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Georgia Tech improving park above huge cistern that helped clinch a LEED Platinum Certification

Tech Green is built atop a 1.4 million gallon cistern. Georgia Tech has started a project to improve drainage and irrigation in the area. Credit:

By David Pendered

Georgia Tech has started work to improve drainage of Tech Green, a green space built as part of the effort to develop a sustainably designed building – the G. Wayne Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons.

Tech Green is built atop a 1.4 million gallon cistern. Georgia Tech has started a project to improve drainage and irrigation in the area. Credit:

Tech Green is built atop a 1.4 million gallon cistern. Georgia Tech has started a project to improve drainage and irrigation in the area. Credit: Hoki T. via foursquare.com

Clough Commons opened in 2011. In 2013, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded the Commons the highest green certification possible, a LEED Platinum Certification.

One unique feature of Clough Commons was the installation of a 1.4 million gallon cistern under Tech Green. The cistern was part of the effort to develop a sustainable building that would set the standard for other college campuses.

The cistern holds storm water runoff from the park and from Clough Commons. Water that’s harvested from the cistern is used for flushing toilets in the building and for watering nearby landscapes. The cistern holds so much water that it could supply water for Clough Commons with no interruption for up to 28 days, according to a report on Tech’s website.

The end result is a systems that collects and stores for recycling 89 percent of the water needed to operate the building, according to Tech’s report. Clough Commons provides 220,000 square feet of space and was built at a cost of $93 million, according to Tech’s report.

Now, Tech is in the process of improving the soil and drainage of Tech Green.

Once the drainage system is improved, Tech Green is expected to recover more quickly after heavy rains, and from heavy use during activities. The irrigation system also is to be upgraded.

Tech Green, lunch

Georgia Tech students will have to find another park to enjoy their lunch, while Tech Green is closed for construction until August. Credit: Jingyi Z. via foursquare.com

Tech Green was closed Monday and will remain closed until August. The construction is to be finished in May. The area will remain off limits during the summer, providing time for newly planted grass to take root.

Another project, just to the north of Tech Green, is to begin in March and be complete by November.

This one involves replacing a large section of steam pipes along Atlantic Drive. The pipes were built in the early 1950s and support the heating and research needs of academic buildings in the area.

Once the pipes are replaced, Tech intends to install landscaping and hardscaping that are to create a more pleasant place to walk. Lighting is to be improved, as well.

Tech’s goal is to create an environment more like the one that leads to the Engineered Biosciences Building.

Retrofitting Tech Green is not directly related to Tech’s Landscape Master Plan, adopted in 2011, or to the Stormwater Master Plan, adopted in 2013. But it does illustrate Tech’s intent to reduce its environmental footprint.

These plans provide a holistic approach to the sustainable management of storm water runoff and green space. The plan provides for a comprehensive, yet nuanced, retrofit of the Tech campus over time.

tech green map

Tech Green is located adjacent to the LEED Platinum Certified Clough Commons. Credit: David Pendered, map.gatech.edu

The plans are to result in a series of green spaces that follow the path of streams that now are buried. Rain gardens, bio retention areas and interconnected cisterns, plus the additions of trees, are intended to manage storm water runoff.

Hoped-for outcomes include:

  • A 50 percent reduction of storm water discharged to the Atlanta sewer system, using 2003 as the base year;
  • Increase campus tree canopy to 55 percent;
  • Reduce light pollution;
  • Buffer noise;
  • Reduce lawn areas;
  • Create a variety of outdoor venues for activities and relaxation.
David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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1 Comment

  1. Burroughston Broch February 17, 2016 12:04 pm

    A retrofit less than five years after completion means there are problems with the original design and construction. Why weren’t these problems caught during the Contractor’s warranty period?Report


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