Over the past several years, Harvard has committed to greening its buildings through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications. This system offers a framework for reducing emissions and energy consumption through various building strategies. At Harvard, a vast majority of certified and registered projects have been undertaken for new construction. However, only a few buildings have pursued the “Existing Buildings” (EB) certification. Thayer Hall, one of FAS’s undergraduate dormitories was the first building to embark on a two and a half year journey to earn EB credentials.

The project team, led by the FAS Green Program, brought together building managers and senior managers from across FAS to develop in-house LEED-EB expertise and to identify practices that could be extended to other residential buildings. Each team member took on a different LEED category and worked to ensure Thayer’s compliance with relevant prerequisites and implement operational and infrastructural changes.  Harvard’s Green Building Services assisted with documentation and final submission. Jay Phillips, FAS Senior Director of Operations called the effort “a valuable exercise.” “We have learned a lot from the experience, and we realized that many of our regular operational practices were already aligned with LEED guidelines.”

The team instituted conservation measures and incorporated best operations, maintenance and reporting practices. The changes ranged from cleaning protocols to snow removal and landscaping services. One of the core aspects that the LEED-EB rating system addresses is energy performance.  Between FY08 and FY10, Thayer Hall reduced its energy consumption by ten percent. These savings were accomplished through lighting retrofits, temperature adjustments, and other measures in response to the Indoor Environmental Quality survey that was distributed to residents.

We have learned a lot from the experience, and we realized that many of our regular operational practices were already aligned with LEED guidelines.

The students of the Resource Efficiency Program (REP) coordinated with the Freshmen Dean's Office to include information on green computing in an email announcement sent to students before their arrival. REP also included information about Energy Star and EPEAT electronics in the welcome packets for all the incoming students. They ran a recycling/waste reduction campaign and waste audit with Harvard’s Recycling Services. Student REPs conducted surveys to evaluate students’ decisions in the light of the Sustainable Purchasing Policy for electronics and to assess students’ thermal comfort.

Lessons learned from this project have already been applied to all the other dorms in the Yard. “All our buildings now feature water efficient fixtures, use green cleaning and paint products, have 100% recycling content matting systems set up near main entrances and have switched to 100% local, FSC furniture,”  said Anthony Pacillo, Senior Manager of Harvard Yard and Freshmen Dormitories.  Thayer’s progress has also inspired residents to pursue other ideas, like setting up vermiculture in the kitchen area and reducing waste in other College buildings, such as replacing paper towels with air-hand dryers in the Science Center, a building with the highest freshman traffic on campus. Thayer’s example will continue to promote green projects in other existing buildings at Harvard.