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Tech Opens $93 Million Student Center

Clough Commons is complete in the heart of campus.

Undergrad students at Georgia Tech have a stylish new place to study.

On Aug. 20, the institute opened its new $93 million student center, the G. Wayne Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons -- or Clough Commons for short.

Designed to conserve energy and resources, the center is a hip gathering spot in the heart of campus. 

"It's a tremendous change to the center of campus," Catherine Murray-Rust, dean of libraries, said during a recent tour. "You can already see the sense of community."

Turner Construction Company built the center. The state contributed about $60 million to the project, Murray-Rust said. Other monies came from private sources, she said. 

"The building is a huge investment for Georgia Tech," said Austen Edwards, executive vice president of the undergraduate Student Government Association. "This is an incredible amount of space devoted to learning."

Easy on the Eyes

The 24-hour student center connects to Tech's library, offering much-needed space to study. The site once was a parking lot and "rather awful," Murray-Rust said. But now the property is "incredibly lovely" with its lush lawn, European-style plaza and wide sidewalks.

"It's so nice to have," Sameul Snow, a graduate environmental engineering student, said Wednesday. "It kind of takes the stress off the library."

The four-story building has 41 classrooms, two auditoriums and a variety of study spaces, labs and conference rooms.

There's a light-filled entry with a giant staircase where students can lounge between classes.

Clough Commons also houses Tech's second Starbucks location. The coffee shop is by the front desk, where computer screens stream valuable information including class schedules.

The Sweet Spot

Clough Commons has about 2,100 seats inside. Students can reserve rooms.

"It's cool because you can make all the reservations on your smartphone," said Elle Creel, president of the undergraduate Student Government Association. 

The most coveted spot for students? Likely the small, sun-lit study that has AstroTurf for carpet, bean bag chairs and a skyline view of Midtown.

"I am way more interested in studying in an environment like this," Creel, a senior who is studying business administration, said as she pounced on one of the silver squares. 

"This is the favorite room of every student on campus," Edwards said. 

Eco-Minded Design

Clough Commons was constructed with conservation in mind. 

"This building really embraces sustainable design from top to bottom" Brian Burleigh, a project leader with Turner Construction, said in a release. 

There's a 18,000-square-foot rooftop garden with native plants and benches for visitors. 

On the roof is a solar power system. There are 360 solar panels and 30 solar hot water collectors. Designed by Atlanta-based Radiance Solar, the system is expected to generate approximately 120,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and should heat about 50 percent of the building's hot water. 

Suniva, the company that manufactured the solar panels, developed the technology "about 100 yards" from the student center. The panels evolved from the work of Tech Professor Ajeet Rohatgi who founded the institute's photovoltaic research center. Suniva now has the rights to more than 40 patents. 

"A great story about solar innovation happening right here on the Georgia Tech campus," Jamie Porges, chief operating officer of Radiance, said in a release. "Solar has come a long way since the solar array was installed at Georgia Tech's natatorium in 1995. We expect the Clough center will be the beginning of a mainstream solar trend on the Georgia Tech campus."

The Clough Commons project also included installing a 1.4-million gallon underground cistern. The cistern captures runoff water for flushing toilets and irrigating the landscape. It was buried below the open lawn next to the center, so passers-by see only some storm water drains in the grass. 

Project leaders said they are seeking LEED certification for the center. 

"It's very innovative," Sam Bell, a first-year architecture student, said about the center's green design. "It's all very inspiring."

Updates are available on the student center's Facebook page

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