2020 Renovation & Construction Showcase: Emory Student Center

Emory Student Center 

Emory University | Atlanta

Submitted by: Benjamin Perlman, Director,
Student Center Operations & Events 
Campus Type: Four-year, private
Full-time enrollment: 14,679
Project broke ground: May 2017
Project completed: May 2019
Total area: 182,000 sq. ft.
Floors: 3
Project cost: $98.6 million
Architects: Duda Paine Architects LLP – Durham, North Carolina; MHTN Architects – Salt Lake City 

New Facilities  

Dobbs Common Table (restaurant): 20,000 sq. ft.
Kaldi’s Coffee: 2,500 sq. ft.
Eagle Emporium: 1,800 sq. ft.
Student involvement lounge: 5,600 sq. ft.
Commons: 3,000 sq. ft.
Multipurpose ballroom: 10,000 sq. ft.
Conference rooms: 2,800 sq. ft.
Student recreation lounge: 3,000 sq. ft. 

You know you did something right when the rest of the campus changes course and begins using the same design standards pioneered during completion of a new construction project. That’s what Emory University did after the new union project’s design team implemented a sustainability design process that is now the standard for all new construction and major renovation projects. 

Emory Student Center, Emory University The 115,000-square-foot new building, connected with new and renovated hardscaping and landscaping to an existing 67,000 facility, is the first LEED Platinum building on campus. Its energy use intensity metric (energy use per square foot) is less than half of an average student center thanks to a series of sustainable energy components like a field of underground geothermal wells in adjacent McDonough Field, a chilled beam system that uses piped water in ceiling systems to heat and cool, slow turning but high volume airplane propeller-size fans, solar hot water heating, room occupancy sensors, and daylight harvesting sensory windows that work with LED light fixtures for the right mix of natural and electric lighting. The dining operations are serving 1,000 more customers daily compared to the previous facility, customer satisfaction ratings have jumped nearly 30%, and they’ve done away with food trays and installed an industrial composting system in the kitchen. 

Emory Student Center, Emory University It all started as a dining renovation project, but a feasibility study found costs outweighing benefits, so there was a pivot to outsource a dining consultant while the project team reviewed event and reservation history. Taken together, the project goals evolved into four key needs: provide collaboration and community building opportunities; improve meeting and event experiences for the entire campus; offer a premier dining experience for the student body; and increase the visibility of Emory’s institutional spirit
and character. 

The new facility is now the hub for student engagement. It has experienced increases in event reservations and overall building traffic, and student spaces have remained full since opening day. New food offerings that include plant-based proteins, Southeast Asian fare, and rotisserie options have drawn praise and seen rising demand as students, faculty, staff, and guests dine in a space that has evolved from a campus cafeteria to a restaurant-style food hall. 

Emory Student Center, Emory University “We’re already considering ways to increase capacity in the new space,” said Student Center Director Benjamin Perlman. 

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