HDR’s Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory Reaches the Pinnacle with LEED® Platinum

(February 4, 2013) - HDR's Carbon-Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory (CNES) at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, has earned LEED® Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).  Signifying the ultimate in LEED building classification, the platinum rating is highly prized and not easily attained, particularly for a research laboratory building, and it recognizes performance in five key areas, including sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

With the goal to develop a building design that would be the embodiment of Georgia Tech's carbon- neutral mission,  the new building was originally envisioned in a "what if" scenario, challenging the HDR design team to design a carbon-neutral laboratory. 

The 42,000-square-foot CNES facility allows project-based experiments of varying durations to be rapidly modified in a non-traditional lab environment. The lab is to be a center for research in carbon-neutral energy conversion technologies including combustion, gasification, biochemical-enzymatic conversion of biomass, and carbon dioxide capture.

As Howard Wertheimer, FAIA, director, Capital Planning and Space Management at Georgia Tech points out, "We asked HDR to design a no-frills building to clearly express sustainability and energy efficiency. The design-build team of HDR/Gilbane collaborated with Georgia Tech's facilities' professionals, researchers, and program leaders to develop the schematic design concept, including a matrix of energy-savings options that evaluated first costs, life-cycle costs, and carbon savings for each element."

This facility is the most sustainably designed and constructed building at Georgia Tech to-date, and one of the most sustainably designed research facilities in the country.  "With another long-term goal in sight," Wertheimer says, "CNES represents how we intend to fuel research for other upcoming carbon neutral opportunities."

By effectively using several energy-saving designs, this unique and ultimately flexible lab scores big in a number of key areas:

  • Water use has been reduced by 78%
  • A 20,000-gallon cistern accounts for 100% of non-potable water requirements
  • 98% of construction waste was recycled
  • The CNES baseline energy model (based on ASHRAE 90.1) suggested energy use at 147kbtu/SF—the as-designed model has energy use at 70kbtu/SF—a savings of 54%
  • The 290kwh photovoltaic system brings energy required down to 29kbtu/SF—a savings of 80%
  • As designed, CNES is 88% more efficient when compared to buildings of a similar type

The Carbon-Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory was also recognized in November 2012 with the "Best Green Building" award in Engineering News Record's 2012 Best Projects competition. Other awards include: the "AIA New Jersey Award 2010, Unbuilt," the "AIA Georgia Design Award 2012," and the "ASLA Georgia 2012 Design Award," along with the "SBIC Beyond Green Award of Merit for High Performance Buildings 2012."

With the CNES project, HDR now has seven LEED Platinum certified projects in its portfolio.

The project and effort depicted is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce under a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The content does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the U.S. government, and no official endorsement should be inferred.