From Living Building Science


The Kendeda Building has many intricacies making it the sustainable building it is today. Seven "Petals" can describe the overall workings and goals of the Kendeda building, the Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty petals. The Condensate Team focused primarily on the water petal, with an emphasis on the place petal.

The Condensate Team sought to learn more about the unique condensate system at the Kendeda Living Building. The research was primarily focused on any possible potential consequences that may arise with the use of condensate water as Kendeda's primary source of irrigation. Principally focusing on testing water for heavy metals and irrigated plants. As well as test for the presence of Legionnaires disease in the condensate tank. Legionella pneumophila, the bacteria responsible for Legionnaires disease can be prevalent in many man made water systems, depending on a multitude of factors from temperature to flow. Any possible heavy metal traces from the condensate system need to noted, or proved nonexistent due to the fact of the edible nature of many of the planned agriculture of Kendeda.

System Specifics

The system being focused on for this research is the condensate system in the Kendeda Building. The purpose of this system is to take in the condensate from the air when it comes in the vents, store it, and then send it back out to be used as irrigation for the various plants around Kendeda. This system is made mainly of stainless steel and HDPE, which was found using the building schematics. From this, various studies show that there are common metals that leach from steel and these will be used as a basis for the testing in order to see if there is any leaching. The condensate water also sits in a large tank for an extended period of time before being used, especially if it is very humid for multiple days at a time. Because of this there will be tests for the presence of legionella in the irrigation water. This would be an issue, especially since the condensate water will be used to irrigate edible plants in the future.

Analogous Systems

The condensate system in the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design is quite useful, particularly in regard to irrigation needs. Condensation irrigation is an upcoming implementable process being utilized around the world.

An example of a long time implemented condensate irrigation system can be that of Hietala Market Gardens in Övertorneå, Sweden. They are a commercial greenhouse which grow vegetables such as cucumbers. A climate controlled condensate system test was implemented in one of the cucumber green houses. This system was no only successful for irrigation but could regulate soil temperatures and advanced the planting date of cucumber crops. This system was in use for approximately twenty years, until removed in 2004.

Many living buildings utilize water reclamation and capture for irrigation in a multitude of ways. Looking at fully living certified buildings as per the International Living Future Institute's website, it seems that scarcely any buildings utilize condensation irrigation in an impactful manner. For example, the Desert Rain living building in Bend, Oregon uses very little water for irrigation whatsoever, and plans to remove irrigation entirely if deemed acceptable. This is accomplished through sparse and native plants calculated to survive on rainwater alone. Some building sites including the Kendeda building utilize drip irrigation (a micro irrigation apparatus used directly above or in the soil of plants), however for water reclamation may utilize capture systems through physical building design or surrounding nature. The Kendeda Living Building is located in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia in the Georgia Institute of Technology. Therefore, implementing surrounding nature as a source of widespread water reclamation is not feasible. Due to the Kendeda buildings unfavorable location in terms of ease and Kendeda's plan to grow native plants as well as create a garden which students can utilize, additional systems need to be utilized to achieve the same objective as other living buildings.

General Methodology

The general methodology proposed is outlined as below:

The main goal of this project is to:

  1. Collect water from the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design, particularly from that of the H.V.A.C. condensate system.
  1. Use methods such as certain spectroscopy to detect any trace heavy metals in water samples
  1. Use culturing methods to detect any samples of Legionella pneumonia in water samples
  1. Use water samples to grow known heavy metal accumulators such as Helianthus gracilentus & Raphanus sativus, test for heavy metals

General extraction process

H.V.A.C. condensate tank is located at bottom floor of Kendeda building. Contact a building maintenance professional to access condensate system. Use personal protective equipment and sterile containers to collect water from condensate. Water collection should be done on a consistent and timely basis. Utmost safety and common sense should be used when collecting samples, vials should be labeled properly, hands should be washed, etc.

Heavy metal detection

Water samples from condensate compared with tap water and then will be analyzed for trace heavy metals using either Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy or Flame Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy. Particularly trace heavy metals such as iron, cadmium, nickel, lead, and more will be focused on.

Culturing Methods for Legionella pneumonia

Water samples will be collected. Then comparatively using condensate samples and tap water samples. Also perform swabs in tank area. Culture using BCYE medium without L-cysteine & BCYE medium with L-Cysteine. Incubate at 36 degrees Celsius. Try and swab pipes if possible as well.

Accumulator water growth

Two species of known hyper accumulators, dwarf sunflowers - Helianthus gracilentus and radishes – Raphanus sativus. These will be grown under constant conditions and will be split up into separate groups. One with water from the condensate system proposed for irrigation, and the other with tap water. Collect biomass and soil samples, then use dry ashing or wet digestion method along with ICPMS to receive data. Use personal protective equipment under all circumstances when working with any materials.

Associated risks

The major risk involved with this experiment is the possibility of Legionnaires disease Legionella pneumonia. All work with culturing will be done in proper biosafety level areas with appropriate personal protective equipment in a proper biosafety cabinet. Personal protective will be worn at all times performing any experiments that has any associated risk whatsoever.


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Dhiman, S. S., Zhao, X., Li, J., Kim, D., Kalia, V. C., Kim, I.-W., . . . Lee, J.-K. (2017). Metal accumulation by sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) and the efficacy of its biomass in enzymatic saccharification. PLOS ONE, 12(4), e0175845. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0175845

  • Discusses particular sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) heavy metal accumulation & saccharification efficiency

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  • Developed an onsite quantitative PCR method to detect & quantify Legionella in HVAC systems

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  • Analyzes tests done on four well-casings made of various materials (polytetrafluorethylene(PTFE) , polyvinylchlorine(PVC) , and two types of stainless steel). Shows that the stainless steel cases were low-level sources for Cadmium(Cd) and sorption sites for Arsenic(As), Chromium(Cr), and Lead(Pb).

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  • Discusses benefits & drawbacks of particular AC cooling coils in terms of a microbial sense

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  • Evaluates factors & risks of cooling towers in terms of risk of legionnaires disease community spread & outbreaks

Team Members

Name Major Time
Drew Schilling Biochemistry January 2020 - Present
Alana Neely Environmental Engineering January 2020 - Present
Caroline Daniel Environmental Engineering January 2020 - Present