By Alexander Landa

Congratulations are in order to Harvard for achieving a massive milestone! The prestigious University in Cambridge, MA, reached its goal of a 30% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions – a goal set from a 2006 baseline. In only 10 years, the combination of innovative design changes, educating the students, professors, and staff on better practices, and LEED designs, Harvard raised the bar for how a University can make a difference beyond the classroom. 

In their report from December 8th, Harvard's achievement and process is outlined. What makes this milestone even more special, is that it was achieved through innovation and growth, rather than just modifying adjusting systems. The image to the right shows what components went into the 10-year efforts.

Harvard is proof of how a legacy design can modernize existing structures, and coupled with new concepts and buildings, can make a massive impact with a series of carefully implemented – yet simple – design concepts. Across 25 million square feet of campus, it's amazing how geothermal wells, solar panels, and fuel switching can go. 

In Harvard President Drew Faust's message to the community, she mentioned of the goal, “This common purpose has brought our community together in exciting new ways…making the world better through research and teaching, through everyday actions and lifelong commitments.”

What's especially impressive about Harvard is their overall commitment to sustainability and green design. In 2015, they hit a major milestone of their 100th LEED certified design, with the Esteves Hall at the Business School obtaining a LEED Platinum renovation as lucky number 100.

100. LEED. Buildings. That's a lot. One can only imagine how Massachusetts would transform if other universities followed Harvard's example! If every university in the state did this – even a fraction of this – the results would be exponential. It's up to higher education facilities to become leaders in more than just academics – these are the institutions that facilitate change, create future leaders, and are looked upon for guidance by their surrounding communities. 

Harvard developed their own Green Building Standards to ensure that all future designs consider the climate and the health of inhabitants. These standards include consideration of healthy materials & transparency, feasibility of Net-Zero and Living Building Challenge certification for major projects, and a requirement for LEED v4 Gold certification.

Achieving a net positive, sustainable future is a team effort. It can't be done alone in an afternoon. For Harvard, it took an entire university and the surrounding community 10 years to make this change. We have to work with our friends, families, schools, work, and everyone else in our communities. This is greater than just one person, one group, one week. It's inspiring to see Harvard be a leader in green design, and it's exciting to see what they will do next.

Beyond this, Harvard is planning a 25-year Net Zero Action Plan with Cambridge.

We want to thank our friends Joel McKellar, Emil Quevas, Jaclyn Olsen, and Adam Meier for be part of an amazing team for making all of this happen. Let's keep up the good work!

Image and original story are from Harvard Sustainability – see the full report here.

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