Key Living Building Details

In September 2015, the Georgia Tech Institute of Technology received a $30 million commitment from The Kendeda Fund to building what the partners expected to become the most environmentally advanced classroom and teaching lab building ever constructed in the Southeast. The partners had two shared goals:

  1. demonstrate that a regenerative building can be built in a hot and humid climate, and
  2. inspire change on the Georgia Tech campus and across the Southeast building industry. 

The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design is the result of this bold vision. We accomplished the first goal in March 2021 when The Kendeda Building received Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification, the world’s most ambitious and holistic green building achievement.

As the first Living Building in Georgia and the 28th in the world, The Living Building Challenge aligns with Georgia Tech’s longstanding vision for the campus and provides a unique opportunity to physically demonstrate how Georgia Tech practices thoughtful stewardship of all of its resources and how its innovative thinking can transform future generations.

Name: The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design

Donor: The Kendeda Fund

Gift Amount: $25 million privately funds 100 percent of the design and construction costs; up to $5 million to support programming activities

Primary Certification: Living Building Challenge 3.1 

Location: Northwest corner of Ferst Drive and State Street on Georgia Tech’s Atlanta campus


  • Substantial completion and soft launch – fall 2019
  • Full occupancy (classes began) – January 2020
  • LBC performance period – Dec. 1, 2019 to Nov. 30, 2020
  • LBC Certification – March 2021

Project Partners:

Building Size: Approximately 47,000 square feet of programmable space of which nearly 37,000 square feet is enclosed and conditioned space. Public outdoor learning space includes the outdoor porch area (2,618 square feet) and an accessible roof deck (1,000 square feet). The rooftop garden (4,347 square feet), while not open to the public, contains the honeybee apiary, pollinator garden, and blueberry orchard. The remaining space (1,905 square feet) is for loading and bike storage.

Primary Use of the Building: Education, research, and outreach opportunities; building features two 64-person classrooms, two 24-person class labs, two 16-person class labs, a 16-person seminar room, a 24-person design studio, 176-person auditorium, rooftop apiary and pollinator garden, and an office space for co-located programs.

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

Net Positive Water (12-Month Performance Period):

  • Basement Cistern Capacity: 50,000-gallon
  • Toilets and Urinals: 12 foam flush toilets and 4 waterless urinals use less water than one typical low-flow toilet
  • Water Used: 104,600 gallons
  • Water Collected and Infiltrated into the Ground: 1,594,800 gallons, which is 15 times the amount needed for operations

Net Positive Energy (12-Month Performance Period):

  • Solar Array: 330 kW (DC), approximately 917 solar panels generated 438,709 kWh.
  • Actual Energy Use Intensity (EUI): 18 kBTU/SF/YR before factoring onsite solar, which makes the building 60% to 80% more efficient than a comparable new, conventionally built higher education building in Atlanta. 
  • Renewable Energy: Photovoltaic system supplied 225% of building’s energy needs, far exceeding the 105% LBC requirement
  • Electricity Used: - 243,520 kWh
  • Approximate Cost for Electricity: - $15,500

Zero Carbon Construction: Project construction achieved zero carbon footprint by first incorporating low-carbon and salvaged building materials, then by recycling over 99% of construction waste, and finally by purchasing a one-time carbon offset that funded new solar projects in India, which is highly reliant on coal for electricity.

Inspiring Facts:

  • Project kept economic benefits close to home by sourcing at least 50% of products and services from within 621 miles (i.e., 1,000 km).
  • Portion of the floor deck incorporated 25,000 linear feet of dismantled movie sets, and was constructed by participants of a workforce development program for economically disadvantaged Atlanta residents.
  • The building is composed of materials screened for hazardous chemicals known to harm human and environmental health, even though they are common in most buildings.
  • Project preserved Georgia Tech’s heritage by converting original heart pine joists used in the construction of the iconic Tech Tower into treads for the Kendeda Building’s monumental staircase. Use of salvaged wood from Tech Tower saved $60,000 as compared to using new materials.
  • Lumber from storm-felled trees on Georgia Tech’s campus was kiln-dried, milled, and planed to make the building’s counters and benches outside the building.

It Takes a Village to Raise a Living Building: This building was, and continues to be a labor of love. Hundreds of people were involved with turning a vision into reality. Visit our photo album to see team members throughout the journey.  

On April 22, 2021 The Kendeda Building was officially designated as the first Living Building in Georgia and one of only 28 in the world. President Ángel Cabrera and Doctor Beth Cabrera with some of the Georgia Tech team members who helped make the historic certification a reality!