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A Student Center building is arguably the one place on any college campus that students, faculty, staff, and guests gravitate toward. They house a variety of functions that serve the entire campus community. Georgia Tech’s Campus Center is no different; however, the original 45-year-old structure, and its subsequent additions, no longer fit the needs of the current campus population. Additionally, Georgia Tech is at the forefront of sustainability and sustainable design, and the facility did not meet the institution’s stringent criteria.


In 2017, Georgia Tech embarked on the design of a new Campus Center. The existing Student Center complex comprised the Fred B. Wenn Student Center, a Post Office, the Stamps Student Center Commons, and the Stamps Addition. The original Student Center opened in 1970 and served the 7,000-student population and 2,000 faculty and staff. Subsequent additions completed in 1987 and 1989, and the incorporation of the Houston Bookstore in 2003, brought the Student Center complex to approximately 167,000 square feet.

The decades have seen the Georgia Tech campus population grow to 25,000 students and 8,000 faculty and staff. As a result, the facility could no longer serve this larger, more diverse population, and students no longer felt connected with the building as their needed social hub or as a home for student organizations.

Additionally, a 2011 assessment of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems – which were original to the building – found that the infrastructure was outdated and at risk for failure. These systems were identified for complete replacement and upgrades as part of the new Campus Center project. There were also deficiencies identified in a recently completed Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan, which were also addressed in the new facility to achieve universal accessibility.


The vision of the Georgia Tech Student Center is “to be the national leader in producing life-shaping campus experiences for students while providing an irresistible environment for the Georgia Tech community to gather, while also enhancing the values of learning, integrity, inclusiveness, innovation, fiscal responsibility, and exceptional service.” To support this vision, the expanded and refreshed 300,000 square foot, $90.5 million Campus Center includes: (1)

  • Enhanced large event spaces
  • Expanded group meeting spaces
  • Updated and expanded dining and retail options
  • Additional lounge and study areas
  • Collaborative co-working space for student organizations
  • A multi-cultural space
  • Office suites for groups directly tied to Campus Center operations and student services

All these components comprise the renovation of the original building and a three-story addition to that building, and three new buildings that provide a new stand-alone café, a wellness-themed pavilion, an exhibition hall, and an event facility with several meeting rooms and a ballroom, lounges, a gaming area, and other food and retail offerings. These multiple buildings run along an approximately 12-acre site adjacent to the Tech Green lawn.


Georgia Tech held an Ideas Competition for the shortlisted teams to aid in their identification and selection of a design/build team to design and construct their new Campus Center. The Ideas Competition concept is not unique to Georgia Tech as the institution used the same approach to select the team for their net-positive Kendeda Building that was completed in 2019. Not only is the size of the renovated and expanded Campus Center significant at 300,000 square feet, but the institution also has ambitious sustainability initiatives and re-vamped student programs that need to be incorporated into the design. This approach also allowed the owner to select the team they felt was most capable of providing “innovative solutions for project staging, temporary facilities, and schedule compression.” (1)


For over three decades, Georgia Tech has taught sustainability practices in the classroom and built facilities that embrace environmental challenges and sustainability standards. In October 2022, Georgia Tech announced its Sustainability Next Plan, which proposes a roadmap for campus sustainability for the next decade. The plan reaches all institution parameters, including research, education, operations, and economic development. (2)

While Georgia Tech did not pursue LEED Certification for the Campus Center, this project did incorporate other sustainable design codes and initiatives. Specifically, the project included the requirements of the Georgia Energy Efficiency & Sustainable Construction Act of 2008 and fulfilled the requirements for Georgia Peach Green Building Certification. “Other sustainable concepts were included, specifically adherence to ASHRAE 189.1; pursuit of WELL Building Certification; design of energy efficient systems through energy modeling and incorporating renewable energy where feasible; and site stormwater management.” (1)

The Campus Cisterns

The Campus Center project was constructed in two phases. Each phase includes an above-ground cistern holding a combined 167,000 gallons of stormwater collected from the building rooftops to be utilized for irrigation and water re-use. The cistern designs required significant coordination with the architect, plumbing engineer, landscape designers, and construction team to determine the location for and sizes of the cisterns based on how much water would be collected, and how to use that storage volume to offset stormwater requirements.

