Building Certifications

According to the updated Building Policies of Williams College, all building projects of $5.3 million dollars or above must pursue LEED Gold certification (or a similarly high-performance building standard) or higher. In the past few years, the College has experimented with a couple of these certifications that require more sustainable building and operational practices including Living Building Challenge, Zero Energy Certification, and Passive House – explained here in detail.

A chart and list of the certified buildings on campus can be found here.


The U.S. Green Building Council manages the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, used widely across university systems to provide a framework for “healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings.” The LEED system works on a point basis, with four categories increasing in value: certified, silver, gold, and platinum. According to Williams College’s commitment to building projects sustainably, new construction ought to meet or surpass LEED certification. Data collected from the 2019 “Conceptualizing our Carbon” poster series shows that LEED accredited buildings are functioning at a higher efficiency than our older buildings.


The International Living Future Institute has several building challenges dedicated to setting guidelines for and rewarding highly efficient, low-energy, environmentally conscious, aesthetically attractive buildings of the future. Their Living Building Challenge (LBC) consists of 10 ‘petals’ that must be reached to attain full LBC certification: place, water, energy, health & happiness, materials, equity, and beauty. Buildings on the Williams College campus abide by many of these guidelines and either reach full certification or focus on a few of the challenge’s most essential petals.

Zero Energy

Another standard by which Williams College abides in some buildings is the Zero Energy certification by the International Living Future Institute. Zero Energy focuses on high-performance buildings, with the standard requiring that a hundred percent of the building’s energy must come from on-site renewable sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, or water power. This standard prohibits the use of fossil fuel combustion or nuclear power. It “exclusively on the energy balance of a project” instead of the broader approach of the LBC certification.

Passive House

The Passive House Institute US, Inc. is a non-profit organization behind the international ‘Passive House’ standard, which focuses on ultra-low energy and “provide[s] superior indoor air quality, resilience during power outages, and an extremely quiet, comfortable indoor environment.” The reduction of the building’s ecological footprint is achieved through particular insulation, windows, space, and ventilation design.

Virtual Building Tour