The BB&T Leadership Institute Opens Distinctive New Campus

Staff Report From South Carolina CEO

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

The BB&T Leadership Institute officially opened its new 60,000-square-foot campus offering unique leadership development programs for corporate executives, business owners, BB&T clients, organizational and educational leaders. The institute features spectacular, contemporary lodge ambience, extensive use of glass and an open floor plan to showcase the scenic, lakeside surroundings. The $35 million campus provides a brand-new experience for guests including immersive spaces for learning, 48 individual guest rooms for overnight visitors, a unique "Treehouse" meeting room, dining area, fitness facilities, staff offices and more.

"We're delighted to open the doors to this new campus for The BB&T Leadership Institute, which provides an even greater opportunity to share all we've learned about leadership lessons for nearly half a century," said BB&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Kelly S. King. "Our mission is to make the world a better place to live, and we believe one of the best ways to improve our communities is through stronger leaders in all facets of society."

"One of the best moments of my job is when a client shares how our programs have been transformative for both their professional and personal lives," said Will Sutton, director of The BB&T Leadership Institute. "This really is all about the psychology of better business – using proven methods to create effective leaders and build successful teams for some of the brightest business minds in our country. With this new campus, we believe our leadership development programs will be an even more life-changing experience for our guests."

At the institute's suggestion, CJMW Architecture's design leaders – Jeff Sowers, architect, and Kathleen Warner, interior designer, participated in The BB&T Leadership Institute's flagship development program before the design process began. Their takeaways inspired them to focus the design around the guest experience – from arrival through the program to departure. Some of the features include:

  • A reflecting pond, which is one of the first things guests see when they arrive, and the main conference building, known as the Enrich structure. The building's heavy timber, truss gable frame evokes the feel of a cabin in the surrounding woods.

  • A lighthouse sculpture, created by local artist Aaron Gibbons, welcomes guests to the campus. BB&T's Lighthouse Project, which has improved the quality of life for more than 15 million people, was the inspiration for the sculpture.

  • Glass walls that bring the outside in, allowing guests and staff to connect with nature and experience the passage of time throughout the day and year. All guest rooms focus toward the water.

  • Natural materials – wood timbers and wood siding in multiple patterns and colors – create a palette that helps the campus buildings blend into the surrounding environment. For example, the design and construction teams salvaged and repurposed oak trees from the site as "barn doors" in the reception lobby and dining/buffet area.

  • The Treehouse meeting room, carefully positioned between several large oak trees, takes on the character of a chapel in the woods.

  • Three outdoor decks with contemporary wicker rocking chairs overlooking the lake, a stone fire pit and the Treehouse with 360-degree views of the tree canopy and lake.

  • Several commissioned art pieces by local artists throughout the campus.

"The ultimate design intent was to create a tranquil space for learning and self-reflection," said Jeff Sowers, AIA, principal architect at CJMW. "We wanted to see a harmonious marriage between the built environment and the natural world. The form of the building evolved from understanding the existing site – the terrain, the layering of canopy trees, the lake – looking at how to best introduce building elements, vehicular paths and capture views of the water."

The campus is targeted to meet LEED Certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). It is designed for energy conservation and water reduction, and no or low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) materials were used throughout. Frank L. Blum Construction in Winston-Salem, N.C., constructed the campus; PMC Commercial Interiors in Mooresville, N. C., provided and installed the furniture; and Surface 678 in Durham, N.C., provided the landscape architecture.

Building on its success in developing business leaders, the institute has customized a program to meet the specific leadership development needs of public school administrators at no cost to participants. Using an approach that combines face-to-face and virtual sessions with interim activities during a four-week period, this highly experiential program focuses on developing stronger leaders in our education system. School leaders learn how beliefs drive behaviors and ultimately create the results.