Summary of Sustainable Building Certifications

Since 2008 Williams College has pursued several green and sustainable building certifications, which are described below.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

The U.S. Green Building Council first launched LEED in 2000 and continues to manage the LEED rating system, now in version 4 with version 4.1 in beta testing. It is used across the world with the most LEED registered and certified square footage located in North America. Its framework aims to provide for “healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings.” The LEED system works on a point basis, with four categories of increasingly stringent requirements: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. It is available for Building Design and Construction, Interior Design and Construction, Building Operations and Maintenance, Neighborhood Development, Homes, and Cities. According to Williams College’s commitment to sustainable building, new capital projects valued above $10 million are required to meet at least LEED Gold level standards, while aspiring to more ambitious regenerative building design and operating principles.

Living Building Challenge

The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) has several building certifications dedicated to setting guidelines for and rewarding highly efficient, low-energy, environmentally conscious, aesthetically attractive buildings of the future. Focused heavily on actual building performance and less on prescriptive design requirements, ILFI’s Living Building Challenge (LBC) consists of seven ‘petals’ that must be reached to attain full LBC certification: Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. ILFI’s LBC 4.0 family of certifications includes additional options — zero carbon, zero energy and LBC Core — and has increasingly become the college’s preferred reference for sustainable building design and operation.

ILFI Zero Energy addresses the need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the building sector. It  requires that 100 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. ILFI Zero Carbon, while relaxing the location requirements for renewable energy generation, expands greenhouse gas emissions reductions to the embodied carbon in the building’s primary materials supply chain and requires that 100 percent of the carbon emissions impacts associated with the construction and materials of the project be disclosed and offset.

The college’s LBC certified buildings are the Class of 1966 Environmental Center (ILFI Petal certified with evaluation for full Living Building certification underway), the CDE Fellows Hall (ILFI Zero Energy), and Fort Bradshaw (ILFI Petal). In addition, the new Davis Center is expected to achieve ILFI Petal certification and the design process for the new Williams College Museum of Art aims to meet the ILFI Core requirements.

Passive House

The Passive House Institute US, Inc. is a non-profit organization that developed a climate zone and building typology specific ‘Passive House’ standard for North America, 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 energy footprint is achieved through heavy emphasis on tight envelopes, effective insulation, highly energy efficient glazing and space heating, cooling and ventilation systems. Williams College currently has one PHIUS Zero Energy certified building: Garfield House.