The Sustainable Campus (Trends and Innovations)
The Living Building at Georgia Tech
- By Rachael Pocklington
- February 1st, 2017
IMAGE COURTESY OF OF LORD AECK SARGENT IN COLLABORATION WITH THE MILLER HULL PARTNERSHIP
The Georgia Institute of Technology
is embarking upon an ambitious undertaking — The
Living Building Challenge — to build what is expected to
become the most environmentally advanced education and research
building ever constructed in the Southeast. With a $30 million commitment
from The Kendeda Fund, a leading philanthropic investor
in civic and environmental programs, to construct and operate the
approximately 40,000-square-foot building, the Living Building
at Georgia Tech will significantly advance the Institute’s Campus
Master Plan as well as its educational and research mission.
“The Living Building Challenge aligns with our longstanding
vision for the campus and provides a unique opportunity to
physically demonstrate how Georgia Tech practices thoughtful
stewardship of all of our resources and how our innovative thinking
can transform future generations,” says Steve Swant, executive
vice president for Administration and Finance.
Given the Southeast’s heat, humidity, and variable fresh water
supplies, the development of any building aiming for net positive
energy and water consumption brings unique challenges. Building
a facility that meets Living Building Challenge criteria will provide
the opportunity to create 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.
The Inherent Challenges of a Living Building
Achieving Living Building Challenge certification requires close
adherence to some of the world’s most stringent building performance
standards. This includes meeting obvious requirements like
managing water and energy, but also the not-so-obvious specifications
like supporting health, happiness, equity and beauty. To achieve
full certification, a Living Building must meet all the program
requirements established by the International Living Future Institute
(living-future.org) over a 12-month period of continued operations
and full occupancy. According to the project timeline, the Living
Building at Georgia Tech is expected to achieve certification in 2020.
Fundamentally, Living Buildings serve as catalysts to help
reshape how we think about the built environment and its interaction
with our immediate surroundings through innovations and
adaptations in technology, education, policy and cultural beliefs.
Building a Solid Foundation
With construction anticipated to begin later this year, much of
2016 was dedicated to building the solid foundation necessary for
a successful project. The design team of Lord Aeck Sargent and
The Miller Hull Partnership was selected after an extensive three month
ideas competition. Skanska USA, a company experienced in
successfully delivering projects according to the stringent building
requirements of the Living Building Challenge, was selected to
construct the Living Building at Georgia Tech.
In December 2016, Georgia Tech’s Planning and Design Commission
approved the schematic design, which promotes flexible
space with purpose. Plans include a 170-seat auditorium. The
building will also feature two 75-person classrooms and an open
collaboration area — complete with maker space — adjacent to
the soon-to-be developed Eco-Commons. While the upper rooftop
will contain a 260 kW (approximately) photovoltaic array to harness
the sun’s energy, a lower occupiable roof will feature a rooftop
garden complete with honeybee apiary and pollinator garden.
Another key principle of the project is that simplicity rules
even when employing the best available technologies. Choosing
materials, mapping out the interior structure, and understanding
how to best leverage sunlight are examples of incorporating basic
design principles that are effective and can be easily repeated on
Community engagement is another cornerstone of the project.
Thought leaders both in and outside the classroom are collaborating
to understand how they, too, can apply the principles of the Living
Building Challenge to positively influence today’s and tomorrow’s
generation of planners, designers and builders. In the past year,
both the College of Design and College of Engineering have begun
incorporating Living Building Challenge principles into the class
curriculum, with the goal of expanding offerings in the near future.
For more on the Living Building at Georgia Tech, including
updates on the project, visit livingbuilding.gatech.edu and livingbuilding.kendedafund.org.
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of College Planning & Management.
Rachael Pocklington is communications manager for Institute Communications at the Georgia Institute of Technology.