A Small But Growing Market: New Buildings in the Southeast Demonstrate the Future of The Built Environment

Last month, NASEO’s Maddie Koewler visited three high-performance buildings in the Southeast that are pioneers in sustainable, smart, and integrated design. With locally sourced materials, on-site renewable energy, creatively engineered HVAC, and energy efficient features, builders are pushing the boundaries of traditional design and showcasing how the built environment can be sustainable and generative.

Maddie’s tours confirmed an exciting trend: it is a small but growing market.

Read on for an in-depth look at the Kendeda Building and Altus at the Quarter development in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia.


The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design
On campus at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design officially opened on October 24, 2019. The building was designed to meet the standards of the Living Building Challenge, a green building certification with requirements in the categories of place, water, energy, health and wellness, materials, equity, and beauty. Over the course of any given year, the building will be a net-positive source of electricity and water. Certification requires 12 months of performance data, a process that is underway now at The Kendeda Building.  A grant for the cost of the design, build, and some programming was provided by The Kendeda Fund in 2015 with the “hope it can be model for change across the Southeast,” according Dena Kimball, executive director of The Kendeda Fund. 

The building features 62 ceiling fans and radiant floors to heat and cool the space. These components maintain comfort for occupants in the reconsidered temperature set points of 78 degrees for cooling and 68 degrees for heating. The design team tackled humidity with a tight envelope where entrances have a double vestibule and an air curtain. Additionally, a dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS) is used to filter and distribute outdoor air via ducts only used for the DOAS. Other highlights include glue-laminated and nail-laminated timber that sequesters carbon and an irrigation system that uses condensate from the cooling system to water the landscaping.

Georgia Power Smart Neighborhood
Georgia Power partnered with PulteGroup to make a Smart Neighborhood™ of 46 townhomes in the Altus at the Quarter development in Atlanta. The homes are energy efficient, feature smart technologies, and have a battery and rooftop solar. The homes have Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index Scores in the high 30s, which is 60-70 percent more efficient than a home built to the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code. The operation of the home is addressed with a platform from Oak Ridge National Laboratory to schedule major appliances to minimize cost while maintaining comfort. Southern Company Research and Development will study the integration of solar, batteries, and the grid and how occupants interact with their technologies.

Energy efficient features include a mini-split HVAC system and a heat pump water heater that can be used as a thermal energy storage device. Homes include a smart thermostat with room sensors along with smart locks, shades, and outlets. An on-site battery can provide enough electric supply for one floor of the house if there is an outage. The rooftop solar panels produce one-third of annual energy use.

Brock Environmental Center
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation built the Brock Environmental Center as an “example of environmentally sensitive and smart building.” Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay, it achieved Living Building Challenge certification in 2016. The center hosts environmental programs in a space that includes offices, meeting rooms, and a multipurpose room. There are three ADA parking spaces on site but other visitors park on a nearby street and take a wooded path to the Center. Floor-to-ceiling windows open on to a deck with views of the Bay. Once inside, visitors enjoy a space designed to highlight the surrounding beauty. Particular attention was paid to developing the surrounding habitat that was previously dredge spoil.

Electricity conservation measures brought the energy use intensity down to 15.5 kBTU/sf/yr. Strategies include a mechanical system with variable-refrigerant flow and geothermal wells. Extensive modeling was conducted to determine maximum daylight without solar heating, proper placement of PV systems, the appropriate R-value for roof and wall insulation, and the appropriate amount of electric lighting. Sensors monitor for optimal outdoor conditions and when they are available mechanical cooling shuts down and staff and told to open windows by an automated email. On-site wind and solar more than meet the demand of the building. Finally, it is possibly the first building in the country to receive a commercial permit for treating rainwater for use as drinking water.