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Green Building


Princeton's internal design standards include an expectation that all new projects and major renovations will achieve significant energy cost reductions versus comparable off-campus buildings, as well as a broad range of other sustainability requirements including Life Cycle Assessment of major building systems and materials. These standards require stringent analyses to evaluate sustainable features that maximize building energy and sustainability performance. 

Goals & Progress

  1. Goal: Increase building efficiency in new non-laboratory construction and major renovations to achieve 50 percent less energy cost than a comparable off-campus building; and increase building efficiency in laboratories and data centers to compete with industry leaders.

    • Upcoming projects designed for 30 to 50 percent energy efficiency improvement over off-campus equivalent buildings include: the Neuroscience and Psychology Buildings (under way), the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment (in design) and buildings in the Arts and Transit Neighborhood (in design).
    • With better than anticipated thermal properties, the green roofs that cover more than 50 percent of Butler College are expected to reduce expenditures for heating and cooling (see sidebar graph).
    • The new High-Performance Computing Research Center is being designed to replace select existing less efficient centers on campus, and also will take full advantage of server virtualization.
    • The current Jadwin Hall renovation allows for a 45 percent reduction in energy consumption. 
    • The new Frick Chemistry Laboratory features an estimated 30 percent less energy cost than a comparable off-campus building, as well as one of the University's first public electronic building performance dashboards in its atrium. Integrated mechanical systems enable the optimal transfer of cooled and heated air from offices through the atrium into the laboratories, reducing the amount of outside air that must be conditioned to meet the ventilation demands of the labs. Despite having 18 percent more square footage, additional energy-consuming equipment and modern ventilation, the new Frick has the same projected energy demand as the old chemistry laboratory. This building outperforms many other similar facilities in this climate zone, being roughly 10 percent more efficient than the average in energy intensity per square foot per year.
  2. Goal: While the University's Design Standards (.pdf) have required Life Cycle Cost Assessment (LCCA) for many years, all major projects must also meet the equivalent of LEED Silver rating.

  3. Goal: Use on-site renewables and alternative energy technologies, as well as natural resource conservation technologies, wherever cost effective.

    • In addition to existing installations at Lawrence Apartments and Campus Club, geothermal technology is under consideration for a number of future projects, including the Arts and Transit Neighborhood. A geothermal heat pump or ground source heat pump, used for central heating and/or cooling, pumps heat to or from the ground using the Earth as a heat source in the winter or a heat sink in the summer.
    • The new Frick Chemistry Laboratory has several devices that contribute to the façade's ability to optimize daylighting and views while limiting heat gain: external cast-aluminum louver-like sun-shades; high-efficiency exterior glazing; and fritted glass on the office block and external egress stairs.
    • Reducing demand on fresh water resources, underground rainwater storage and reuse systems are in place at Butler College (6,000-gallon) and the new Frick Chemistry Laboratory (12,000-gallon). The system in Frick collects rainwater from the roof and condensate from mechanical systems in the "penthouse" (see sidebar of Domestic Water section).
    • While a 95 percent construction debris recycling policy is in place for all major projects, the Office of Design and Construction has begun exploring specific strategies for applying this goal to small projects. Additional details are in the Waste Reduction section. 
  4. Goal: Continue to apply Life Cycle Cost Assessment (LCCA), including an internal CO2 tax, to major building systems and materials selection process.

    Progress: LCCA studies were used to inform decision-making processes in selecting several building elements in recent new construction and renovation projects, including: 
    • Engineering Quadrangle renovation: Larger scale infrastructure upgrades as part of smaller lab renovations.
    • New Frick Chemistry Laboratory: A 12,000-gallon rainwater collection system for flushing toilets, an auto-dimming lighting system, energy-efficient fume hoods equipped with automatic sash closers that will reduce both air supply and exhaust requirements, ceiling-mounted "chilled beams" that cool the room air by passive convection currents, and photovoltaic panels that both generate power and provide shade for the atrium.
    • Neuroscience and Psychology Buildings: Improve efficiency of ventilation in lab areas, including heat recovery technologies.
    • High-Performance Computing Research Center: An energy-efficient (combined heat and power) system that will provide both power and cooling, to all major HVAC and energy-consuming equipment, including server racks and cabinets.
    • LCCA studies were also conducted for Jadwin Hall and ongoing Firestone Library renovations, as well as for ongoing design of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, and the Arts and Transit Complex.
  5. Goal: Build internal expertise to ensure consistent application of Sustainable Building Guidelines across all projects.

