Top 10 Sustainable U.S Colleges 0


Colleges and universities are in a particularly advantageous position to foster sustainability in the short and long term. Their decisions regarding energy, transportation, construction and operations can have real effects on the surrounding community, and collectively, the nation as a whole. Moreover, the inclusion of sustainability in the curriculum and activities of students will help shape a more eco-conscious society as we move forward. There are many different metrics that can be used to define sustainability, but in terms of resource efficiency and human health, LEED certified buildings can serve as a good measuring stick for a school’s commitment to sustainability. In no particular order, here are 10 universities that have demonstrated a willingness to be leaders in the field.

California Polytechnic State University

Cal Poly– Cal Poly is a leader in curriculum focused on sustainability; they currently offer over 170 courses with an emphasis on sustainability. In addition to educating the next generation of sustainable experts, they have made a strong commitment to LEED for their own campus. All new facilities are designed to be equivalent to a LEED Certified level of sustainability, with the goal of each project achieving LEED Silver or higher. Cal Poly was awarded LEED Silver certification for their Faculty Office East building in 2008 and LEED Gold certification for their Poly Canyon Village student housing in 2009, resulting in over 25% of the campus square footage being LEED certified. Moreover, the Poly Canyon Village project diverted 94% of the non-hazardous construction and demolition waste from landfills.

Total Number of LEED Certified Buildings – 11

Combined Square Footage LEED Certified – 1,425,794 sq. feet (25% of total area)


University of Vermont

UVM–Vermont aims to strategically bridge the academic activities of teaching, research and outreach with the operations of the university. Since 1990, they have tracked their greenhouse gas emissions and have their annual inventory available to the public. The university continues to add to the depth of the sustainability metrics they measure, and added monthly electricity data for individual buildings in 2006, as well as monthly heating fuel use and wastewater generated. To show their commitment to improving these metrics, the university requires a LEED Silver rating for all new buildings and major renovations.

Total Number of LEED Certified Buildings – 8

Combined Square Footage LEED Certified– 667,407 sq. feet (13% of total area)


University of Washington

UW– UW has shown a strong commitment to environmental stewardship & sustainability, in fact, they have received the highest grade (99) on the Princeton Review Green Honor Roll Rating four out of the last five years. The university also supports internal ‘Green Teams,’ which are groups of volunteers who look for ways to make their office environment more sustainable. They also require that all new buildings and major renovations to be designed, constructed and operated to meet a minimum LEED Silver certification level. Through these various initiatives, the university plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 15% of 2005 levels by 2020.

Total Number of LEED Certified Buildings – 11

Combined Square Footage LEED Certified – 1,374,874 sq. feet  (8% of total area)


University of Florida

UF– The UF Campus Master Plan outlines strategies for land use and responsible stewardship of resources that support the university’s mission. In 2009, they raised the minimum requirement for all new construction and renovations on campus to a LEED Gold certification standard. The university also boasts the first LEED Platinum facility in the state of Florida, the Heavener Football Complex. To support their commitment to LEED buildings, the College of Design, Construction and Planning has developed an interdisciplinary undergraduate Bachelor of Science in Sustainability and the Built Environment through a series of lectures, studios, seminars and internships.

Total number of LEED Certified Buildings – 18



Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT – As an institution engaged in intellectual endeavors related to environment, energy, and sustainability issues, MIT has taken a leading role in their approach to managing their campus operations. An early adopter of the LEED Rating System, MIT adopted a set of long-range environmental goals designed to promote campus sustainability back in 2001. Among these goals, was the requirement that all new construction and major renovation would be built to LEED Silver standard. In January 2010, MIT joined 25 other colleges in signing the World Economic Forum’s Global University Leaders Forum Sustainable Campus Charter.

Total Number of LEED Certified Buildings – 2

Combined Square Footage LEED Certified– 663,000 sq. feet


Harvard University

Harvard– The Harvard community continues to show their dedication to designing and operating sustainable and energy efficient buildings in which to work, live and learn. In 2009, the school adopted comprehensive Green Building Standards that includes a ‘LEED Gold or higher’ requirement for all new construction and major renovation, and energy audits on 100% of the square footage on campus. Harvard has also committed to a greenhouse gas reduction goal of 30% reduction from 2006 by 2016, despite any growth that occurs. This is in addition to other sustainable features, such as water metering systems on 100% of the buildings on campus.

Total Number of LEED Certified Buildings – 27

Combined Square Footage LEED Certified – 1,235,737 sq. feet

Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech– Georgia Tech has a rich tradition of resource conservation and sustainable practices. As far back as 2002, this tradition was codified as a requirement that all new buildings and major renovations would meet the standards for least LEED Silver certification. In 2009, Georgia Tech went further to require LEED Gold or higher on all new construction and major renovations. The university has accomplished this by following one of the most advanced documents in the college and university arena for environmental stewardship – the “Yellow Book.” Their efforts go beyond efficient design – for the 2009-2010 academic year, Georgia Tech diverted 98% of all non-hazardous
construction and demolition waste from landfills.

Total Number of LEED Certified Buildings – 4

Combined Square Footage LEED Certified – 721,967 sq. feet

University of Oregon

UO– In addition to their commitment that all new construction meets at least LEED Silver standards, Oregon has developed a number of innovative ways to improve the sustainability of their campus, staff and students. For their employees in administrative units responsible for office management, the university offers a free Green Office Training to orient them to the sustainability services available at UO and how they can evaluate their office with a standardized scorecard. For their students, they have developed the $CORE program, which provides free energy assessments to students living off campus performed by current students enrolled at the university.

Total number of LEED Certified Buildings – 2

Combined Square Footage LEED Certified – 259,390

Princeton University

Princeton University– Princeton sustainable building guidelines are integrated into their overall design standards. The university prides itself on the tough standards it has put in place, including building all new projects and major renovations to be 50% more efficient than a comparable off-campus building and built to LEED Silver equivalency. Although they generally do not seek LEED certification, they do apply an internal self-imposed ‘CO2 tax’ to value emissions associated with various building systems. Princeton also makes a point to ensure that these are direct CO2 reductions, as opposed to purchasing market “offsets.”

Total Number of LEED Certified Buildings – 1

Combined Square Footage LEED Certified – 120,000 sq. feet




Brown University

BU – Since 2007, Brown has been a model of sustainability, specifically in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the New England Clean Energy Council honored Brown as its Corporate Citizen of the Year for their emission reductions. They are accomplishing this, in part, by requiring that all new construction to be built to at least LEED Silver. Not only has LEED taken hold as the standard for new construction, a student chapter of the USGBC was established at Brown in 2011. This group has focused on group study sessions in preparation of the Green Associate exam and leading tours high-lighting the green features of buildings on campus. One of these features is the largest hybrid solar installation in the nation on the roof of the Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatic Center, which generates enough power to keep the lights on and enough thermal energy to heat the million-gallon pool.

Total Number of LEED Certified Buildings – 1

Combined Square Footage LEED Certified – 168,800 sq. feet

*For more information on the sustainability projects, goals and progress of colleges around the United States, visit

Original Article on CleanEdison Blog

Previous ArticleNext Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *