Jonathan Hillyer Photography

The following is a press release from the Georgia Institute of Technology, in Atlanta, announcing that its Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design has achieved Living Building Challenge certification from the International Living Future Institute. The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design, designed by Lord Aeck Sargent, a Katerra company, in collaboration with design architect The Miller Hull Partnership, was also named a winner in AIA's 2021 COTE Top Ten Awards. Read more of ARCHITECT's coverage of the project, which delves into its tight building envelope and its journey to become the first Living Building in the Southeast.

The Georgia Institute of Technology today announced that The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design has earned Living Building Challenge certification, the world’s most ambitious and holistic green building achievement. The certification from the International Living Future Institute independently verifies that The Kendeda Building is among the greenest in the world.

“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 longstanding 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 time the project must prove it is net-positive for energy and water. This means it must generate more energy from onsite renewable sources than it uses, and also collect and treat more rainwater onsite than it uses for all purposes, including for drinking.

Meeting all seven Petals in the Living Building Challenge—Place, Water, Energy, Health + Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty—The Kendeda Building is the first Living Building Challenge-certified building of its scale in the southeastern U.S., where a warm humid climate poses many challenges. In spite of this, over the performance period, the building generated 225% of the energy needed to power all of 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.

“We partnered with Georgia Tech on this transformational project because the institution is full of world-class problem-solvers. Students passing through The Kendeda Building today will be the engineers, architects, scientists, product designers, urban planners, and policymakers of tomorrow,” said Diana Blank, the founder of The Kendeda Fund, whose $30 million grant to Georgia Tech made the building possible. “By raising the bar for building performance, we are encouraging Georgia Tech to keep reaching higher. We want students and faculty to embrace the challenge, continually asking ‘How can we improve on this?’”

The project’s goal is to support Georgia Tech’s mission while transforming the architecture, engineering, and construction industries in the southeastern U.S. by advancing regenerative building and innovation, and by showcasing synergies between environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic development.

To ensure Living Building Challenge certification by fulfilling the requirements in the Petals performance categories, the Kendeda Building’s performance metrics incorporated the following:

  • The energy-efficient electrical and mechanical equipment and tight building envelope, with a 330-kilowatt photovoltaic canopy supplies 225% of the building’s energy needs on an annual basis.
  • The photovoltaic canopy shades the building and captures rainwater. The water is stored in a 50,000-gallon cistern in the basement before being treated and used for all purposes, including drinking.
  • The building is composed of materials screened to ensure the absence of hazardous “Red List” chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA), halogenated flame retardants, phthalates, and formaldehyde. Chemicals on the Red List have been shown to harm human and environmental health, even though they are common in most buildings.
  • Wood from sustainably managed forests, salvaged materials, and other sourcing strategies significantly reduce the building’s embodied carbon emissions.
  • By eliminating 99% of its construction waste and incorporating reclaimed, locally sourced materials such as reclaimed wood for the structural decking and salvaged slate tile in the restrooms, the project diverted more waste from the landfill than it sent to the landfill.
  • 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 that everyone has a similar experience throughout the building.
  • The design and construction team went above and beyond the Living Building Challenge Equity Petal by promoting an equitable and inclusive sense of community. To build the ceiling panels and floor systems, for example, the general contractor partnered with Georgia Works!, a nonprofit helping chronically homeless men become self-sufficient.

“Living buildings are the future,” said Scott Cannon, executive vice president and general manager of building operations in Georgia and South Carolina for Skanska, the general contractor. “We’ve been committed to sustainability for years and have seen how projects like this are a catalyst to reshape how people think about the built environment. It illustrates the practical and replicable solutions, materials, and technologies that other buildings in the Southeast can use to meet similar environmental standards.”

In a region challenged by flooding and drought, The Kendeda Building also shows that regenerative design can treat stormwater, conserve potable water, lower the risk of downstream flooding, reduce the burden on existing infrastructure, and save money on utilities.

“If there was any doubt, we have shown that net-positive energy and net-positive water are both within reach in Atlanta and across the Southeast,” said Joshua Gassman of Lord Aeck Sargent, one of the lead architects on the project. “Using analytics and sound building science, we were able to provide comfort to the building’s occupants, connect them to nature and the history of the place, and live within the water and energy means of the site. We were able to do all of this while creating a clear and sustainable vision for the future.”

At $544 per gross square foot, The Kendeda Building is 13% more expensive than a comparable building at Georgia Tech. However, in reality, there are few comparable buildings of this type that include the infrastructure for net-positive energy and water in the construction cost.

"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, another well-known Living Building. “The Kendeda Building serves as an inspiration and gathering place for people from around the region who are advancing sustainability and regenerative design.”

The knowledge and processes used with The Kendeda Building are already being transferred to other projects. Thousands of people have toured the project, the entire design and construction team has learned deep sustainability lessons throughout the life of the project, and the students and administrators who inhabit the building on a daily basis will all take these lessons out into the world and apply them to their future projects.

The Kendeda Building’s achievement is being celebrated at Living Future '21, a virtual gathering of the world’s leading architects, contractors, and product designers.

For more about The Kendeda Building, visit and