Overall Rating Silver - expired
Overall Score 58.19
Liaison Emma Blandford
Submission Date March 2, 2021

STARS v2.2

Georgia Institute of Technology
PRE-2: Points of Distinction

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete N/A Anne Rogers
Sustainability Program & Portfolio Manager
Office of Campus Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Name of the institution’s featured sustainability program, initiative, or accomplishment:
Sustainable Planning and Design Legacy – Building to Higher Standards

A brief description of the institution’s featured program, initiative, or accomplishment:
For nearly 20 years, Georgia Tech has advanced the concept of a sustainable campus on many levels. The legacy of sustainable campus development is most centrally facilitated with a series of campus master plans and design standards that steer the direction in a meaningful way. http://www.space.gatech.edu/capital-planning-0

The 1997 Campus Master Plan (CMP) is the current Plan and continues to be the guiding principle for campus development. On October 13, 2004, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia received the 2004 Update that adds definition to and emphasis on three specific areas: accessibility, sustainability, and capacity.

A landscape...unique to Georgia Tech - a Performance Landscape - joining technology and ecology to create great sense of place...integrates landform, hydrology, soils, and biological communities...trees shape microclimate and engage the hydrologic cycle, where soils drink in stormwater instead of discharging it into sewers, where biomass sequesters carbon, improves air quality and increases biodiversity. The landscape is also a cultural entity that integrates open space, buildings, circulation and human behavior and experience. The goals of the plan include:
- Develop integrated, ecologically-based landscape and open space systems.
- Enhance living, working and learning environment.
- Unify the campus with a distinct sense of place.
- Increase tree canopy-replace aging trees
- Create an Eco-Commons (80 acres)
- Implement ecological performance requirements of 50% reduction of storm water runoff

The Stormwater Management Plan demonstrates Georgia Tech’s commitment to developing its campus with an integrated, ecologically based landscape helping to achieve the goal of environmental sustainability. It provides a practical guide addressing stormwater regionally. Goals of the plan include:
- Water capture and reuse
- Volume reduction
- Mimic the natural process
- A campus “regional” approach
- Exceed regulatory requirements

The Georgia Tech Yellow Book was created to help architects and engineers meet our strict design and construction criteria, including sustainability, for campus buildings. Similarly, the Green Book outlines specifications for sustainable landscape projects. As Georgia Tech’s standards continue to evolve with available technologies and best practices, we will design and build the most efficient, effective, and responsible facilities and landscapes possible.

Through the implementation of these plans and standards, Georgia Tech has set a new bar for sustainable development on a campus. The results from implementing our values include visible demonstrations in tree management, landscape performance, and the most high-performance buildings in the region. The campus arboretum, Eco Commons project, and Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design are demonstrations of these values in action.

Campus Arboretum:
The Georgia Tech campus spans more than 400 acres and is home to more than 11,900 trees and 130 species of trees (campus trees can be viewed here). A healthy tree ecosystem contributes to our lush campus environment, but helps with our water conservation goals and in the reduction of the heat island effect, ultimately helping to conserve energy. In 2016, Georgia Tech was awarded a Level II Accreditation by the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program and the Morton Arboretum. The Georgia Tech Arboretum enhances our campus Living Learning Laboratory by providing a platform for the development of educational tools to study the performance of individual trees and the collective forest in an urban landscape.

One of our key initiatives to come out of the Landscape Master Plan is the Eco-Commons, which is intended to allow Tech to more effectively manage storm water by reducing inflows into city sewers and creating a system for reuse on campus landscapes. The project consists of a series of green spaces that replicate historic, buried streams – an “emerald necklace” of greenspace around campus converted from hardscape surfaces. These spaces will help increase tree canopy coverage to mitigate storm water runoff.
The most recently completed greenspace of the Eco Commons that is also the largest. Formerly a parking lot, the eight-acre section of greenspace is projected to have more than 600 new trees, 68 transplanted trees, tens of thousands of new perennials and shrubs, and an abundance of ferns and grasses. The landscape includes an extensive network of utility and drainage infrastructure, which will aid in reducing storm water runoff. Eight different planting zones comprise the new native landscape with the overall design highlighting three distinct areas – an area to reflect, an area to engage, and an area to learn. The landscape will provide vital ecological functions as well as important data for analysis and research. The Eco-commons is a vibrant new space that Georgia Tech students, faculty, and staff can interact with in a multitude of ways.

