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Smart Sustainability: A Case Study of the Emory University Whitehead Biomedical Research Facility

Rohit Saxena, Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum (HOK)
Laura Case, Emory University
Chris Carson, The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company

The Whitehead Biomedical Research Building provided an opportunity to extend concern for the environment into the design of its newest laboratory building. Great importance was placed by the design team on the incorporation of sustainable design into the architecture and building systems. These early decisions paid off when Emory University chose to have the building LEED™ Certified by the US Green Building Council several months after construction began when it was three stories out of the ground. Through an aggressive, collaborative effort involving the design team, university staff and the contractor, Emory was awarded a LEED™ Silver rating and was recognized by Energy User News as the "Best New Project for 2002".

This presentation will focus on showing how, through smart design choices on every project, sustainability can be incorporated without noticeable increase in cost or schedule. As firm believers that any (and every) architect should be able to design to green, it is our hope that (as supporters of Labs21) green design methods will eventually be heralded as simply "good" design measures and that all laboratory buildings will continually have reduced environmental impact. Presenters will provide Architect, Owner and Contractor's perspective on good sustainable practice using the Whitehead Case study model.


The Whitehead Biomedical Research Building has provided its users with the benefit of the sustainable design features utilized through the project. All occupied rooms receive natural daylight and the casework used in the facility is movable or adaptable. Building owners will note that the energy recovery system saves over $1,000,000 in energy costs, the condensate recovery system saves 2.5 million gallons of water each year, rainwater is harvested for irrigation of landscaping and finishes include the use of low VOC paints and low flow plumbing fixtures

Even under the constraints of a rigorous value engineering period, and with the addition of several design features that were geared toward achieving LEED™certification, this project was completed one month ahead of schedule and was delivered for $1.5 million less than the original construction budget. The outcome of this project is a testament to good project design, proving that a project that is under construction can be reevaluated and designed to efficiently meet sustainability goals, even when under tight budgetary constraints.

Labs21 Connection:

The project delivery method used for the project was a fast track delivery method with several phased packages. After the first and the second bid packages were well into construction, the project pricing estimated that the completed project would be $6 million over the original budget parameters. To bring the project into sync with the proposed budget, the entire project team (designers, engineers, construction manager and Emory University staff) went through an intense, two month value engineering phase to analyze changes that would cause minimal impact to either the existing construction or the overall functionality of the building.

The cost of LEED™ certification for the Whitehead Biomedical Research Building is estimated at less than 1% of the overall construction cost. However, the benefit of incorporating sustainable design principals into the project has resulted in operational cost benefits to Emory University.

The presentation will tie in with the current case study being published by NREL for release at the Labs21 2004 Annual Conference.


Rohit Saxena is an officer with HOK and brings 19+ years of experience in planning and managing technically-oriented projects with an emphasis on research and educational projects. The majority of his experience involves projects on university campuses in the southeast. He recently served as a project manager for the Whitehead Biomedical Building at Emory University in Atlanta that was awarded United States Green Building Council (USGBC's) LEED™ Silver certification in 2001. He is a LEED™ certified professional and is actively engaged is sustainability issues for HOK and their clients. He is a member of the American Biological Safety Association, Society of College and University Planners, Georgia Biomedical Partnership and speaks regularly at industry conferences around the country on sustainability and laboratory design.

Laura Case is a Senior Project Manager with Emory University with over 15 years of experience. She is a LEED™ accredited professional and is actively engaged in the implementation of sustainability on capital projects at Emory. She served in the role of a project manager for the Emory Whitehead Research Building that was awarded the LEED™ Silver rating by the USGBC. She speaks regularly at industry conferences around the country on sustainability and laboratory design topics and has presented at Society of College and University Planners (SCUP) and Tradelines.

Chris Carlson is a Senior Project Manager with The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company with 20 years of experience in the construction industry. While working with Whiting-Turner, Chris became the first individual within this national construction management firm to acquire LEED™ Accreditation and was instrumental in the company's membership in the United States Green Building Council. Chris currently heads up sustainable construction activities at Whiting-Turner's Atlanta office and has been involved in numerous sustainable building projects company wide like the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University and the Paul D. Coverdell Center for Biomedical & Health Sciences at the University of Georgia.

As the Senior Project Manager for the Whitehead Biomedical Research project at Emory University, Chris was the construction liaison working to acquire LEED™ Certification for the building. Whitehead was the first building in the southeast to be awarded LEED™ certification and received a Silver rating.


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