The Kendeda Building at Georgia Tech Earns Living Building Certification
The Georgia Institute of Technology today announced that The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design has earned Living Building Challenge certification, the world’s most ambitious and holistic green building achievement. The certification from the International Living Future Institute independently verifies that The Kendeda Building is among the greenest in the world.
“We feel a responsibility to lead by example,” said Ángel Cabrera, president of Georgia Tech where The Kendeda Building is located. “This building — which is a tribute to the power of human ingenuity to find new solutions to our greatest challenges — aligns with our longstanding vision for our campus to serve as a laboratory for innovation to inspire and develop tomorrow’s leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition.”
The Living Building Challenge (version 3.1) requires a 12-month performance period, during which time the project must prove it is net-positive for energy and water. This means it must generate more energy from onsite renewable sources than it uses, and also collect and treat more rainwater onsite than it uses for all purposes, including for drinking.
Meeting all seven Petals in the Living Building Challenge — Place, Water, Energy, Health + Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty — The Kendeda Building is the first Living Building Challenge-certified building of its scale in the southeastern U.S., where a warm humid climate poses many challenges. In spite of this, over the performance period, the building generated 225% of the energy needed to power all of its electrical systems from solar panels on its roof. It also collected, treated, and infiltrated 15 times the amount of water needed for building functions.
“We partnered with Georgia Tech on this transformational project because the institution is full of world-class problem-solvers. Students passing through The Kendeda Building today will be the engineers, architects, scientists, product designers, urban planners, and policymakers of tomorrow,” said Diana Blank, the founder of The Kendeda Fund, whose $30 million grant to Georgia Tech made the building possible. “By raising the bar for building performance, we are encouraging Georgia Tech to keep reaching higher. We want students and faculty to embrace the challenge, continually asking ‘How can we improve on this?’”
The project’s goal is to support Georgia Tech’s mission while transforming the architecture, engineering, and construction industries in the southeastern U.S. by advancing regenerative building and innovation, and by showcasing synergies between environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic development.
To ensure Living Building Challenge certification by fulfilling the requirements in the Petals performance categories, the Kendeda Building’s performance metrics incorporated the following:
- The energy-efficient electrical and mechanical equipment and tight building envelope, with a 330-kilowatt photovoltaic canopy supplies 225% of the building’s energy needs on an annual basis.
- The photovoltaic canopy shades the building and captures rainwater. The water is stored in a 50,000-gallon cistern in the basement before being treated and used for all purposes, including drinking.
- The building is composed of materials screened to ensure the absence of hazardous “Red List” chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA), halogenated flame retardants, phthalates, and formaldehyde. Chemicals on the Red List have been shown to harm human and environmental health, even though they are common in most buildings.
- Wood from sustainably managed forests, salvaged materials, and other sourcing strategies significantly reduce the building’s embodied carbon emissions.
- By eliminating 99% of its construction waste and incorporating reclaimed, locally sourced materials such as reclaimed wood for the structural decking and salvaged slate tile in the restrooms, the project diverted more waste from the landfill than it sent to the landfill.
- Composting toilets nearly eliminate potable water use for sewage conveyance and allow for human waste to be turned into fertilizer for use offsite.
- The building allows for universal access. Its central feature is an accessible ramp connecting the terraced main floor so that everyone has a similar experience throughout the building.
- The design and construction team went above and beyond the Living Building Challenge Equity Petal by promoting an equitable and inclusive sense of community. To build the ceiling panels and floor systems, for example, the general contractor partnered with Georgia Works!, a nonprofit helping chronically homeless men become self-sufficient.
“Living buildings are the future,” said Scott Cannon, executive vice president and general manager of building operations in Georgia and South Carolina for Skanska, the general contractor. “We’ve been committed to sustainability for years and have seen how projects like this are a catalyst to reshape how people think about the built environment. It illustrates the practical and replicable solutions, materials, and technologies that other buildings in the Southeast can use to meet similar environmental standards.”
In a region challenged by flooding and drought, The Kendeda Building also shows that regenerative design can treat stormwater, conserve potable water, lower the risk of downstream flooding, reduce the burden on existing infrastructure, and save money on utilities.