High-Performance Buildings:
Since Georgia Tech designed and constructed the first LEED certified building on campus in 2004, sustainable building design is a core attribute of every building since. Our Engineered Biosystems Building, Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons – with more than 300 solar panels and spectacular rooftop garden – and the Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory are awarded the highest levels of LEED sustainable building certifications and recognition.

In commitment to continuously set a new sustainable development bar on campus, Georgia Tech opened The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design (KBISD) in October 2019. KBISD is the first academic and research building in the Southeast designed to be certified under the Living Building Challenge (LBC). The LBC is the world’s most ambitious building performance standard that tracks building performance over a year before awarding certification. The LBC is grounded in the idea that buildings should give back to the planet more than they take, thus creating a positive impact on humans and the environment. The multi-disciplinary building is a sustainable hub that serves as a living-learning laboratory that demonstrates innovative solutions that students can see and experience firsthand. The building houses classrooms, teaching labs, offices, and a makerspace which allow students, staff, and faculty to explore sustainability ideas in action. The Kendeda Building has a unique net-positive energy performance approach where a solar canopy captures more energy than the building consumes in a year. The Building also has a closed loop water management system and relies upon rainwater, greywater, blackwater and stormwater systems to manage water sustainably. Collectively, these systems supply all the potable water demands for the building while recycling wastewater and stormwater. The building also has a zero-waste objective and is the first classroom building to have “front-of-house" composting on campus as well as hard to recycle materials collection such as plastic films and polystyrene. Through programming and state of the art design, The Kendeda Building demonstrates a social responsibility to be as healthy and self-sufficient as possible while connecting people to natural environments, clean air, fresh food, and community.

Which of the following impact areas does the featured program, initiative, or accomplishment most closely relate to?:
Coordination & Planning

Website URL where more information about the accomplishment may be found:

STARS credit in which the featured program, initiative, or accomplishment is reported (if applicable):

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Name of a second highlighted sustainability program/initiative/accomplishment:
Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain

A brief description of the second program/initiative/accomplishment:
Created to support Georgia Tech’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) from 2015-2020, Serve-Learn-Sustain (SLS) is a campus-wide academic initiative working with all six or Georgia Techs colleges to offer students and faculty the opportunity to study and work on key sustainability challenges. SLS builds the capacity of faculty by offering a multitude of services that help faculty teach sustainable communities-related courses and collaborate with diverse partners on research. Through a variety of programs, SLS aims to educate students through classroom, co-curricular, and real-world learning experiences that contribute to the making of sustainable communities. Through major themes of work, SLS’s accomplishments demonstrate an integration of sustainability in the curriculum that supports a core sustainable leadership function at Georgia Tech.


- Through the affiliated courses program, students can acquire and apply the knowledge and skills necessary to build sustainable communities. In FY2020 the program has 137 Sustainability affiliated courses and 5200 students (33% of the undergraduate population) across all 6 of Georgia Tech’s colleges. SLS has awarded over $500,000 in faculty course development grants and continues to provide faculty support through workshops, 1:1 advising, and an online toolkit library of lesson-planning resources.

- Developed new Sustainable Cities Minor in the School of City and Regional Planning

- The NSSE survey (National Survey of Student Engagement) identified Service-Learning as a key benchmark question reflecting QEP goals. Results show a significant increase in students participating in service-learning, with participation now surpassing the Association of American Universities (AAU) cohort and 50% of GT students engaged with service learning programs.

