Campus & Community

FAS continues greening its scene

4 min read

Programs show broad-based reductions in energy use

Editor’s note: This is the first in an occasional series of stories on the measures individual Schools at Harvard are using to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A year after Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences formally launched its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction Program, aligned with the University-wide reduction goals, sustainability is becoming second nature across FAS.

For example, there’s the new e-mail account, where members of the Harvard community can report sprinklers running in the rain, athletic facilities ablaze with lights at 2 a.m., and lecture halls where climate control could be improved.

“The level of engagement is really remarkable,” said Jay M. Phillips, director of energy, sustainability, and infrastructure for FAS, one of eight officials who share these e-mail reports with building managers to see that problems are solved.

In a notable success story, Harvard College’s sprawling residential buildings in the past year have seen a 15 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions, a 30 percent drop in water use, and a 9 percent savings on utility costs.

Heather Henriksen, director of Harvard’s Office for Sustainability (OFS), credits FAS successes such as the undergraduate Resource Efficiency Program, where students act as green representatives within their dorms or Houses, and Green Teams, which harness the power of faculty, staff, and students to improve efficiency in office settings.

“Both are feathers in the cap of the FAS Green Program,” Henriksen said. “FAS has demonstrated that occupant-engagement programs lead to real resource reductions and, ultimately, economic savings.”

The concerted conservation efforts in the Houses and dormitories have contributed to the $5,594,908 that FAS saved in the past year through reductions in energy usage and associated utilities costs. FAS has also saved money through an array of energy conservation projects implemented since 2006: reducing building ventilation and heating and cooling loads, adjusting building temperatures and system schedules based on building occupancy, and installing solar panels and a bevy of other retrofits.

Many FAS employees have embraced a more low-tech approach: “freecycles,” where surplus office supplies are free for the taking. Dozens of staffers have showed up, snapping up much of what is offered for reuse. Inspired by freecycling’s popularity, OFS, Harvard’s Procurement Management office, and FAS have developed a University-wide Craigslist-like site for swapping office supplies, now available online at

Freecycling hasn’t just been a hit at Harvard. Columbia University has begun replicating the practices on its own campus.

“We’ve transitioned from being a sustainability follower among our Ivy peers some years ago to being a real leader now,” Phillips said, noting that Yale University is now seeking to replicate FAS’s successful greening of laboratories.

This year, FAS plunged into its biggest sustainability project yet, an ambitious, top-to-bottom makeover of the 102,000-square-foot Sherman Fairchild Biochemistry Building and its smaller neighbor, the Bauer Center. Two technologies never before employed in FAS buildings — an enthalpy wheel and a heat-shift chiller — will recapture heat ordinarily exhausted from the buildings, for reuse elsewhere.

Other innovations include a system to reclaim “gray” water for reuse in toilets, widespread use of LEDs for task lighting and illumination of laboratory benches, lights that self-dim when ample natural light is present, and a system that will use occupancy sensors to reduce air exchange in vacant areas.

“Better integrating building controls should help us achieve much greater efficiency,” Phillips said. “This project has been envisioned from the start as a ‘lab of the future.’ ”

Among the more futuristic touches, building occupants will find interactive screens showing energy use by lab or floor, so they can see, in real time, the energy-saving effects of their actions.

Next: A look at the Harvard Business School.