Four companies have been recognized as “changemakers” for their construction work on the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design.
Here’s the interesting thing: Each of the four can provide at least one tangible example of how their participation in the project on the Georgia Tech campus created an opportunity to change their own practices going forward.
The Changemaker Awards were granted by the “Swarm” — a program that the Kendeda Fund and Southface formed to build a sense of community among those who were adopting the regenerative building techniques exemplified by the Kendeda Building. According to Southface’s Emily Proctor:
Swarm Changemakers are the designers, builders and tradespeople who are bringing regenerative building practices to life. They are the people and the organizations making the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design one of the greenest buildings in the South. Their innovations will shape the future of building in the Southeast and beyond.
The awards were designed to honor companies that did notable work during the construction phase, so Changemakers isn’t an ongoing recognition program. But, the Kendeda Fund’s Dennis Creech said, “our hope is that other regenerative project teams can build on this idea as a way to incentivize key partners toward innovation during the construction process.”
It’s worth taking a quick gander at the videos below, citing each of the four companies — if only to check out the potential ongoing innovations cited by all of them.
Eckardt installed the building’s electrical wiring and fixtures. Tasked with sourcing a replacement for highly toxic polyvinyl chloride (PVC) conduit, the team opted for high-density polyethylene (HDPE). The main hurdle was a supply chain issue related to the fact that PVC is more commonly used. But it turned out that substitution had inherent advantages.
“When we started the installation, we were surprised to find that we actually noticed significant labor savings to some of the other options we had available to us, so much so that in future projects we will definitely analyze whether or not it makes sense to use HDPE regardless of the requirements of the project,” said Ryan Swenson, who led the Eckardt team onsite.
For more on Eckardt’s experience, click here.
A global concrete giant, Thomas supplied several special mixes for the Kendeda Building. One unique pour was for the two-and-a-half-inch-thick radiant floors. Because they’re so efficient for heating and colling, radiant concrete floors are likely catch on in the South. For now, however, they’re uncommon — and therefore presented an unfamiliar challenge.
“We had to get the mix to where it could actually have the pipes running through the slab and not have an issue with the actual strength of the mix,” project manager Drew Millwood explains on the video.
The company relied on a product called Forta-Ferro, which strengthens the mix in a way that protects the pipes from being crushed and makes cracks in the thin layer less likely.
The foundation and basement walls rely on second supplement to traditional concrete, designed to mitigate the enormous contribution of cement to global warming. Thomas has given itself a competitive advantage in North America by joining its plants with hundreds of others that are partnering with CarbonCure, a Canadian startup that installs proprietary equipment to inject carbon dioxide into mixes. The CO2 both reduces the amount cement needed and partially offsets carbon emissions embodied in the cement that still is needed in the mix.
Thomas had used CarbonCure on larger projects in Atlanta. But the Kendeda Building provided an opportunity for the company to consider expanding its use of the product.
“We bring it into our plant, put it into the mix, and we can actually do cement reduction by adding CO2 to the concrete,” Millwood says. “From this project,we learned we can actually push our CarbonCure a little bit further — we can get better cement reduction so we’re looking to adding that to more of our everyday mixes.”
Raydeo is a well-established commercial millwork contractor based in Cherokee County, just north of Atlanta. Of particular note on the Kendeda project: Raydeo re-milled, finished and installed salvaged wood that dominates the interior of the building.
“This project shows that you can take wood that ordinarily was going to get knocked into a dumpster and taken to a landfill somewhere. [It] can be reclaimed, shined up and used in a high-level, high profile building,” says Keith Lutz, who led the Raydeo team on the project. “And the wood in it to me is absolutely beautiful.”
Lutz says Raydeo is now developing a wood-recycling program with the Lifecycle Building Center, which sourced some of the salvaged wood in the Kendeda Building. At the same time, the project honed Raydeo’s expertise in finishing products without using chemicals on the Living Building Challenge’s toxic Red List.
“You work with a lot of different materials and chemicals that you learn along the way that you don’t have to,” he says.
“The Red List challenge identified a whole long list of chemicals that they don’t want to use them in this building — the Living Building — because of the toxics. We had to carefully go through really everything we use in the shop, all the finishes and glues — they all had to vetted against the list.”
For more on Raydeo’s work on the building, read this.
As the project’s construction manager and general contractor, Skanska applied a long-term corporate commitment to sustainability to the Kendeda Building. The construction giant had built Living Building Challenge projects in other parts of the country, but the Georgia Tech project built its capacity to pull off regenerative design in the Southeast.
“It’s very intricate,” Skanska Vice President Kevin Bell says on the video. “From day one, the simplest of items took a large team communicating with each other and really working through the problems. I think that’s going to be one of the biggest things to know — that in the future, when things do come up, that if you can pull the team together, you can pretty much work through any problem.”
Jimmy Mitchell, who managed many of the environmental aspects of the project, adds: “There’s a lot of projects like this that aren’t funded yet, and we will volunteer and participate and help those along the way on their development path. … I do think that for the next generation of folks in construction, they value the impact that their work can make