Deep green charrette:
 The comprehensive planning of a sustainable dining commons at Georgia Tech

The performance of a building must reflect the ideals of sustainability to create venues that breathe life into a campus community. At Georgia Tech, the planning of a new dining commons began with an unusual twist. Once the design team was in place, architects, engineers, students, faculty, health professionals, and a host of others gathered for a full day, deep dive charrette. More than 60 subject matter experts met to elicit innovative thinking about opportunities to pursue a sustainable approach to design, construction, and operation of a campus facility.


The performance of a building must reflect the ideals of sustainability to create venues that breathe life into a campus community. At Georgia Tech, the planning of a new dining commons began with an unusual twist. Once the design team was in place, architects, engineers, students, faculty, health professionals, and a host of others gathered for a full day, deep dive charrette. More than 60 subject matter experts met to elicit innovative thinking about opportunities to pursue a sustainable approach to design, construction, and operation of a campus facility.

The output of the charrette was a comprehensive set of vetted goals that would drive the design process. Goals were established in three categories. Site and Community goals considered landscape, site use, stormwater, and community connections. Resources goals addressed energy, water, nutrients, and waste. Health and Wellness goals included food, nutrition, exercise, light, space, view quality, biophilia, comfort, materials, structure, acoustics, and air quality.

Georgia Tech is no stranger to sustainable building practices with two platinum, 13 gold, and three other LEED Certified facilities. Tech recently announced a $30 million grant from the Kendeda Fund to construct the most environmentally advanced higher education building in the southeast.

“Georgia Tech is honored to partner with The Kendeda Fund on this groundbreaking project,” said Steve Swant, executive vice president for administration and finance. “The Living Building Challenge aligns with our longstanding vision for the campus and provides a unique opportunity to physically demonstrate how Georgia Tech practices thoughtful stewardship of all of our resources and how our innovative thinking can transform future generations.”

The recently opened Engineered Biosystems Building, a $113 million interdisciplinary academic and research facility, supports a partnership with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and groundbreaking research to cure childhood diseases. An integrated design approach was also used in planning this project beginning with a similar deep green charrette. Of particular interest was the design of the facility to achieve energy use intensity (EUI) in the first quartile of energy performance for like buildings at Georgia Tech. Comparable buildings averaged a EUI rating of 490 kBTU/sf/yr (1000 British Thermal Units per square foot per year). The pursuit of this project’s broad deep green goals combined to exceed this goal with an estimated EUI of 105 kBTU/sf/yr. This would not have been possible without the early commitment from all team members to allow their design to model the deep green goals.

During the West Village charrette, the idea of hyper-local, self-sustained food production utilizing hydroponics or aquaponics was a major topic of conversation. Constrained urban environments can prohibit such an approach. Production farms in repurposed shipping containers utilize LED grow lights and hydroponic methods to produce an equivalent output from an acre of farmland. The unproven application of such a containerized operation, exposed to the southern heat, limited our interest. A local farm within 120 miles of campus constructed and operates a hydroponic greenhouse and supplies a large portion of GT Dining’s lettuce. Partnerships of this nature are preferred to help meet demand through local, professional farm operators.

North Ave community restaurant on GT’s east campus currently utilizes a bio-digester that daily converts up to 750 pounds of organic waste into gray water. The solid waste goal of “zero landfill” will be fulfilled with centrally collected refuse, pulping to reduce volume and moisture, and bio-digesting. Future developments may allow an effective means of extracting phosphorus and nitrogen from the bio-digester effluent for reuse fueling plant growth. As the facility will operate with only retail dining, a greater challenge exists to influence brand packaging decisions and consumer disposal procedures to maximize solid
waste control.

Bio filtration walls use select plants that eliminate pollutants and improve indoor air quality. A goal was established that 50 percent of the conditioned return air flow would pass through a bio filtration wall. Based on the required size of such a wall and considering the ongoing cost of maintaining such an array of hydroponic plants, this goal was dropped. Cost estimates for this system at the schematic phase of design exceeded $100,000.