Landscape and Stormwater Runoff

We worked closely with the landscape architect to identify the best way to provide water treatment and water control in areas near the newer, smaller buildings in the project to manage the water upstream before it made it downstream. One way this was accomplished was to create localized bioretention and bioswales in some areas along the experiential path near the buildings that housed the café and pavilion. The resulting design sent overflow to a deflector pipe and eventually into an underground retention system. This solution allowed the project to meet the City of Atlanta’s requirements for stormwater runoff.

Permeable pavers are placed in several locations to create a treatment train approach to treat stormwater before it enters the system. Any treatment we can use upstream reduces the storage volume we need to provide downstream.

Additionally, the project feeds into a 1.4 million gallon cistern – one of the largest in the United States – located under Tech Green (completed in 2011). This cistern also has retention capabilities and a chamber system with an open bottom, so this offered some residual infiltration. The institution utilizes the collected water for toilet flushing and landscape irrigation.


(1) Georgia Institute of Technology Request for Qualifications for Design Build Services, Campus Center, Atlanta, Georgia; April 2017.
(2) Georgia Institute of Technology website.

Star Metals Office is a 267,000 s.f. Class A office and retail building, and the most recent built phase of the larger Star Metals District mixed-use development straddling bustling Howell Mill Road in Atlanta’s West Midtown neighborhood. The development located on 4.75 acres and includes 40,000 s.f. of retail in its 15-story structure.

Conceived to shake up the status quo of the typical office building, the project boasts expansive exterior balconies on every office level as well as a large group amenity deck on level 7, exclusive to office tenants, replete with a coffee shop, outdoor lounge/workspaces, and 30-person conference center, overlooking lush over-structure landscapes. Reaching a height of 165 feet above grade, the project is currently the tallest office building in West Midtown and provides unobstructed views of Buckhead, Midtown, and Downtown.

Our landscape architecture team carefully considered the balance of the developer’s desired program elements: seamlessly integrated and beautiful spaces to attract notable tenants; a sustainably developed and managed project that would pursue LEED certification (including specific attention to life-cycle costs, water usage and reduction, stormwater runoff reduction, carbon offsets, and recycled materials); highly functional spaces for tenants and visitors, quality and unique finishes and materials; ease of maintenance, indoor-outdoor connections and service, and day-to-night use.

While much focus here is given to the over-structure levels, the streetscape design was also thoughtfully designed. We worked closely with the city in adapting zoning overlay requirements to respond to the building’s program and tenants at the ground level retail, activating a sunken dining node with appropriate landscape and hardscape and stylized streetscape planters filled with graceful native grasses, pops of spicy colored perennials, and evergreen shrubs and groundcovers.

Above ground, exterior accessible spaces are found on levels 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and the rooftop. The Level 7 amenity deck is the development’s showpiece exterior gathering space, highly stylized and extending the interior bar (which converts to open air) with adjacent louvered and automated pergola, over dining and lounge seating, a central specimen tree planter, with built-in bench surround below, and built-in loungers, with sweeping skyline views. The hardscape deck features multiple materials, evoking the rich industrial history of the site as the long-standing Star Iron and Metals scrapyard. The design palette includes textured concrete pavers, Ipe wood decking, blackened steel planters and accents, and synthetic turf, all curated comprehensively, and particularly, with the ownership, architecture and interiors teams to provide a flowing indoor / outdoor relationship. A popular day or evening spot, the lush landscape, dotted with planters on deck and hanging from above, and with its funky and elegant furnishings, has been embraced by gatherings large and small as a floating oasis.

Overall, the project provides almost 70,000 s.f. of viewable and/or accessible exterior space above grade. The planting design includes areas totaling 34,000 SF, providing year-round bloom, texture, and interest. Of this total, 28,676 s.f. is comprised of the LiveRoof tray system, a proprietary light weight growing medium and pre-vegetated green roof modules at various soil depths. Our team and grower worked closely to refine the plant palette, utilizing the Lite (2,5”), Standard (4.25”), and Deep (6”) soil profiles to create an undulating landscape, while being installed on a minimally-sloping roof slab. Multiple sun, shade, and wind models were analyzed to create planting design suited to each floor and each orientation, utilizing water-wise plants. Propagation and growth were performed off-site, with them system then able to be installed, fully mature.

