The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design is complete with plans to welcome students in January 2020. Once certified under the Living Building Challenge, which requires adherence to some of the most stringent building performance standards in the world, The Kendeda Building will be considered the most environmentally advanced education and research center ever constructed in the Southeast.
But the real goal is to actually not be the only Living Building Challenge project in the Southeast for long. Rather, one of the project’s primary objectives is to share lessons learned with those who own, design, and construct buildings so that they too can carry these principles forward and encourage others to take the challenge in their communities.
As Georgia Tech takes over the keys to The Kendeda Building, it provides an opportunity for stakeholders to reflect on the project and share their perspective so that others can learn from their experience and apply this knowledge to future projects.
Video: The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design opens on Georgia Tech's campus.
Workers prepare wooden building components for The Kendeda Building.
From the Builder
I would advocate for more time and flexibility during the pre-construction phase of the project to allow for a more complete design and more accurate budgeting. Without a full building design, seemingly small changes can have huge and unintended impacts. And when traditional value engineering methods are applied to a fully integrated building like The Kendeda Building, people need to understand that status quo, cost-saving measures don’t always work. For example, we saved money up front by changing the elevator manufacturer late in the design process. However, this change created space planning issues because the new elevator had different control requirements. As a result, we had to build a new room that was not originally planned, and the inspector required us to get a variance. These changes ended up costing more than the initial savings and nearly delayed the project’s opening. These types of “cost-saving measures” also don’t allow the design team to solidify a final direction and focus on detailing, leaving too many decisions to be made after construction has started.
Exterior of the completed Kendeda Building.
From the Owner
The potable water system for The Kendeda Building is unique and the process of getting to permit approval is complex since this is first of its kind in the region. As an owner, it is important to work closely and early on in the process with the internal and external groups that can provide insight on safety regulations, required equipment, and testing procedures.
From the Funder
One of Kendeda’s goals for the project was, in part, to help change the conversation about design and construction in our region and beyond. Motivated by a belief that helping the construction professionals tell their personal stories of meeting the criteria of a Living Building would create ripples far and wide, we launched The Swarm, an outreach effort to authentically share lessons learned by the many contractors who had a hand in the effort. While we saw some success, we also learned through experience that there are challenges to building a cohesive, communicative “community of practice” among dozens of partners. We need to recognize that changing an industry is difficult, but each day it becomes more apparent that doing so is essential.