Harvesting storm water and condensation into an above-ground cistern shows our water reuse commitment and develops sufficient head pressure to reduce electric pumping requirements. An environmental fountain, toilet flushing, and irrigation will be supplied through this cistern. Calculations to balance water demand and expected contributions from multiple sources are critical to properly size and place such a cistern.

A difficult goal to achieve safely was the inclusion of edible landscapes for foraging by pedestrians. An urban landscape design can incorporate plants that produce food available to enhance the community. Attractive bushes such as blueberries and pomegranates may yet be incorporated into the design of green spaces surrounding the project.

The Deep Green Charrette launched the West Village project with an extensive array of innovative goals. This commitment to integrated design eliminated misconceptions about the intent and priority of our sustainable approach. Designers, engineers, students, faculty, and staff experienced a collective solutions-oriented session to expand the potential for this hybrid facility. Equally important was the ability to empirically evaluate a comprehensive set of goals to establish financial and construction feasibility at the earliest stages of design. Ultimately, the West Village will seamlessly integrate a campus dining operation with the primary academic initiative of “Serve, Learn, Sustain”.

Glossary:

Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) – A top 10 public research university in Midtown Atlanta, founded in 1885 serving 15,000 undergraduates, 10,000 graduates, and 7,000 faculty/staff, housing over 10,000 students on campus
GT Dining – The non-exclusive, primary food service operation that provides nearly 4 million meals annually through 20+ retail dining units and 4 community restaurants (all-you-care-to-eat) with 9,000 annual meal plan participants, operated by Sodexo since 1997
Deep Green – an integrated design approach involving all stakeholders at the beginning of a project for an intense, day-long process to establish visionary sustainability goals
Charrette – A collaborative session in which designers draft solutions to design problems
Integrated Design Process – a) Everyone is together; b) Everything is on the table; c) Project goals are defined early; d) The whole team is on the same page
Hydroponics – A farming technique using nutrient-enriched water to grow plants without soil
Aquaponics –A symbiotic farming technique that combines hydroponics and aquatic animal production (fish, crawfish, prawns, etc.)
Biophilia Hypothesis – The suggestion that there is an instinctive bond between humans and other living systems
Serve, Learn, Sustain – A campus-wide academic initiative that will equip Georgia Tech students to help build healthier, more sustainable communities where people and nature thrive
West Village – A 50,000 sf, $29M hybrid facility currently in design at Georgia Tech that will combine academic classrooms and social gathering spaces into a large retail dining operation scheduled to open in July 2017

West Village Project Overview

Designers:
Cooper Carry + Lake|Flato + 
Koons Environmental Design
Preliminary Program/
Site Assessments:

Perkins & Will Architects
Meal Plan Studies: Envision Strategies
Cost: $29M, Construction $18.3M,
Funding Source: Auxiliary Reserve Funds
General Program Elements:
Five Market Dining Retail Concepts (2,500 sf total)
Branded Retail: Panera Bread (1,600 sf),
Starbucks (2,400 sf)
Campus Bakery – Transparent to Public Spaces
Campus Commissary – Fresh dressings, 
 sauces, condiments
Choral & Music Rehearsal Classrooms
 (one large, one medium)
Academic Classrooms (Two 40-seat)
Two Multi-purpose Meeting Rooms
Five Small Study Rooms
Interior Dining Seating: 420 seats
Interior Lounge Seating: 90 seats
Exterior Dining & Lounge Seating: 240 seats


Rich Steele, CASP
Rich Steele, CASP, serves as senior director for auxiliary services at Georgia Tech where he has worked for over 30 years. He currently serves as the NACAS South president-elect, has served as the NACAS 2012 Annual Conference program chair, has earned the Certified Auxiliary Services Professional (CASP) designation, and received the 2013 NACAS Committee Member of the Year award. He has responsibility for the Student Center, Academy of Medicine, Barnes & Noble at Georgia Tech, GT Dining, catering, child care, vending, 10 retail shops, student activities, campus mail services and advises the GT Crew Team. Steele earned his Chemical Engineering degree at Georgia Tech and has served as a trustee on the GT Alumni Association Board.

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Student Life: An essential connection to sustainability on campus
By Abby Dolan