Construction Grant to Help Fund Carbon-Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory

A new Georgia Tech laboratory building designed to research energy efficiency will itself become a study in sustainability.

C-NES Elevation
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Rendered elevation of Carbon-Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory (Courtesy HDR CUH2A)

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on Jan. 8 awarded the Georgia Tech Research Corporation $11.6 million to construct the Carbon-Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory (C-NES). With a total budget of $23.3 million, the 45,000-square-foot facility will house several energy research efforts.

From the design and construction to daily operation, Capital Planning and Space Management intends for the laboratory to achieve carbon neutrality with net-zero site energy use, defined as zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions annually. By effectively using several energy-saving designs—including a full photovoltaic array—the facility can achieve harvest energy on-site and achieve carbon neutrality without purchasing carbon offset credits, according to Howard Wertheimer, director of Capital Planning and Space Management. The project is targeting a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification, exceeding the Gold certification targeted by all new building construction on Tech’s campus.

The research focus of the facility will be sustainable energy solutions, including high-efficiency combustion engines, biomass gasification kinetics, biochemical-enzymatic conversion of biomass materials, and capture of carbon dioxide from power plants and combustion engines. Target completion date for the project is spring 2011. The lab will be located at the North Avenue Research Area (NARA), in the same campus as the Combustion Lab, Structures Lab and Food Processing Technology Building.

“When complete, this facility will be the most sustainably designed and constructed building at Georgia Tech, and one of the most sustainably designed research facilities in the country,” Wertheimer said. The project has already been contracted with design-build team. HDR CUH2A, a Princeton, New Jersey–based architectural firm, leads the design and Gilbane Construction leads the construction activities. Target completion date is set for spring 2011.

The schematic design was completed prior to the initial NIST announcement in June, and has already been recognized for design excellence by the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), who awarded the building’s design the NJ AIA Merit Award.

NIST awarded more than $123 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants to 11 universities and one non-profit organization. “These awards will create jobs by helping to fund 12 major, shovel-ready construction projects,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “These new, state-of-the-art facilities will help keep the United States at the forefront of scientific and technological innovation and will support economic growth.”

LEED, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction in six major categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, innovation and design process, and indoor environmental quality. Upon completion, projects are certified in four categories, ranging from Certified to Platinum.

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