In further balancing sustainability requirements with engineering economies, the team explored the use of LiveRoof’s RoofBlue system, a product placed beneath the vegetated tray system to provide stormwater detention. This exercise proved very fruitful in numerous ways; the system allowed for the elimination of an expensive underground vault (already challenged with identifying a suitable location), drastically reduced stormwater challenges in land disturbance, and provided benefit to the vegetation through evapotranspiration, supporting sustainability goals and LEED certification pursuit.

Star Metals Office planting and stormwater by the numbers:

15,900 square feet of LiveRoof Lite: 0.7 gal/sq ft = 11,130 gallons retained

10,036 square feet of LiveRoof Standard: 1.1 gal/sq ft = 11,039 gallons retained

2,740 square feet of LiveRoof Deep: 1.5 gal/sq ft = 4,110 gallons retained

28,676 square feet of LiveRoof Detain: 1.97 gal/sq ft = 56,491 gallons detained


Total System storage for LiveRoof modules at Star Metals Office:

26,279 gallons retained

56,491 gallons detained


In addition to the vegetated tray modules, full depth planters with groundcovers, perennials, shrubs, and large caliper trees retained and reused stormwater on-site.

While still building out its spec interiors, Star Metals Office has already been widely embraced for its iconic architecture and innovative and beautiful exterior spaces, with new tenants actively setting up shop. The project continues to meet its overarching purpose: enhance and energize its community with seamlessly integrated and beautiful spaces, developed, functioning, and managed to lofty sustainability goals.

This project received a Merit Award in the General Design Category from the American Society of Landscape Architects during the 2023 Southeast Regional Conference.

Learn more on the benefits and importance of over-structure amenity design.

Planters, green roofs, and walled plantings, oh my! These things are part of what we call over-structure amenity design, and they are incorporated into a lot of buildings you enter daily. Whether they’re part of a multifamily residential building, a building on a university campus, or an office building, these green spaces create a sense of peacefulness and community while simultaneously contributing to a more sustainable environment.

Green roofs offer multiple benefits, both for the owner and building developer and for the community and building users. From the perspective of the building owner, the benefits include:

  • Extends the life of the roof

The materials that comprise the green roof protect the roofing system from direct ultraviolet radiation and extreme temperature swings, resulting in an increased life expectancy. The green roof can also require less maintenance, thus saving the owner money that otherwise would be allocated to maintenance costs.

  • Reduces heating and cooling costs

Plants and the green roof profile provide a thermal barrier, reducing loads placed on conditioning systems. Green Roofs for Healthy Cities – North America provides an online calculator that can determine the energy performance of a building with and without a vegetative green roof. https://greenroofs.org/green-roof-energy-calculator

  • Reduces stormwater run-off

The plants and their soil mixture can capture a significant amount of rainwater, which lowers the run-off of substantial amounts of water during a rain event. An example of this is the Star Metals office building project we recently designed. The solution we created captured such a significant amount of stormwater that it offset the need for a planned cistern, saving the owner hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction costs. The total system storage for the 28,676 square foot green roof of the Star Metals building is 26,279 gallons retained and 56,491 gallons detained.

  • Provide development incentives

Incentives vary by city or jurisdiction, but many encourage “green” stormwater strategies, including green roofs. Some cities, such as Portland, Oregon, offer financial, technical, and educational incentives as part of their green roof initiatives. Other cities offer tax incentives or grant monies, and some even waive some fees when green roofs are incorporate into projects. Be sure to investigate and verify the specific programs offered by local municipalities and state agencies.

  • Offers commissioning credits

Green roofs are a strategic part of project design that can help garner many points when pursuing sustainable building certifications, such as a LEED certification. Under the LEED rating system specifically, a green roof can contribute points under several categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Materials and Resources, Energy and Atmosphere, and Innovation and Design Process.