“If there was any doubt, we have shown that net-positive energy and net-positive water are both within reach in Atlanta and across the Southeast,” said Joshua Gassman of Lord Aeck Sargent, one of the lead architects on the project. “Using analytics and sound building science, we were able to provide comfort to the building’s occupants, connect them to nature and the history of the place, and live within the water and energy means of the site. We were able to do all of this while creating a clear and sustainable vision for the future.”
At $544 per gross square foot, The Kendeda Building is 13% more expensive than a comparable building at Georgia Tech. However, in reality, there are few comparable buildings of this type that include the infrastructure for net-positive energy and water in the construction cost.
"We took the lessons we learned from the Bullitt Center and adapted those ideas for a new climate and new building type," said Margaret Sprug, principal at The Miller Hull Partnership, which designed the building in collaboration with Lord Aeck Sargent and served as the lead architect of the Bullitt Center, another well-known living building. “The Kendeda Building serves as an inspiration and gathering place for people from around the region who are advancing sustainability and regenerative design.”
The knowledge and processes used with The Kendeda Building are already being transferred to other projects. Thousands of people have toured the project, the entire design and construction team has learned deep sustainability lessons throughout the life of the project, and the students and administrators who inhabit the building on a daily basis will all take these lessons out into the world and apply them to their future projects.
The Kendeda Building’s achievement is being celebrated at Living Future ‘21, a virtual gathering of the world’s leading architects, contractors, and product designers.
Georgia Institute of Technology
The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society. gatech.edu/
The Kendeda Fund
The Kendeda Fund is a private Atlanta-based grant-making foundation that supports the dignity of individuals and the sustainability of communities through investments in transformative leaders and ideas. Founded in 1993 under the guidance and vision of Diana Blank, the Fund has made more than $800 million in grants since its inception. By the time Kendeda concludes its grant making at the end of 2023, the Fund hopes to have developed new pathways for solving seemingly intractable problems and advanced solutions benefitting people and planet. kendeda.org/
Skanska is one of the world’s leading construction and development companies. In the U.S., Skanska’s core operations include building construction, civil infrastructure, and developing self-financed commercial properties, which together generated $7.6 billion in revenue in 2019. As a developer in the U.S., Skanska has invested a total of $2.7 billion in commercial and multifamily projects. With U.S. headquarters in New York City, Skanska has offices in 28 metro areas with 7,900 employees nationwide. Skanska is an industry-leading innovator in both safety and project execution, and offers competitive solutions for both traditional and complex assignments to help build a more sustainable future for our customers and communities. Global revenue of parent company Skanska AB, headquartered in Stockholm and listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange, totaled approximately $18.7 billion in 2019. usa.skanska.com/
Lord Aeck Sargent, a Katerra Company
Lord Aeck Sargent (LAS), a Katerra Company, is an award-winning architecture, planning, and interior design firm serving clients in the college and university, K-12 education, multifamily housing/mixed-use/commercial, and urban design/planning markets with specialization in sustainable design, science and technology, arts and culture, and historic preservation. The firm’s experts in these practice areas have deep regional and national experience and collaborate across firm offices located in Atlanta, Georgia; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Austin, Texas; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Lexington, Kentucky; and Washington, D.C. Lord Aeck Sargent has been named one of Atlanta Business Chronicle's Top 25 Architectural Firms 15 times, has received the American Institute of Architects’ National Honor Award, and has been in Engineering News-Record Magazine (ENR)’s Top 500 Design Firms list 10 times. LAS is consistently ranked on ENR’s Top 100 Green Design Firms list and has been named a Top Green Design firm by multiple publications. lordaecksargent.com/
Miller Hull Partnership
The Miller Hull Partnership LLP is an internationally recognized architecture, planning, urban and interior design firm that works to create a regenerative and inclusive future through the built environment. Since its founding in 1977, Miller Hull has been designing dynamic and environmentally responsible buildings that provide enduring value for their communities. The firm has a studio in Seattle and San Diego with work extending across multiple project types for a range of public and private clients where people live, work, learn, gather, and serve. Widely recognized for innovative, timeless designs and a partnership-driven practice, Miller Hull has received over 350 local, regional, national, and international awards for design excellence, including the American Institute of Architects Firm Award and Architect 50’s Top Firm for Sustainability. millerhull.com/
The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design
Spring flowers outside The Kendeda Building. Photo by Allison Carter.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MARTHA WILLIAMS