Glass Helps a Georgia Tech Building Become One of the Greenest in the Southeast

Since becoming one of the greenest and most sustainable buildings in the country, a southern university has just accomplished a feat years in the making.

Photo credit: Georgia Tech

The Kendeda Building at The Georgia Institute of Technology has become the second in the Southeast to meet the Living Building Challenge (LBC), one of the world’s most rigorous green building standards–and it is partially due to its use of glass and glazing.

The glass units are tripled-glazed and were fabricated by Viracon in the Owatonna, Minn., facility.

“It’s a triple-pane unit with our VNE-63 coating… with the primary goal of getting some very high levels of performance values,” said Patrick Grubish, marketing specialist at Viracon. The space in between the 3/4 inch panes are 1/2 inch and are filled with argon gas, which allows for greater insulation compared to air, according to Viracon and the Kendeda Fund.

He also explained how the building is wildlife-friendly. About half of the glass utilizes a bird-friendly pattern. “It’s eighth-inch dots, about quarter-inch on center, and it covers about 20% of the glass, so that frit pattern helps deter birds… it’s part of our continuing bird-friendly initiatives.”

He continues, “The overall construction timeline was close to two years. And as far as the glass portion was concerned for us, we produced the glass on a three- to four-month period.”

Kawneer, based in Norcross, Ga., supplied the curtainwall for the structure using the 1600UT System. The glazing contractor for the building was Crown Corr.

In addition to the high-perfromance glazing, the Kendeda Building also incorporates a 330-kilowatt photovoltaic canopy, which supplies 225% of the building’s energy needs on an annual basis, according to information from Georgia Tech.

The Bullitt Center in Seattle, which also met LBC qualifications, served as some inspiration for the Georgia Tech spot.

“We took the lessons we learned from the Bullitt Center and adapted those ideas for a new climate and new building type,” said Margaret Sprug, principal at The Miller Hull Partnership, which designed the building in collaboration with Lord Aeck Sargent and served as the lead architect of the Bullitt Center.. “The Kendeda Building serves as an inspiration and gathering place for people from around the region who are advancing sustainability and regenerative design.”

In addition, the project was also recognized by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) as a 2021 Committee of the Environment (COTE) Top Ten. These awards recognize projects that succeed in sustainable design. According to the AIA on the structure’s glazing, “A central atrium space serves as the heart of the project and brings even daylight distribution to the deepest part of the plan. Where glare reduction and heat gain mitigation were required, exposure-specific strategies were employed—horizontal shading at the south elevation, automated exterior blinds on the east façade, large roof overhangs, and vertical vegetation screens on the west façade.”

The Kendeda Fund designated $30 million for the design and construction, proving to be worth the cost, as the building has been deemed net-positive for energy and water. This means it must generate more energy from onsite renewable sources than it uses and collect and treat more rainwater onsite than it uses for all purposes, including drinking. This is a qualification needed to meet the LBC.

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