In the world of construction, it's an obvious fact that everything starts with the project owner. After all, nothing gets designed or built until an owner decides it needs something designed and built. Despite this, it could be argued that the impact that owners have on the industry is not always fully appreciated.

Everyone understands the influence of large entities, such as state transportation departments, which have the power to impact a broad swath of contractors and engineers, for example. But smaller owners can shape the industry, too.

Which brings us to the Georgia Institute of Technology, which has been named as ENR Southeast's "Owner of the Year" for its industry contributions related to sustainability and technology.

The Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory, completed last year at the Georgia Institute of Technology, was designed to serve as a prototype for similar lab facilities. The project earned ENR Southeast's most recent "Best Green Project" award. (Photo courtesy Gilbane Building Co.)

One of Georgia Tech's more significant recent accomplishments related to sustainability was the completion of the Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory. The school, along with Gilbane Building Co. and HDR Architecture, built the facility to serve as a highly energy-efficient prototype with features that could be easily duplicated by others. The laboratory went on to win the Best Green Project award in ENR Southeast's annual Best Projects contest.

That goal of creating something that can be used to better construction and design practices--which lies at the core of why ENR editors chose Georgia Tech as this year's "Owner of the Year"--proved inspiring to the laboratory project team.

"One of the things that was really cool (was that) Georgia Tech told us they wanted it to be a case study," Princeton Porter, HDR's designer, told ENR Southeast last year. "They told us, 'If this doesn’t work, it’s OK.' It was the first project where I’ve had a client tell me this is going to be a case study, and that they weren't sure if this is going to work, but they want to try it. That helped frame how we were going to approach the project."

Added Paul Stewart, Gilbane's senior project manager: "I love working for Georgia Tech. I learned something new every day. They’re right there as part of the process. It’s a constant input (and) back and forth."

Last year, Georgia Tech was also implementing its own standards for use of building information modeling, and thus raising the bar for BIM best practices.

In short, says Stewart, "Georgia Tech is in front of the curve. They want to blaze the path, and they’re doing that, stretching the limits."




In this video posted to Youtube, Georgia Tech representatives talk about the university's commitment to sustainability, and how these efforts have benefitted the school. (Video posted to Georgia Tech's Youtube channel.)


As Howard Wertheimer, Georgia Tech's director of capital planning and space management, told ENR Southeast at the time: "We look at our campus as a living learning laboratory. And we want to continue to raise the bar on our commitment to sustainable design and construction practices."

Of course, Georgia Tech is more than just a project owner. The university is deeply involved with research related to construction technology, with its collaboration-focused Digital Building Laboratory as one example. And school researchers have helped developed new tools to enable the use of augmented reality by facilities managers.

ENR Southeast will profile the Georgia Institute of Technology's numerous sustainability and technology efforts--and the people behind them--in its March 11 print edition.