- The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) selected SLS to receive this award for its Affiliated Courses Program as Best Case Study from a Four-Year or Graduate Institution with More Than 10,000 Full-Time Students. AASHE says, “By raising the visibility of high-impact sustainability projects and pioneering research, the awards program shares innovations and inspires continued progress toward a sustainable future.”


- In Spring 2020, SLS released a formal Partnership Strategy, which includes seven principles that are key to building partnerships for sustainable communities. In consultation with partners, SLS developed compensation guidelines. As a result, Georgia Tech has gained a reputation across the region as a welcoming, authentic, and transparent collaborator.

- SLS has developed strong, long-term relationships with approx. 25 partner organizations who work in our key focus areas: community health, green infrastructure, equitable and sustainable development, climate change and energy, and social innovation. SLS has ongoing relationships with approx. 15 additional organizations, in Atlanta, across Georgia, and beyond. SLS developed structures to grow and support collaborations between these partners, faculty, and courses, including teaching tools and mini-grants.

- The Summer Internship Program provides sustainability partners throughout Georgia with support, while offering students practical experience working on real-world community projects. From FY 2018-2020, 86 students supported 65 partners on projects that advanced the community and student career experiences.


- SLS is cultivating a learning environment that situates equity and justice as central to STEM, sustainability, and the built environment. SLS hosts a series of events and activities focused on these issues, highlighting community perspectives. The series is designed to complement courses, and faculty can use SLS’s reflection tool to guide students to reflect on events in relation to what they learn in class. Both students and faculty have emphasized the significant impact that the series has on their learning - and the campus environment.

- RCE Greater Atlanta is Officially Acknowledged by the United Nations University in 2017 as one of 6 RCEs in the U.S. and 166 Worldwide. The network, which SLS facilitated, advances the SDGs through education and training, from an equity and justice lens. In 2019, the RCE received two United Nations University Awards for Innovative Projects on Education for Sustainable Development.

Which impact areas does the second program/initiative/accomplishment most closely relate to?:
Public Engagement
Diversity & Affordability

Website URL where more information about the second program/initiative/accomplishment may be found:

STARS credit in which the second program/initiative/accomplishment is reported (if applicable):

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Name of a third highlighted program/initiative/accomplishment:
Sustainability Research

A brief description of the third program/initiative/accomplishment:
At Georgia Tech you will see that research and innovation are everywhere. It's part of almost everything we do. Teams of faculty, students, and researchers throughout our six colleges, 11 interdisciplinary research institutes, the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), and hundreds of research labs and centers are pushing the boundaries of science and technology every day. Sustainability represents a large portion of the research underway at Georgia Tech.

In addition to the 23 interdisciplinary research centers, corporate partnerships, and funding opportunities focused on environmental sustainability, Tech has many highly referenced (h-index), green chemistry award-winning researchers (including winners of the Presidential Green Chemistry Award), as well as many accomplished graduate and undergraduate researchers dedicated to the cause of sustainability. Major research centers work within the sustainability landscape to advance Georgia Tech’s role in solving complex global problems related to sustainability. GTRI, Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, and the Strategic Energy Institute represent the largest portfolios of work in sustainability on campus. In addition to these centers, major cross-collaborative projects are underway that demonstrate Georgia Tech’s ability to contribute to global solutions around sustainability.


State of Georgia Energy and Sustainability Research Program:
GTRI is the nonprofit, applied research division of the Georgia Tech. GTRI's renowned researchers combine science, engineering, economics, policy and technical expertise to solve complex problems for the U.S. federal government, state and industry. The Energy & Sustainability group conducts systems-based applied research that addresses critical local, national, and international energy, water, and health challenges. Georgia is a leader in the smart energy economy, and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) is providing innovations to support the state’s technology and manufacturing businesses. Collaborative partners include Georgia Tech Venture Lab, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG). In Georgia, energy and water are drivers of economic growth. GTRI is integrating water conservation and sensing technologies with smart energy systems to support Georgia agribusinesses and Department of Defense sites in Georgia. Concept designs are produced in the GTRI and Georgia Tech laboratories, modeled, and tested on campus and in the field.

