Harvard First University to Boast 50 LEED Certifications
Graced with four centuries’ worth of historic buildings, the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts may seem an unlikely place to look for cutting-edge sustainable design. In addition to its historic charm, though, Harvard has the highest number of LEED-certified buildings of any college or university—53 and counting, according to a recent announcement from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
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Being in an urban area without room to sprawl “motivates the university to renovate rather than build new,” explains Andrea Trimble, manager of green building services at Harvard. She states that just 16 of the 53 projects are certified under LEED for New Construction (LEED-NC)—and that many of those were gut renovations rather than new buildings. More than half are certified under LEED for Commercial Interiors, although only two are certified under LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM), the rating system that tracks ongoing sustainability efforts.
Trimble says the university’s long-term commitment to LEED has far-reaching advantages as an educational tool, both on and off campus. The near-constant need to document materials, products, processes, and lessons learned has not only helped Harvard streamline its green building process over the years, she says, but has also led to the creation of an online brain trust, Green.Harvard.edu, that includes case studies and a free life-cycle costing tool. (The site is currently undergoing renovations of its own, but all these features are available.)
Ten years of green building lessons from Harvard should prove a valuable resource—particularly for anyone interested in greening historic structures and other existing buildings. “One of the primary challenges with historic buildings is the envelope,” Trimble says, explaining that window modifications are particularly difficult. This can sometimes be an opportunity, though: a 2006 renovation of an 1888 factory building, certified Platinum under LEED-NC, returned operable windows to the structure. That building also received added insulation after comprehensive hygrothermal modeling to assess the moisture implications, says Trimble. Some historic masonry buildings cannot be insulated due to moisture issues that could compromise the structure, making Harvard’s requirement of LEED Gold (with its associated energy-efficiency requirements) for all whole-building projects that much more of a challenge.
Despite such difficulties, Harvard, like other colleges and universities, has an advantage that many organizations with lofty sustainability goals probably envy: an engaged community of building occupants who are easy to communicate with and responsive to sustainability goals. The university’s green building standard requires that all stakeholders, including students, participate in design charrettes before a project begins and that all building managers, maintenance staff, and occupants receive training on how to use the building’s green features.
According to a press release, Harvard’s carbon emissions from buildings have dropped 20 percent since 2006, due in part to building efficiency and the engagement of faculty, staff, and students in activities designed to change behavior.
Copyright 2011 by BuildingGreen Inc.