“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 long-standing 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 the project must prove it is net-positive for energy and water. This means it generates more energy from onsite renewable sources than it uses. The building also collects and treats more rainwater onsite than it uses for all purposes, including for drinking.
The project’s goal is to support the educational mission of Georgia Tech while transforming the architecture, engineering, and construction industry in the Southeast U.S. by advancing regenerative building and innovation, and by showcasing synergies between environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic development.
Meeting all seven Petals in the Living Building Challenge—place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity, and beauty—the Kendeda Building is the first Living Certified building of its scale in the Southeast U.S., where a warm humid climate poses many challenges. Despite this, over the performance period, the building generated 225 percent of the energy needed to power all 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.
The Living Building Challenges seven performance categories (Petals) are subdivided into 20 Imperatives, which must be met to earn the certification. Performance metrics from the Kendeda Building include:
- energy efficient electrical and mechanical equipment, a tight building envelope, with a 330-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) canopy supplying 225 percent of the building’s energy needs on an annual basis;
- the PV canopy shades the building and captures rainwater, and the water is stored in a 189,271-L (50,000-gal) cistern in the basement before being treated and used for all purposes, including drinking;
- the building is composed of materials screened for hazardous Red List chemicals;
- wood from sustainably managed forests, salvaged materials, and other sourcing strategies reduce the building’s embodied carbon emissions;
- by eliminating 99 percent of its construction waste and incorporating reclaimed locally sourced materials, including reclaimed wood for the structural decking and salvaged slate tile in the restrooms, the project diverted more waste from the landfill than it sent;
- 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 all people have a similar experience throughout the project; and
- the design and construction team went beyond the Living Building Challenge Equity Petal by promoting an equitable and inclusive sense of community, for example, to build the ceiling panels and floor systems, the general contractor partnered with Georgia Works!, a nonprofit helping chronically homeless men become self-sufficient.