The Harvard Green Building Standards ensure the University's commitment to climate and health is reflected in the design and creation of our spaces.

Our Green Building Standards include process-oriented requirements to ensure that all sustainable design and operations opportunities are vetted and that performance requirements are achieved in a cost-effective manner. The Standards apply to all capital projects (new construction and major renovations) over $100,000 and should be included in all Request for Proposals. Additionally, some University-wide requirements are referenced in the Standards, which apply to both capital and non-capital projects.

Internal Implementation Tools


What do they include?

The Harvard Green Building Standards were last updated in October 2017, building upon the 2007 Green Building Guidelines, 2009 Green Building Standards, and 2014 Green Building Standards. The October 2017 version of the Standards streamline the documentation requirements for Tier 2 projects, increase the threshold of Tier 2A projects from $5 to $10 million, and include healthier material requirements that address chemicals of concern in furniture, carpet, non-blackout shades, and wall base.

For building materials, the update allows our community to move beyond LEED and transparency guidelines to upgraded requirements that will position Harvard as a leader in designing and building our spaces to optimize for health. These changes map to the University-wide Sustainability Plan’s focus on enhancing well-being, and reflect the very latest in science and research being conducted by Harvard faculty.

In addition to these updated requirements and recommendations, the Standards require:

  • Integrated design goal-setting charrettes with all key stakeholders
    • The Tier 2 charrette framework has been streamlined to only require one goal setting charrette.
    • Tier 1 projects are still required to hold three sustainability charrettes. The Standards have been updated with details regarding the preferred timing of these charrettes to ensure the project’s sustainability goals are established and met.
  • Multiple iterations of energy models and life cycle cost analyses to ensure energy conservation measures are properly vetted.
  • Aggressive energy, water, and material transparency
    • Rescriptive requirements

To support successful implementation of the Standards, Harvard has developed a set of tools for its project managers that can all be access through a Harvard pin-protected webpage.  Additional resources which are publicly available include our University-specific Life Cycle Cost Calculator, the Green Revolving Fund application, and LEED case studies.


How were they developed and updated?

Updates to the Green Building Standards are led by the Office for Sustainability and Green Building Services, in coordination with the Sustainability and Energy Management Council. The 2014 Standards were developed through a review committee co-Chaired by Jason Carlson, Chief of Operations at the Harvard Graduate School of Educations, and Pamela Choi Redfern, Director of Space Planning and Design at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, updated the Standards in 2014 based on a University-wide process focused on data-driven decision-making that was informed by best practices at Harvard and benchmarked against other industry leaders. The Standards were approved by Harvard’s Administrative Deans Council. A subsequent update was made in 2017, taking into new building regulations and feedback that was received from Schools.

Several factors have contributed to the success of this initiative to institutionalize green building practices into capital projects, including: the commitment and hard work of hundreds of facilities leaders and projects managers across the University's Schools and departments; a collaborative decision-making and stakeholder engagement process led by the Office for Sustainability and Green Building Services to develop and continually improve the Standards; development of knowledge-sharing resources, trainings and financial tools to support implementation; and an experienced internal green building consultant group that provides a full range of services and technical assistance to project teams.