GTRI Partners with the National GEM Consortium to Recruit Diverse Talent:
GTRI is leading by example in support for underrepresented groups, and in 2020 (GTRI) became a partnered employer with the National GEM Consortium. GEM is a network of leading corporations, government laboratories, top universities, and top research institutions that enables qualified students from underrepresented communities to pursue graduate education in applied science and engineering. GEM’s mission is to garner a talent pool of African American, Hispanic American, and Native American advanced degree-seekers in STEM fields. Multiple Research Faculty at GTRI are GEM alumni, including Mike Grady, Ph.D., Adilson Cardoso, Ph.D., and Jackie Fairley, Ph.D. GTRI has partner with GEM several times over the last 30 years. Since 2018, GTRI’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Division has strengthened this relationship by presenting Tech Talks and recruiting diverse talent at GEM’s National Annual Conference.


Georgia Tech Microgrid Project:
The Strategic Energy Institute serves as a conduit for integrating, facilitating, and enabling Institute-wide programs in energy research and develops technologies, policies, and educational programs that offer high-impact solutions to pressing energy issues. In 2019 it was announced that Georgia Power and Georgia Tech would collaborate to build a new 1.4 MW microgrid in Tech Square. The self-contained power system serves as a living-learning- laboratory for Georgia Tech professors and students who use the asset to gather data on controllers, cybersecurity devices, and energy economics. The power system is used to evaluate how a microgrid can effectively integrate into and operate as part of the overall electrical grid. The microgrid also provides Georgia Power with insight into how smart energy management systems can interact with the grid to achieve optimal utilization of energy.


The 2019 Georgia Tech Sustainability Showcase:
The Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems specializes in a Team Science approach that enables large and diverse research teams to compete for grants and partner with other organizations to understand how massive and complex systems function, and to develop means for managing them. In 2019 Brook Byers hosted its 2019 Sustainability Showcase. The goal of the showcase was to highlight the breadth of sustainability research and education by making accessible a complete portfolio of sustainability relevant research and education programs, projects, courses, personnel, and sponsors ongoing at Georgia Tech inclusive of all 6 Colleges, GTRI, the 11 Interdisciplinary Research Institutes, and all other Centers and Laboratories. The Sustainability Showcase took place over three full-days, and about 150 academic and research faculty shared their work in sustainability research. The Networking event was able to foster and strengthen collaborative and pre-collaborative relationships among faculty, students, and prospective sponsors and partners.


Drawdown Georgia:
Drawdown Georgia is a statewide effort powered by research from the Georgia Institute of Technology and other universities to find cost-effective ways to drastically cut the state’s carbon footprint. A cross-campus research team identified solutions that could cut the state’s CO2 emissions by one-third by 2030. Faculty members across Georgia Tech, Emory University, the University of Georgia, and Georgia State University researched and developed 20 recommendations in five high-impact areas: electricity, buildings and materials, food and agriculture, transportation, and the land.

At Georgia Tech, the cross-collaborative research team on the project represent a variety of disciplines including the School of Public Policy, the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, the Scheller College of Business, the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Strategic Energy Institute, and the School of Economics.

Drawdown Georgia is based on Project Drawdown, founded by environmentalist and author Paul Hawken. That project seeks to reach “drawdown,” the point at which levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere start to decline, as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible. The Georgia effort is the first in the country to adopt the Project Drawdown model. The Ray C. Anderson Foundation is funding the project, including the research at Georgia Tech and other universities.


Which impact areas does the third program/initiative/accomplishment most closely relate to?:
Air & Climate

Website URL where more information about the third program/initiative/accomplishment may be found:

STARS credit in which the third program/initiative/accomplishment is reported (if applicable):

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Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.