Don’t call it a groundbreaking. The Sept. 12 launch for the Living Building at Georgia Tech is about restoring the Earth more than “breaking” it.
Right now, the site is a parking lot at the corner of Ferst Drive and State Street in the northwest quadrant of the Tech campus in Atlanta. This fall, Skanska USA, the contractor for the Living Building, will begin converting that expanse of asphalt into what aspires to be the South’s greenest campus building. For once, a construction project will be about restoring the natural environment.
Living Building Challenge 3.1 requires projects to meet the most stringent requirements of all green building standards. The building must produce more clean energy than all the energy it consumes, must clean onsite more water than it dirties and, during construction, must divert more reused materials from the waste stream than it sends to the landfill. It also must meet standards for chemical-free materials, biophilic design, equity, and urban agriculture — among a host of other values.
The launch event — at 2 p.m., Sept. 12, on the building site — will celebrate a key threshold for the project. Two years ago, the Kendeda Fund selected Georgia Tech for a $30 million grant that’s funding the building, its operation and leverage activities designed to broaden its impact on Southern building practices. The architectural team of Atlanta-based Lord Aeck Sargent and Seattle-based Miller Hull won an “ideas competition” to design the building, and has been working ever since with an extraordinary integrate project team.
Now, the project moves off the boards and onto the construction site. It will be a 36,000-square-foot building like no other in this region. At two stories (plus a basement), it will be structured on glue-laminated timbers fashioned from sustainably harvested wood. It will feature a complex system of rainwater collectors, underground tanks, greywater treatment and composting toilets. It will be integrated with a edible landscape and even an apiary. And it will include a nearly 300-kilowatt rooftop solar array.
The launch is expected to highlight many of those features. In addition to elected officials, organizers are assembling an impressive list of prominent speakers from Georgia Tech, the Kendeda Fund and other organizations They also are lining up displays of innovations that may be of interest for other building projects.