Ga. Tech research building expected to be most environmentally advanced in Southeast
Skanska USA, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and The Kendeda Fund recently launched The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design.
Instead of breaking ground on the building with a ceremonial shovel, representatives from Georgia Tech joined the design and construction teams to signal the launch of construction by planting seeds. When completed, the building is expected to be the most environmentally advanced education and research building in the Southeast, according to a release.
The Kendeda Building is being built to meet the strict criteria of and receive a certification from the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge 3.1 Standard. Instead of simply minimizing energy and water use, a Living Building is designed to implement solutions for a net-positive impact on the environment – producing more energy and water than it consumes. In a climate as challenging as Atlanta’s, that is no small task, officials said.
Georgia’s heat and humidity provide unique environmental challenges. Atlanta and its environs have been classified as an urban heat island – a metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas. Dense building and ubiquitous concrete generate and retain heat, making city temperatures noticeably higher and even impacting regional rainfall and the length of local growing seasons.
This is also contributing to decreased air quality and distressed ecosystems as warmer water flows into area watersheds. Variable fresh water supplies and increased consciousness of the fragility of those sources have spurred interest in strategies to conserve water, reduce runoff and recycle as much water as possible.
A Living Building actively combats those effects. Lighter building surfaces reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat. Green roofs and urban forests serve as insulators during warm weather months and the plants that comprise them absorb carbon dioxide and cool their surrounding environment.
Recycling rainwater for flushing toilets, planting gardens and trees on rooftops, using natural light to illuminate workspaces, augmenting insulation to decrease energy spent on heating and cooling – these all contribute to a more efficient building that can simultaneously be beautiful and inviting.
“Innovations we use in The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design have the potential to change construction standards in this whole region. With recent weather events, people have never been more interested in the resiliency and sustainability of construction projects,” said Scott Cannon, executive vice president and general manager of Skanska’s building operations in Georgia. “We’re trying to make things affordable, adaptable and replicable. When people see how seamlessly these solutions can be used, it opens the door for incorporating new ideas and engaging the natural world with the built environment.”
The Kendeda Fund and Georgia Tech are invested in developing and demonstrating a viable “urban” sustainable building and ecosystem model. The Living Building Challenge promotes regenerative planning and building techniques that align with Georgia Tech’s evolving landscape and its proposed master plans for Eco-Commons transformation, stormwater management projects and campus arboretum.
“This project is more than a building; it represents a commitment to using this campus as a living, learning laboratory for hands-on educational and research opportunities that will be a model for the region and similar environments around the world,” said Dennis Creech, fund advisor for The Kendeda Fund. “Constructing this Living Building is a working endeavor to educate and transform the thinking of future engineers, planners, architects, and construction professionals. Its ripple effects will reach far beyond the campus alone.”
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