worked on the following projects in Lake City: The Ragsdale Museum, Jones Carter Art Gallery, Village Green, the Ronald E. McNair Science Park and Life History Center, Imperial Building, and Comfort Stations.

SSOE Group’s Adriane McGillis Named 2019 President of AIA Greater Columbia

COLUMBIA, South Carolina, April 4, 2019 – SSOE Group (, an internationally ranked architecture and engineering firm, is proud to announce that Adriane McGillis, senior associate and architect, has been named president of American Institute of Architects of Greater Columbia (AIAGC). The 2019 Board of Directors was announced late last year at the AIA Greater Columbia 2018 Design Awards ceremony.

McGillis has been an active member of AIAGC since 2016. She previously served as President Elect/Vice President in 2018 and will serve in 2020 as Past President. Through her involvement with the organization, McGillis has played a crucial role in elevating the profession of architecture by encouraging discussions about good design. She also uses her passion for equity and diversity in the industry to help foster conversations throughout the Columbia community.

“It is an honor to be elected president of A­­­IA Greater Columbia,” said McGillis. “I look forward to continuing to help raise awareness about the value of our profession, and I’m proud to work with such a prominent organization to help continue that education.”

As an active member of AIAGC, Adriane created and implemented the first People’s Choice Awards in the 2018 AIAGC Design Awards program, enabling members of the community to vote on their favorite architectural project. She also brought architecture to First Thursday on Main, a program implemented by City Center Partnership that aims to better inform the community about the profession.

“We are tremendously proud of Adriane for taking on such a high-profile role in the community and representing SSOE in a first-class manner,” said Robby Aull, senior vice president and principal of SSOE. “AIA Greater Columbia plays a crucial role in elevating both the people in our field and the work that we do in the community, so this is quite an honor for her and the firm.”

AIAGC has a membership of roughly 220 design professionals and helps carry out the goals of its parent organizations: to be the voice of the architectural profession and a resource for its members in their service to society. As the 2019 president, Adriane is leading the board of directors in several outreach and education programs for the organization throughout the Midlands region.

SSOE (Stevens & Wilkinson) Commemorates 100 Years with Clemson Scholarship

Initiative to support architecture and design students at Clemson University

COLUMBIA, South Carolina, March 29, 2019 – SSOE | S&W, a full-service architecture, engineering and interior design firm, announced the establishment of an architectural scholarship at Clemson University in commemoration of the S&W’s 100-year anniversary. The firm hopes the scholarship will ignite innovation in design by supporting architecture students at the South Carolina institution.

“Given the rising costs of higher education, we wanted to find a way to help develop the next generation of architects and lessen the financial burden of pursuing their dreams,” said Robby Aull, AIA, ACHA, LEED AP, principal, senior vice president and director of healthcare at SSOE | S&W. “By offering this scholarship, we hope to create opportunities for some of the brightest young minds in architecture who might not have had the chance to attend this great institution without monetary support.”

The scholarship was created with a commitment of $20,000 to be dispersed over the next five years. The purpose of the fund is to provide annual scholarships in the amount of $2,000 each to two students enrolled or planning to enroll in the architecture program at Clemson University. Many of SSOE | S&W’s architects and engineers are alumni of Clemson, including Aull himself.

“Celebrating our 100th Anniversary isn’t just about us, it’s about the work that we’ve done to shape the communities we call home,” said Aull. “Creating this scholarship is our way of ensuring that there will be more outstanding architects to lead both SSOE | S&W and the industry at-large into the future.”

SSOE Group’s Ashby Gressette and Adriane McGillis Named Icon and Phenom by Columbia Regional Business Report

COLUMBIA, South Carolina, April 25, 2019 – SSOE Group (, an internationally ranked architecture and engineering firm, announced that Ashby Gressette and Adriane McGillis were two of 24 individuals recently named to the inaugural list of icons and phenoms by the Columbia Regional Business Report. Gressette took home the Icon award in the Columbia community while McGillis was honored as a Phenom.

