Georgia Tech to Break Ground on Building with High Sustainability Goals
Megan Wild posted on March 31, 2016 | 4476 views

A partnership between Georgia Institute of Technology and the Kendeda Fund, a private foundation in Georgia, will see a unique, living structure come to life in the form of a building. Called the Living Building, it will be an environmentally friendly education and research center located in the southeast portion of the Georgia Tech campus.

Why It’s Called the Living Building

The Living Building will be designed to follow the most advanced measures of sustainability, and meet requirements based on health, happiness, equity and beauty. To be fully certified, a Living Building must meet all program requirements of the International Living Future Institute over a 12-month operating period.

Plans to construct such a building at Georgia Tech have been in the works since the fall of 2015 and the project has attracted a variety of stakeholders that want to aid with the project.

Renderings created by Lord Aeck Sargent and the Miller Hull Partnership during the ideas competition. On the right is the “porch scheme” with views to the Georgia Tech eco-commons and the “bridge scheme” spanning across a re-envisioned Dalney Street. (Image courtesy of Georgia Tech.)

 What is the Living Building Challenge?

The Living Building Challenge is a push to create sustainable, environmentally sound architecture that “operates as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture,” according to the institute.

These structures are created using environmentally friendly materials, sustainable living practices and efficient power and resource consumption methods. In other words, the goal is to eliminate the excess that is often a part of today’s building methods. Even though some new building construction equipment has decreased its impact through improved emissions technology, the overall goal of a Living Building is to lessen the environmental impact of new building construction.
There are three types of certifications offered through the challenge:

  • Living Building Certification and its goal of restoring the natural environment
  • Petal Certification, which aims to accelerate the adoption of restorative principles
  • Net Zero Energy Building Certification, which focuses on exceptional energy conservation and renewables

In the case of Georgia Tech and the Kendeda Fund’s project, they want a building that will meet the strict environmental and design standards and also be comfortable for the students and researchers on campus.

The Ideas Competition

Before any new building can be constructed, however, it needs to be designed. In keeping with the spirited nature of the challenge, the Georgia Institute of Technology held a competition in which three different architecture and design firms participated. The three teams were:

  • Collins Cooper Carusi/Eskew + Dumez + Ripple/Hellmuth + Bicknese
  • Perkins + Will
  • Lord Aeck Sargent/Miller Hull Partnership

These teams were comprised of professionals from various disciplines, including architecture and landscaping; mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP); civil and structural engineering; hydrology; sustainability and more.

The competition was held because the project is going to require a great deal of collaboration from a variety of professionals on some tough design challenges. Georgia Tech wants a facility that conforms to the highest of environmental standards and at the same time addresses the needs of those inside, in terms of health and natural surroundings.

Teams were to take into account several elements of the building, such as climate, site evaluations, materials and total project costs, in addition to operation, accessibility and replicability options for future projects.

The winner of the ideas-based competition was Lord Aeck Sargent, in partnership with Miller Hull. The next step will see them meeting with representatives from Kendeda Fund and Georgia Tech to finalize designs so that the structure will meet the requirements the Living Building Challenge 3.0 certification.

There are still quite a few steps that will go into this project considering the design phase hasn’t even been finalized yet, but it will be interesting to see how the Georgia Tech Living Building turns out. Construction is set to begin in 2017.

About the Author


Megan Wild is a construction expert who writes about the latest trends in the industry and building news around the world. She also writes on her own home improvement blog, Your Wild Home.

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