Building Policies

These guidelines were approved in June 2011 by the Williams College Board of Trustees, and updated in May 2016.


In January 2007, the Board of Trustees approved the College’s goal to reduce by 2020 greenhouse gas emissions associated with campus operations to 10% below 1990/91 levels, and the adoption of environmental sustainability as a guiding college principle.  In September of 2015, the Board of Trustees set a new goal to reduce the College’s greenhouse gas emissions to 35% below 1990/91 levels by 2020.

To reach the new goal, Williams will be investing in energy conservation and efficiency in existing buildings, acquiring 100% renewable, zero-emissions electricity and facilitating carbon reduction projects in the local community.  Before we can consider how to reduce emissions, however, we must first commit to not increasing emissions. The single largest factor in emissions growth over the history of the College has been increases in square footage, so we must guard carefully against a similar impact in the future.  These guidelines are intended, at a minimum, to keep new construction projects from increasing the College’s emissions (especially in the case of new square footage), and to provide guidance for taking the opportunity presented by significant renovations to reduce emissions.

About the Building Guidelines

These guidelines address situations in which construction has been deemed necessary.  New construction has an environmental cost, and that cost should be weighed carefully against the potential gains in energy efficiency that new construction can provide.  Before considering new construction, the College should examine under-utilized spaces on campus for renovation potential.

The guidelines serve three main purposes.

  • They establish targets for the energy use and emissions associated with building programs.
  • They offer a common understanding of how Williams’s guiding principles of sustainability should be realized in construction and major renovation projects.
  • They document Williams’s aspirations for establishing sustainability goals for major capital projects in a form that can be shared with individuals, other institutions, and the public.

This document is intended to provide general guidance. The details of implementation will be managed by those responsible for, and with the expertise relevant to, particular projects. Implementation will need to accommodate changes in technology and situations over time. The guidelines therefore do not delineate all that is and is not allowed.

The Building Guidelines

Williams College aspires to incorporate principles of sustainable design into the procurement, planning, construction and commissioning of new capital building and renovation projects. The potential impact on the environment and the overall energy usage of the campus should be a central consideration in any building project. While all projects should conform to high standards of sustainable practices, these guidelines apply to building projects in different ways, depending on total project cost and project scope. Projects with a total cost of over $5.3 million should seek LEED Gold certification (or a similar industry-accepted standard), or higher when feasible.  The certification level sought should be established early in the planning process. Special circumstances may dictate that a lower level be established due to inapplicability of the LEED program to a specific building type.

The College should seek to understand and, when practicable, develop standards, metrics and associated guidelines for additional sustainability strategies and related initiatives.  These guidelines and any associated standards and practices should be reviewed and revised, as necessary, at least every five years.

A. Procurement (Selecting a design team)

  1. Williams will provide a methodology in Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and contracts that will require project teams to provide sustainable and energy efficient design options for review/approval at key intervals during design process.
  2. The planning and design of a building or renovation program will establish energy goals for the finished structure(s), use energy modeling to project performance, and, where appropriate, will identify additional sources of energy.  Energy goals will be communicated in the RFP for design team selection.

B. Planning

  1. Building programs should seek to reduce, or at least not increase, the College’s annual energy-related (heating, cooling and electric) emissions through energy efficiency and, where feasible the adoption of renewable energy strategies.  This might be achieved through incorporating passive solar energy strategies within the building project, providing energy for the building from an on-site or off-site renewable source, or taking other campus buildings or facilities out of service.
  2. Each project design team will be responsible for a life-cycle analysis of energy costs over the anticipated lifetime of the project, and will use life-cycle analysis when designing building systems and building envelopes.

C. Construction

The energy use and emissions associated with construction should be monitored and minimized. This includes emissions associated with electricity, heating fuel, equipment fuel, and all other fuels consumed during construction and demolition.  When practical, construction materials with low embodied energy and other environmental impacts will be selected based upon life-cycle analysis.

D. Commissioning

  1.  The commissioning of new or renovated spaces should be conducted in ways that advance performance goals. New spaces should be retro-commissioned after a year of occupation to ensure that performance meets design intentions.
  2.  Building performance will be reviewed again at three years post-occupancy.


  • In projects of greater than $5.3 million with no work on envelope or mechanical systems, item B1 and C apply
  • In projects of less than $5.3 million that include all building systems – all items apply except LEED certification.
  • In projects of less than $5.3 million with no work on envelope or mechanical system, follow Facilities standards for environmental performance.
Envelope and mechanical system work (in addition to other work) Does not address envelope and mechanical systems.
Less than $5.3 million

(Example: a small dorm renovation)

All items apply except LEED certification.

(Example: a “facelift” that involves paint and carpet)

Follow Facilities building standards.

Greater than or equal to $5.3 million

(Example: a large renovation or new capital project)

All items apply.

(Example: an ADA compliance or masonry project)

Follow Facilities building standards.  Projects that could impact energy use should follow Item B1.   

Previous policies can be found here:

For more information about construction projects at Williams, visit the Planning, Design, and Construction homepage.