Design firm Perkins+Will has several LEED Platinum certified projects under its belt including the Great River Energy Headquarters building in Maple Grove, MN and Dockside Green, a LEED Platinum certified residential project in Victoria, British Columbia. The company is adding another LEED Platinum project to its roster – the Perkins+Will Atlanta office.


Located at 1315 Peachtree Street, the facility earned 95 points on the 2009 LEED for New Construction checklist, making it the highest scoring project in the Northern Hemisphere using this LEED-NC version.


“We set out to make 1315 Peachtree a living model of sustainability and we have been inspired by the results so far,” said Willard Lariscy, Perkins+Will Principal and Managing Director. “A 95-point LEED Platinum Certification is another confirmation that we’ve accomplished our goals, but since it’s a living lab, we’ll continue to create new goals as we adapt to change and experiment with new ideas."


Although this was a LEED-NC project, the building was originally constructed in 1985 and this was one of the bigger challenges on the project according to Paula Vaughan, co-director of Perkins+Will’s Sustainable Design Initiative.


“The fact that it was an existing building with some major challenges. First, the street-level circular drive and parking deck. Two curb cuts close to the intersection made an undesirable situation for the City, for vehicles and especially for pedestrians! We immediately removed both the drive and the parking and infilled the deck. It now houses the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA), as well as lobbies for our offices and the Fulton County Public Library on the 2nd floor.”


Perkins+Will wasn’t just working on meeting LEED-NC Platinum level certification standards, the company was also focusing on meeting the 2030 Challenge guidelines as well. Vaughan explains how meeting this challenge added a different dimension to the project, “Purchasing power from the grid meant that we would be using energy produced from coal-fired power plants. We instead opted for installing a natural-gas based trigeneration installation on the roof, which provides cleaner power and minimizes grid-loss. The result was about a 68% reduction in the amount of greenhouse gas emissions for our building (compares to similar buildings).”


So what goes into the highest scoring LEED-NC v.2009 building in the Northern Hemisphere? Besides a lot of time and effort on the part of the engineers, designers and construction crew, the project also features energy efficient exterior glazing, a garden, raised flooring and a radiant heating and cooling system, passive sun shading, daylight harvesting, microturbines and so much more.


The facility’s radiant heating and cooling system is actually the first of its kind in use in Atlanta. I asked Paula Vaughan about the benefits of this type of system and why it was chosen over a traditional high-efficiency HVAC system.


“The interesting thing about the trigeneration HVAC system is the way all of the components work together. Since converting natural gas to electricity produces a great amount of heat, we installed an Adsorption chiller. This captures that heat and by adsorbing or desorbing the heat, produces heated and chilled water. That water is then used in a radiant heating and cooling system, which heats and cools the building using a series of capillary mats either plastered to the exterior concrete beams or installed above a suspended ceiling system. Fresh air is provided at a low velocity through the raised floor system. Since heating and cooling is radiating from the ceiling, and fresh ventilation air is provided through the floor, warm air naturally rises and is exhausted, making the air that we’re breathing cleaner, the office area less noisy (no HVAC fans), and the cost of operating the system much less than a conventional system. Very much a triple-bottom-line strategy!


In addition to earning LEED for New Construction Platinum certification, the Atlanta office of Perkins+Will also received the Urban Land Institute’s Development of Excellence Award.


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