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SSOE Receives Outstanding Project Award and National Recognition for Auburn University Project

Learning By Design


Contact Mark Goodman

(216) 896.9333


Cleveland, OH – April 1, 2020 –SSOE Group (, an internationally ranked architecture and engineering firm, has received an Outstanding Project Award for excellence in educational facility design in the spring 2020 edition of Learning By Design, the premier source for education design innovation and excellence. The Auburn University – Gavin Engineering Research Laboratory (Auburn, AL) has been recognized by Learning By Design magazine for its architectural and interior design and for having next-generation benchmark type design and planning features worthy of imitation.

Learning By Design’s distinguished spring 2020 jury of five architects and end-users applauded Stevens & Wilkinson for its accomplishment in designing the Auburn University – Gavin Engineering Research Laboratory. All projects included in this edition are each peer-reviewed. The jury discusses and looks for in the project unique and or new concepts being implemented to improve education facility building design. Projects such as the Auburn University – Gavin Engineering Research Laboratory are scored on six measures: Innovation, Community Need, Interior Design, Sustainability, Functional Design, and 21st Century Learning.

The Jury comments about this project included: “The design took advantage of existing space while redesigning to make the most of natural light and redesigning spaces within with relationship to existing elements, i.e. windows. The environment has a mixture of an industrial feel within the working spaces, but a relaxing, calming feel within the lounge and collaboration areas. This project fulfills a mission to give space to the users, and includes an aesthetic that feels democratic.”

Learning By Design, published in the Spring, Summer, Fall each year circulates to more than 50,000 leaders and decision-makers at all levels of education—from early childhood and elementary schools, career-technical, college, and university-level institutions across the United States. For more details and to access the magazine’s digital edition, visit:

In the fall of 2020, LEARNING BY DESIGN will publish its October Architectural and Interior Design Awards of Excellence edition. This issue will feature a new group of recently activated or designed Pre-K to 12 schools and college/university facilities. Editorial will focus in on education design research, transforming environments for socialization and pedagogy, and includes a report from DIALOGUES 2020.

SSOE Group’s David McNeice Named 2020 Phenom by Columbia Regional Business Report

COLUMBIA, South Carolina, April 1, 2020 – SSOE Group (, an internationally ranked architecture and engineering firm, is proud to announce that David McNeice, P.E., MLSE, SE1, SE2, was named one of Columbia Regional Business Report’s Icons and Phenoms. McNeice is one of 28 individuals who include 14 game-changers and 14 established community advocates.

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SSOE Group’s Michael Delinsky Named Best & Brightest 35 and Under

COLUMBIA, S.C., September 13, 2021 – SSOE Group (, an internationally ranked architecture and engineering firm, is proud to announce Michael Delinsky, AIA, associate and architect, was named one of Columbia Business Monthly magazine’s Best & Brightest 35 and Under. Delinsky is one of 35 individuals who include a number of up and coming leaders and community advocates residing throughout the Columbia region.

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SSOE | Stevens & Wilkinson’s Robby Aull and Keith Branham Named to SCBIZ Magazine’s Power Lists

Aull Named to 2021 Architects Power List, Branham Named to 2022 Engineers Power List

COLUMBIA, South Carolina, March 22, 2022 – SSOE | S&W, an internationally ranked architecture and engineering firm, is proud to announce that Senior Vice President Robby Aull, AIA, ACHA, LEED AP, was named to SCBIZ Magazine’s 2021 Architects Power List, which was announced at the end of last year. Additionally, Vice President Keith Branham, PE, LEED AP, was named to the publication’s 2022 Engineers Power List. These lists are compiled by the SCBIZ editorial team, who analyzed industry data and considered individuals with demonstrated vision and action in serving their profession, as well as the professional excellence that commitment provides to places of work and life. Read more

SSOE Announces Several Recent American Institute of Architects Board Elections

TOLEDO, Ohio, February 10, 2022 SSOE (, a global project delivery firm for architecture, engineering, and construction management, is proud to announce several recent American Institute of Architects (AIA) board appointments within their Building Design Group business unit. The four SSOE individuals appointed are Todd Dolson, Heather Judge, Adriane McGillis, and Laura Morton. Read more

SSOE Group Announces Expansion of its Board of Directors and Three New Principals

TOLEDO, Ohio, December 6, 2021 – SSOE Group (, a global project delivery firm for architecture, engineering, and construction management, announced today an expansion of the firm’s Board of Directors and appointment of three new principal owners. Read more