Our Plan

Maintain University-wide compliance with the Harvard Green Building Standards, and continue to incorporate sustainability goals into campus planning. View our Plan

Our Progress

The University's buildings are where we live, work, learn and conduct life-saving, groundbreaking research. They are also where we consume an enormous amount of energy—98% of Harvard's emissions are associated with heating and cooling the more than seven hundred buildings spread across campus. As the University works to meet its ambitious climate goal to reduce emissions 30% by 2016, increasing the energy efficiency of our buildings has become a top priority.

Harvard’s Green Building Standards dictate a broad set of requirements for pursuing energy efficient, healthy design in the built environment. Developed in coordination with facilities leaders across Harvard, they align the decentralized University around a common set of principles for how to create spaces for research and teaching spaces using the latest in high performance, energy efficiency building techniques.

As a result, Harvard has more LEED certified building projects than any other higher education institution in the world, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. Chances are if you have visited, studied or worked at Harvard, you have entered a LEED certified space that runs more efficiently, creates less waste, and healthier for people and the surrounding environment. 

Energy Efficiency FIRST

In addition to targeting construction and renovation through our Green Building Standards, Harvard's facilities leaders and building managers are increasingly working behind the scenes to optimize building energy systems and performance to improve efficiency. 

More than 80% of campus, including all energy-intensive spaces, has been energy audited, and four of Harvard’s Schools employ full-time energy managers. Energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions reduction has also been integrated into the five-year capital planning process, resulting in the implementating of more than 1,300 energy efficiency measures.

University-wide energy use has decreased 2%, even after accounting for an 11% increase in square footage, much of which was energy-intensive research and laboratory space.

Examples of ongoing commissioning projects include:

  • An ongoing retro-commissioning project at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Laboratory for Integrated Science and Engineering (LISE) building has resulted in over $3.15 million in cumulative savings since 2009. The facilities team monitors over 3,400 data points from equipment such as air handling units, and chilled and hot water pumps. Reductions in airflow have had greatest impact, while additional actions like identifying leaks that are wasting energy have also contributed.
  • At Harvard Business School, an ongoing commissioning project underway since 2008 has covered 14 buildings, yielding more than $320,000 in savings that have contributed to a 3.6 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The simple payback (when the costs are made up for by the savings) for the projects they have implemented is well under two years (1.51 years). 

Academic programs

The Center for Green Buildings and Cities at the Harvard Graduate School of Design is an independent research center devoted to exploring innovative design strategies that address our most pressing environmental challenges. The Center's researchers are engaged in long-term multidsiciplinary research, from the micro scale of materials technology to the macro scale of urban planning, with the goal of driving the development of new design strategies for a more sustainable built environment.

The Nature, Health and the Built Environment Program at the Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment draws from research to support evidence-based recommendations that help policymakers, urban designers, and physicians support healthy communities.


University-wide tools and resources have been created to help Harvard Schools and  departments meet the climate goal and Green Building Standards.  Many of these resources were developed as part of a community-driven, collaborative process in which representatives from across the University had the opportunity to create, review and revise the tools:

  • Green Revolving FundProvides a no-interest source of capital for high performance campus design, operations, maintenance and occupant behavior projects that generate clear environmental impact reductions. Loans are repaid based on the anticipated annual savings with a maximum payback of 11 years.  
  • Life Cycle Cost Policy that provides clear financial and GHG reduction metrics to ensure long-term financial impacts are included in decision-making and capital planning. It includes a Life Cycle Cost Calculator designed to aid project managers in considering all present and future costs.
  • Green Building Resource website that provides LEED case studies and other sample documentation to assist project managers.
  • The Green Building Services team within Harvard Campus Services Energy and Facilities, supports University Schools and units in efforts to design, build, and operate their buildings more sustainably.