Sustainable Buildings

Front of brick building with green awnings
The renovation of Fort Bradshaw was completed in 2021.

The Williams College campus integrates historically important and newly-constructed buildings in order to meet the evolving needs of our vibrant campus community. Since buildings are among the most enduring and resource-intensive infrastructure on campus, they play an outsized role in meeting the college’s sustainability goals.

The Zilkha Center works with Planning, Design and Construction, Facilities Operations and Maintenance, the Provost’s Office, the Office of the VP for Finance and Operations, and others to embed sustainable building design, operations and maintenance principles into building renovations and new construction through green and sustainable building certifications such as ILFI Living Building Challenge, and Net Zero Energy certifications, Passive House, and LEED.


    For nearly two decades, new buildings construction on campus has used tenets from green building design and construction standards, including the US Green Building Council (LEED), the International Living Future Institute (Living Building Challenge, Petal, Core, and Zero Energy Certifications), and Passive House International US. An overview of these building certifications can be found here.

    In June 2023, the Board of Trustees endorsed the college's updated and expanded Sustainable Building Policy. It continues the minimum building performance requirement for larger capital projects — LEED Gold — while leaning more heavily into regenerative building design and operating principles as embodied by the International Living Future Institute's Living Building challenge and supplemental standards focusing on high energy efficiency and low carbon emissions such as zero energy, zero carbon and passive house designs.

    The policy consists of two parts: one for smaller capital projects, which often do not involve new building construction and are more limited in scope and design flexibility, and one for large capital projects, which typically involve new structures or gut renovations and which provide opportunities for the holistic integration of sustainable design principles. A third part specifically targeting sustainability integration into asset renewal projects is in development.

  • Green Gauges

    Another tool that the college uses to ensure high efficiency building performance is Green Gauges. Green Gauges is a guided process developed by Williams College to communicate fundamental information about a project’s green building characteristics. This process is employed in addition to — and interwoven with — the standard practice of architectural design and documentation and the college’s Sustainable Building Policy. The main goal of Green Gauges is to help Williams clearly understand the measurable effectiveness of sustainable building strategies.

    The information generated by the process helps identify what particular systems and approaches can be used to achieve desired sustainable building performance. Specifically, it answers these two basic questions:

    • “What does it cost?”
    • “What does it save?”

    The first part of Green Gauges allows the Design Team and Project Owner (the college) to evaluate various options early in the design phase, and make informed decisions as they relate to the Project Owner’s cost and sustainability objectives. The next part of the process tracks the results of the built systems, to see whether the building is performing as intended.

    Six contractual deliverables are required during design and construction. Each deliverable communicates specific information from the Design Team to the Project Owner about the fundamental building strategies being developed, and how those strategies impact cost, energy and operational carbon emissions. The review of the deliverable by the Design Team and Project Owner provides the opportunity to evaluate key information, make better decisions, and obtain approval for the project’s next steps.