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Harvard Reduces Emissions, Costs With 50 LEED Certifications

Harvard University has achieved its 50th LEED certification as part of an institution-wide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below 2006 levels by 2016.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is an international green building certification system for new construction and major renovations developed by the United States Green Building Council in 2000. The LEED suite of measurement systems measures performance in several areas, including site sustainability, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, locations and linkages, awareness and education, innovation in design, and regional priority. Newly constructed buildings are certified at four different levels, certified, silver, gold, and platinum, according to how many credits they receive.

With its newest LEED certification, Harvard's sustainable spaces include six platinum-level projects and more than 1.5 million square feet of labs, dormitories, libraries, classrooms, and office space. The university is also seeking is currently seeking certification for more than 40 additional projects, representing more than 3 million square feet.

Fourteen of Harvard's LEED certifications are new construction projects and "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 annually, which equates to an average reduction of 34 percent below industry energy standards," according to information released by the university.

Harvard's sustainability efforts include elements designed to encourage community engagement from students, faculty, and staff. They include:

  • Green building standards, adopted in 2009, to integrate design, occupant engagement, life cycle cost, and energy modeling with LEED certification ensuring accountability;
  • An office for sustainability that oversees implementation, and occupant engagement programs provide the university community with resources to reduce energy use and conserve resources;
  • A green building services team that provides consulting, certification management, energy audits, measurement of implementation efforts, and knowledge management services; and
  • An online green building resource for sharing best practices and driving improvements.

As a result of these efforts, the university has seen a 10 percent decline in emissions since 2006, despite approximately 3 million square feet of growth. The emissions reduction doubles to 20 percent when growth is excluded.

"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 Harvard University President Drew 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."

More information about Harvard's sustainability efforts is available at

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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