When Georgia Tech requested proposals for its Carbon-Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory project, the design-build team of Gilbane Building Co. and HDR Architecture decided to vie for the contract with a pitch to deliver the high-energy use lab building as a carbon-neutral facility.

After the Georgia Institute of Technology approved the approach—and awarded the contract for the $24.5-million project—the school and the builders worked to give the structure a design that could be used as a prototype for future research facilities.

The facility—which houses research programs focused on carbon-neutral technologies, such as carbon sequestration—features separate high-bay and mid-bay lab spaces. The team's no-frills design approach sought to reduce electricity loads, maximize the use of renewable energy and to make the most of passive energy technologies, such as operable windows.

For optimum solar orientation, Gilbane and HDR built the laboratory as two long vertical segments—one housing the single-story high-bay space featuring a 40-ft ceiling and the other housing the mid-bay space and 8,800 sq ft of offices. The facility is stretched along the east-west axis, providing long north and south facades. Fenestration along the upper and lower northern facade, along with translucent panels between, provides daylighting for the facility.

The mid-bay facility is clad mostly in glass that is shaded with an awning carrying crystalline photo-voltaic panels.

With other features, including a full photovoltaic array, the facility can harvest energy on site and achieve carbon neutrality without purchasing carbon offset credits.

Modeling was key to making decisions about energy savings, according to Gilbane.

For example, the builders used the energy model to decide between using a high-efficiency, magnetic-bearing chiller or a ground-source heat exchange. When analysis showed the ground-source system was $500,000 more expensive and offered less energy savings, the team opted for the chiller.

The building, which was completed this fall, is targeting LEED-Platinum certification.


Key Players

Owner: Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

Contractor: Gilbane Building Co., Atlanta

Designer/Civil, MEP Engineer: HDR Inc., Atlanta

Structural Engineer: Ksi, Atlanta

Submitted by Gilbane Building Co.