  • Creates a usable and attractive amenity

It’s no secret that accessible green roofs are an attractive amenity. They’re located on a variety of buildings – office, healthcare, educational, residential, and more – and transform what was previously unusable rooftop space into spaces that are marketed as social gathering and special event spaces.

While occupants that inhabit buildings with green roofs also see some of the same benefits as the building owner or developer – such as reduced stormwater run-off and attractive amenity spaces – they also recognize some additional benefits:

  • Improved water quality

While we know that green roofs are a smart approach to manage stormwater run-off, they can also help to improve water quality. This can be done in a variety of ways, including the selection of plant species, fertilization, and growth media. Particularly in urban environments, a green roof reduces water run-off, simultaneously reducing the potential for combined overflow with sewage into local waterways. Furthermore, the rooftop vegetation filters pollutants from the run-off before reaching the local water treatment facility, resulting in cleaner water.

  • Reduces heat island effect

Because green roofs are covered in vegetation, they cover a dark roof. The plants absorb less heat than a dark roof and use solar radiation to evaporate water. The plants use heat to release moisture, which lowers the roof’s temperature. Green roofs can also reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. They cool the outside air down and help cool off the interior of buildings. As a result, the building’s air conditioning isn’t necessary, decreasing the amount of pollution that would have been produced, thus improving the microclimate.

  • Provides habitat and ecological benefits

Green roofs and vegetated walls are fast becoming tools to protect biodiversity and provide ecological benefits in urban environments. Years ago, green roofs began as engineering challenges, but they’ve evolved into lush urban landscapes that are home to butterflies, beetles, spiders, grasshoppers, and more. They also attract various birds, and some roofs serve as home to honeybee hives showcasing a solid commitment to sustainability and the environment.

  • Improves air quality

Improved air quality is closely related to reducing the urban heat island, as discussed above. Additionally, some studies have found that the air quality brought into a building through outdoor intake vents on buildings with green roofs is improved. For more detailed information on this study, The Science Times offers a detailed summary of a study in Portland, Oregon. Study Proves that Green Roofs Help Rid Indoor Air of Pollutants | Science Times

If you are interested in learning more about what an over-structure design can do for your development, contact Jennifer Ilkin to schedule a lunch and learn presentation!

Meet Jennifer – An Associate with Eberly & Associates and the leader of our landscape architecture team!

– Why Landscape Architecture?

When I was 17, and making plans for college, I had never heard of landscape architecture.  Knowing my passions and interests, my dad pulled out the “L” volume from the shelf (yes, I’m “Encyclopedia Britannica years old”), and showed me the entry for Landscape Architecture. It seemed to combine my love of nature, art, design, and construction.  I decided to give it a go, and the rest is history.

– What is your favorite flower/plant?

Almost anything en masse gets my blood pumping.  The fields of tulips at the Atlanta Botanical Garden in the spring? Breathtaking.  A mass of Pink Muhly Grass?  Amazing.  For specimens, I love architectural plants like Maidenhair Fern, Weeping Forsythia, Paperbark Maples, London Plane Trees, and plants with bold colors like Sunshine Ligustrum and Black Taffeta Heuchera.

– What is your favorite contemporary landscape?

I’ve become much more of an urbanist, and love so many contemporary urban plazas and spaces, but historic landscapes are still very moving and close to my heart. Some of my all-time favorite places are Bryant Park, Dumbarton Oaks, the landscapes and monuments of Washington DC, the Piazza della Rotonda, and the Irish countryside.  I love what’s happening at Hudson Yards and along the Highline in New York.  A frequent traveler to Istanbul, a lot of new construction – while a bit of an overwhelming amount – of residences and retail are very well done.  And, I am a sucker for most any landscape/art installation.

– What is your design philosophy?

Every project is unique.  It’s all about the user experience – you must understand your audience, and the site equally.  Our work is a wonderful distilling of site, character, sustainability, materials, construction, and longevity. I always like to see how we can stretch construction dollars with minimal to no effect on the vision. My personal philosophy is to find the opportunity in the challenge, be responsive, and authentic.