Miller Hull

Detail: photovoltaic roof of the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design, Atlanta

1-15-2024 | News

By Collin Anderson

The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design at the Georgia Institute of Technology is crowned with a lightweight canopy of over 900 photovoltaic panels. The roof generates all of the building’s electricity needs and captures rainwater for drinking and site irrigation. It extends far beyond the main building volume to cast shade on its facades and create an outdoor space large enough to accommodate classrooms and other social activities for the university campus. The canopy is so effective at reducing the building energy loads that the design team refers to the building as ‘shade-powered’.

Photovoltaics have been applied to buildings for nearly half a century, with the purpose of generating renewable energy and curtailing reliance on the grid. The performance and aesthetics of photovoltaic cells and panels have slowly improved over the decades to yield products that are more financially interesting and visually attractive. Today’s widespread acceptance of rating systems measuring the impact of buildings on their natural environments has, in many cases, made the implementation of photovoltaics an imperative to receiving certification. Institutional buildings funded by donations or endowments in particular have been at the forefront of such certification exercises.

Even as the efficiency of photovoltaics has improved, the sheer surface area of ​​​​panels required to make them effective means that they are still typically a defining architectural element of the buildings they support. This is certainly the case for the Kendeda Building, located on a university campus just north of downtown Atlanta. Seattle-based The Miller Hull Partnership designed the building’s 18,000 square foot (1700 square meter) roof in collaboration with local firm Lord Aeck Sargent to absorb the unrelenting Georgia sunshine and transform it into enough electricity to power well over 100 percent of the building’s energy needs. The roof also doubles as a funnel for rainwater which empties into an underground cistern used to, among other things, irrigate the site’s green landscape designed by Andropogon Associates .

The 47,000 square foot (4,400 square meter) Kendeda Building has garnered certifications for LEED Platinum as well as the particularly demanding Living Building Challenge. It is the first building to receive such a rating in the Southeast United States, where a warm and humid climate poses particular challenges for renewable energy and passive design. The building program consists of two 64-person classrooms, four class laboratories, a conference room, offices, a makerspace and an auditorium.

Read more