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logoShaping Tomorrow's Built Environment Today

Georgia Aquarium Granted LEED Certification

Provided by Georgia Aquarium at

When you’re at AHR Expo, we want you to focus on your work, but if you have time on your hands, we encourage you to visit some of Atlanta’s coolest sites. One of them is the Georgia Aquarium, which was granted LEED certification for its most recent expansion, including  Sharks! Predators of the Deep!

Throughout the expansion process at the Aquarium, sustainability was at the forefront of design and construction. The project established certification through the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED™ green building rating, which is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership.

The Aquarium’s expansion’s goal was to minimize site disturbance. Located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, AHR Expo visitors have access to nearby restaurants, museums, parks, entertainment and other attractions. Visitors can take advantage of public transportation by using the nearby light rail or one of the many bus lines (totaling more than 200 weekday trips and 252 weekend trips). Much like the home to this year’s AHR Expo, the Georgia World Congress Center, the Aquarium also offers bicycle “parking” and storage to promote healthy living and to lessen the dependence on vehicles. If you come back to Atlanta during the summer, you should note that there is covered parking for about 85% of the spaces. This is done to curtail the impacts of Heat Island Effect. To reduce this heat island effect, the Aquarium installed white-colored “cool roof” and light grey-colored concrete.

Measures were taken to improve the air quality and sea life in the new expansion. For example, efficient filtration systems with MERV 13 filters and CO2 monitoring were installed to ensure healthy indoor air. You will also see 10-foot walk-off mats at all entryways to limit debris from being tracked into the building. During construction, strict practices were put in place to minimize dust, debris and moisture from being trapped inside the building as well. This improved air quality during construction and will continue to provide long-term health benefits to occupants in the Aquarium.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), commercial and industrial sectors consume almost 50% of all U.S. energy produced. Much of this energy is wasted because of what the EIA calls inefficiencies and human behavior. The Aquarium Expansion is saving 451,034 kWh of energy annually—a 9% reduction in energy use from a baseline building. These energy savings are equivalent to saving 703,052 pounds of CO2, which could be used to power 54 homes for one year. The building was designed with an insulated envelope and minimal windows to promote thermal comfort. Incorporating LED lighting into the project was necessary to provide lighting levels that illuminate the featured sea life while not disturbing their natural habitat.

In aggregate, LEED projects are responsible for diverting more than 80 million tons of waste from landfills and this rate is growing exponentially. The Aquarium prioritized recycling throughout the building as well as during the construction process. A construction waste diversion rate of 75% was achieved during construction. Diverting waste from the landfill is something the Aquarium is actively working towards with daily operations. Throughout the aquarium, recycling bins are available for mixed paper, cardboard, glass, plastics and metals. The staff also collects batteries and electronic waste to ensure these items do not enter the landfill stream and contaminate vulnerable ecosystems.

In the U.S., buildings account for 13.6% of potable water use, which is why water conserving plumbing fixtures were selected in the Aquarium, achieving a 34% reduction. This amounts to about one million gallons of water saved annually, equivalent to our largest shark tank!

Quick Facts:

  • Georgia Aquarium recycles 23 tons of waste annually.
  • During marketing events, the Aquarium uses sustainable bamboo products instead of plastic.
  • The plastic utensils available for guest use in Café Aquaria are fully recyclable.
  • The Aquarium supplies all new employees with reusable straws and cutlery to cut down on waste produced by staff and volunteers.
  • 2019 and 2020 saw the installation of 16 new water bottle refill stations for guest and staff use, which track how many single-use plastic bottles each unit has saved.
  • During our expansion, strict practices minimizing dust, debris and moisture were required during construction. This improved the air quality both during construction and long-term inside the Georgia Aquarium.
  • In our bathrooms, water conserving plumbing fixtures save about one million gallons of water annually. That is the same amount of water as our newest gallery, Sharks! Predators of the Deep!
  • The Aquarium’s large-scale filtration system includes multiple water recovery systems that serve as exhibit wastewater treatment plants. Exhibit water is collected, filtered and processed before returning to the habitat, allowing the building to retain more than 99.5% of its water volume.

We encourage you to enjoy the exhibits.

Adapted from a web post by the Georgia Aquarium.