Campus & Community

Green building milestone

6 min read

Harvard earns its 50th LEED certification

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Aug. 1, 2011 — In a first for any higher education institution, Harvard University has achieved its 50th Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The green building milestone includes six platinum-level projects and represents more than 1.5 million square feet of labs, dormitories, libraries, classrooms, and offices. An additional 3 million square feet of space is registered and pursuing LEED certification.

Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO, and founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) that oversees the LEED standards, said, “The strength of USGBC has always been the collective strength of our leaders in the building industry. Given the extraordinary importance of climate protection and the central role of the building industry in that effort, Harvard University demonstrates a tremendous accomplishment and exemplary leadership through its 50th LEED certification.”

(Click here to view a photo slideshow of some of Harvard’s LEED green building projects.)

Harvard’s commitment to green building is part of a University-wide goal adopted by President Drew Faust and the School deans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent below 2006 levels, including growth, by 2016.

“As a University, we have a special responsibility to confront the challenges of climate change, not only through academic research but by transforming the way we operate our campus,” said Faust. “By constructing more-efficient buildings and renovating older buildings to make them greener, we are reducing energy use, cutting harmful greenhouse gas emissions. and improving the teaching and working environment for our entire community. I want to thank the staff members across Harvard who partnered with faculty and students to reach this milestone.”

In all, Harvard has more than 90 green building projects that have received or are seeking LEED certification. Energy models suggest that the 14 LEED new construction projects have delivered more than  $1.5 million in energy savings annually and a reduction of more than 4,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCDE) annually, which equates to an average reduction of 34 percent below industry energy standards.

Since its first LEED Commercial Interior Pilot Project in 2001, Harvard has used the USGBC’s rating systems to advocate for sustainable design, to drive continual improvement, and to ensure accountability in building design, construction, maintenance, and operations.

Design, construction, operations, and sustainability teams collaborate to reach environmental goals throughout the project development and implementation processes. In addition, as part of a focus on implementing “net present value” projects, the University’s Schools and units developed and approved a Life Cycle Costing Tool to prioritize projects that are both economically viable and environmentally beneficial.

In April, Harvard announced a 10 percent decline in the University’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, including about 3 million square feet of growth, from its fiscal 2006 baseline. Excluding growth, emissions from baseline buildings have dropped 20 percent, reflecting energy supply improvements, efficiency measures, and the engagement of faculty, staff, and students in activities designed to change behavior.

Harvard’s green building progress has been driven by widespread community engagement from students, faculty, and staff across many Schools and units. The approach includes several key elements:

  • Comprehensive and aggressive Green Building Standards that apply to all capital construction and renovation projects. The standards, adopted in 2009, recognize the importance of process by including requirements for integrated design and building in occupant engagement, life cycle costing, and energy modeling. LEED rating system requirements ensure accountability.
  • A central Office for Sustainability that oversees University-wide implementation of sustainability commitments. Occupant Engagement programs and initiatives help to build a culture of sustainability across Harvard, giving students, staff, and employees the tools and resources to creatively and effectively reduce energy use and conserve resources.
  • Harvard’s Green Building Services team, an internal group that provides sustainable-building consulting, LEED certification management, energy audits, commissioning, services to measure implementation of energy conservation efforts, and knowledge management services.
  • Harvard’s online, web-based Green Building Resource, an important tool that not only allows the University to publicly share best practices and lessons learned, but also helps to drive ongoing improvements in the Harvard community.

Additional background and online resources:

  • Click here to view a photo slideshow of some of Harvard’s key green building projects.
  • Click here to view case studies of Harvard’s LEED building projects.
  • Visit the Harvard Green Building Resource for tools and resources.
  • Visit and the Office for Sustainability for more information about Harvard’s commitment to sustainability.

About the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)

The council is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for the nation

through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. With 79 local affiliates, nearly 16,000 member organizations, and more than 167,000 LEED Professional Credential holders, USGBC is the driving force of an industry that is projected to contribute $554 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product from 2009-2013. USGBC leads a diverse constituency of builders and environmentalists, corporations and nonprofit organizations, elected officials and concerned citizens, and teachers and students. For more information, visit, or Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

About LEED

The LEED green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction, and operation of green buildings. There are nearly 40,000 projects in the commercial and institutional LEED rating systems, covering more than 8 billion square feet of construction space in every U.S. state and in 120 countries. Further, more than 11,000 residences have been certified under the LEED for Homes rating system, with more than 52,000 additional homes registered. By using less energy, LEED-certified buildings save money for families, businesses, and taxpayers. They reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and they contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers, and the larger community.

About sustainability and green building at Harvard

The Harvard Green Building Services team supports University Schools and units in efforts to design, build, and operate their buildings more sustainably. The team helps to identify opportunities for improving building performance and shares best practices across the University. Green Building Services staff members also meet with project teams to explain Harvard’s Green Building Requirements, to facilitate green building training, and to manage many of the University’s LEED certification efforts.

The Harvard Office for Sustainability oversees the implementation of Harvard’s sustainability goals, aimed at saving energy, conserving resources, and reducing environmental impact. The office promotes change and innovation by partnering with Harvard’s Schools and departments to foster a culture of sustainability and to use the campus as a living laboratory for innovation. The office draws together faculty, students, and staff to share best practices and to develop new programs, policies, and procedures that serve as replicable models to inspire students and future leaders, while seeking to influence the higher education, government, and business sectors.

For further information, contact:

Harvard University Public Affairs & Communications

Colin Durrant, Manager of Sustainability Communications


Marisa Long, External Relations Manager