A LEED Silver Certified Biomedical Research Building

The Whitehead Biomedical Building is an award-winning facility that houses three science departments at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Completed in 2001, the building was the largest of its kind in the Southeast at the time, measuring in at eight stories high and 325,000 square feet. The unique and innovative energy and water efficiency strategies continue to set this LEED-certified facility apart, while an interior design that focuses on free-flowing movement, indoor air quality, and the presence of natural light contribute to an understanding of what is possible in the creation of healthy workplaces on a large scale today.


Unique Design Challenges

The Architecture team faced a number of unique hurdles with this ambitious $65 million project as they tried to maximize the use of sustainable yet cost-effective building materials, create strategies to bring indoor air quality, energy, and water efficiency to the high standard required to obtain LEED certification. 

Innovative Solutions

The design and construction teams worked closely throughout the project, and together were able to achieve the following:

LEED Certification - In the beginning months of construction, Emory University found that they wanted to create an LEED certified building, a certification that is often planned for when the designing process begins. Fortunately, the existing focus on sustainable materials and energy efficiency meant that the building was able to successfully meet the requirements for a LEED Silver rating with minor adjustments.

Indoor Air Quality - In order to protect the indoor air quality of the building, adhesives and paints with low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were used throughout the structure. The building was also designated as a nonsmoking facility.

Water Efficiency - This emerged as a priority to Emory and the designers once the decision to go for LEED certification was made. To this end, a harvesting system was created to capture water from the roof and outdoor plaza, move the water to a large retention area underneath the plaza, filter the water, and reuse it for on-site irrigation. The designers also realized the condensation from the air conditioning system could also be diverted, allowing for the harvest of an additional 2.5 million gallons of water per year. The building’s vivarium was also designed with a cage-washing system, one of the first of its kind installed in the United States. Through a counter-current rinsing process, water, energy, and chemicals could be saved and recycled.

Energy Efficiency - A specialized penthouse hidden by a sloped roof was designed to house .four 20 ft enthalpy wheels able to recover heat energy from exhaust air. This energy could then be used to preheat the outside air in the winter, and cool it in the summer. This unique preheating and cooling system significantly lowered the amount of energy necessary to control the temperature in the building.

Natural Light - Access to daylight was one of the more important focuses when designing the Whitehead Biomedical Research building. Ninety percent of the lab and office spaces were placed around perimeter of the building with windows to the outside. The building’s lighting system acts as backup, set on an automatic switch that calibrates light output based on the amount of natural lighting available at any given time. Each lab also contains motion detector lighting, and manual switches to control the lights when necessary.

Structural Engineers: Standley D. Lindsey of Atlanta

Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and Fire-Protection Engineers: Nottingham, Brooke and Pennington

General Contractor/Construction Manager: Whitting-Turner Contracting Company

Architect: HO+K with Mark Graham as Designer