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Georgia Tech’s Kendeda Building Sets a High Bar for Regenerative Design
Source: Metropolis Magazine
2-24-2020 | News
By Katie Okamoto
This month, the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design at Georgia Tech will start its first semester of classes, offering itself to students as an ongoing case study of regenerative building. Situated on a 1.35-acre corner site on the Atlanta campus, the center—made possible by a multimillion-dollar grant from the Kendeda Fund—announces itself with a 917-panel solar array secured to a tensile steel structure, giving the impression of a sail straining against its own lift.
The 46,800-square-foot project is the largest in the southeast United States to pursue Living Building certification, widely regarded as the most rigorous sustainability credential in the industry. When the center does achieve it (which it’s expected to do, along with LEED Platinum status), it will prove that Atlanta’s temperature extremes and high humidity are no barrier to reaching the highest levels of regenerative design—a concept foundational to the Living Building Challenge, which goes beyond sustaining the natural environment to restoring it.
The project owes its success to an integrative design approach, still unconventional for the industry, that brought architects, construction managers, and engineers together as early as 2016; Georgia Tech selected architects Lord Aeck Sargent and The Miller Hull Partnership only a few months before hiring Skanska to manage building.
The idea that design elements would play multiple roles was key to achieving all 20 mandatory “imperatives” of the Living Building Challenge. Take the profile-defining photovoltaic array. Solar was a given; all Living Building Challenge projects must produce more energy than they consume. (To do this, the team reduced the building’s energy load—using strategies like shading, triple-pane glazing, stacked ventilation, and radiant heating—and relied on the campus metering system as a “battery” to accept, store, and provide excess energy as needed.) But the Living Building Challenge also calls for the project to collect and treat water on-site. The team came up with a roof design that would not only support a large-enough array and collect rainwater (for an estimated 460,000 potable gallons annually) but also shade spaces below, ticking off the requirements for place-making and beauty along with energy and water.