    • More than 30 staff members in the offices of design and construction, facilities engineering, grounds and building maintenance, sustainability, housing and real estate services, and the University architect are now LEED Accredited Professionals.
    • As a recently authorized U.S. Green Building Council Education Provider, the Facilities Department not only provides continuing education for LEED credentialing, but goes beyond these requirements to offer more in-depth coursework on Princeton-based solutions for elements such as stormwater management, water conservation and energy management. 

What's Next

Short Term

  • Complete public building energy performance dashboard installations in Frick Chemistry Laboratory and Butler College.
  • Evaluate the pilot of continuous post-occupancy building system performance in Frick Chemistry Laboratory.
  • Test new materials (such as finishes) and processes (such as coordinated construction material recycling) in small renovations for consideration in University standards. Integrate this testing into the roles of new Facilities Sustainability Ambassadors where appropriate.
  • Refine furniture reuse and recycling programs.. 

Long Term

  • Refine Sustainable Building Guidelines, including interior materials selection.
  • Continue to apply LCCA to the development of major projects like the ongoing Firestone Library renovation, the Arts and Transit Neighborhood and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, as well as minor projects where appropriate. Continue to assemble an LCCA case library and apply accumulated LCCA knowledge to building project development.
  • Continue to refine Sustainable Building Guidelines (e.g., encourage a greater percentage of recycled debris on large projects and utilize a greater percentage of more sustainable materials) to maximize energy and sustainability performance.

Figure 3: Thermal Properties of Green and Conventional Roofs

This graph illustrates the significantly smaller variability and peak values in surface temperatures over five-minute intervals for the green roofs compared to the conventional roofs on Butler College. It was created from data recorded as part of the Princeton Environmental Institute sustainability program in undergraduate education and research. Click to enlarge.

(Data courtesy of Eileen Zerba, senior lecturer in ecology and evolutionary biology)

"To design a building that lasts for the long term, you need a client who keeps its eyes on the future. Princeton's emphasis on energy savings and durability really drives our design teams to produce more sustainable buildings, not only at Princeton but with other clients as well."
—Fiona Cousins, principal, Arup, New York, consulting engineers on the Frick Chemistry Laboratory

Chemistry PV

The photovoltaic panels, at the top and reflected in the glazed atrium roof at the bottom of this image, on the Frick Chemistry Laboratory convert solar energy into electricity and offer shade by letting in a controlled amount of light.

701 Carnegie

The office building at 701 Carnegie Center leased by the University from Boston Properties to house its finance and treasury operations and most information technology departments achieved LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2010.


Play video

Watch a video produced by the Student Environmental Communication Network exploring what it takes to make buildings more sustainable.


Lesson Learned

Laboratory buildings are very distinct from residential or administrative buildings in terms of energy use and the strategies for minimizing that use. As such we have learned to set different performance expectations for each.


"I first learned of the Office of Sustainability when I joined the Student Environmental Communication Network (SECN) in the summer of 2008. Not only did the office set up opportunities to interview heads of the various Princeton departments and student projects making headway in sustainability, but gave us access to regional resources in sustainability and media, including a trip to the studios of WNYC. By the end of it, I had created a sustainability energy mini-podcast, and mini-documentary on green roofs. The first item I later converted into a dance piece for eXpressions Dance Company. The last one I used to show off to interviewers.

"Later that summer, I co-edited the "Guide to Living Green at Princeton." As a Green Guide intern, I researched small steps the Princeton community could take to be more sustainable and, furthermore, what the University at large was doing for sustainability in research and in practice.

"I would strongly encourage current Princeton students to take advantage of the Office of Sustainability's resources and staff. The growing department is making great headway on campus. It provides funding and support for a variety of activities, all of which are very hands-on. Students are encouraged to show innovation, initiative and creativity and will find immediate rewards in the work they do."
—Jessica Hsu '10, master's student in civil engineering-green design, Carnegie Mellon University