November: Buildings

Benefits of Green Buildings

Why do buildings matter? In the United States, buildings account for:

  • 40% of energy consumption[i],
  • 12% of water consumption[ii],
  • 30% of raw material use,
  • 30% of waste output, and
  • 35% of greenhouse gas emissions[iii]

What are green buildings? The US Green Building Council has developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for certification of green buildings and commercial interiors, which include energy; water; materials and resources; indoor environmental quality; and site selection and development.

What are the benefits? Green buildings typically use 25-30% less energy and 39% less potable water than traditional buildings[iv].  Improvements in employee productivity, student performance, and hospital patient recovery rates have been demonstrated by occupants of green buildings due to the healthy indoor environments.[v]

What are the costs? Green buildings don’t necessarily need to cost more than conventional buildings. The cost premium for most certified green buildings typically ranges from less than 0% to 4%, and these upfront costs are often offset by a decrease in long-term life cycle costs.[vi]

Green Buildings at Yale

Yale is committed to reducing its environmental impact even as the campus grows. Since 2010, all new construction and major renovation projects have met the LEED Gold standard and additional Yale-specific requirements. Yale currently has 9 LEED for New Construction (LEED NC) certified buildings and 12 LEED for Commercial Interiors (LEED CI) certified renovation projects. 

To learn more about the LEED certified buildings and interior spaces at Yale, visit our website or take a self-guided walking tour.


Sustainable choices you can make…

The performance of an efficient building is about more than just the walls and technology—it is just as important that the people within those walls help their buildings perform optimally.

Water. Many of Yale’s buildings have low-flow fixtures to reduce water waste, and some even have reclaimed water systems that collect rain water and clear condensate to re-use in toilet and irrigation systems. Even so, Yale’s campus consumes over 400 million gallons of potable water per year.

  • Tip: Several buildings at Yale have dual flush toilets. To use these, lift the handle up for liquid waste or push it down for solid waste. Each liquid waste flush uses 1.1 gallons per flush compared to the standard flush of 1.6 gallons – a reduction of over 30%.
  • Tip: Approximately 50% of Yale’s water consumption is used for generating chilled water for cooling campus buildings. Help save water by cooling your space less.

Energy. The University has reduced energy consumption by 5% since 2009, but there is still much more to save. Many buildings have energy management systems, but it is also up to individuals to reduce heating, cooling, and electricity demands.

  • Tip: Every time you leave the room, make sure any unnecessary lights, appliances, and computers are turned off, especially desk lamps, which are easy to forget about.  Before leaving the office for the weekend or holiday recess, make sure that all appliances and computers are turned completely off and unplugged.
  • Tip: Take the stairs, especially during non-peak hours, when you might otherwise be taking an elevator trip alone. If you use the elevator to go up and down four flights of stairs four times a day, you can release more than 1000 pounds of carbon pollution into the air over the course of a year.[vii] Taking stairs burns seven times more calories than waiting for an elevator!

Healthy Indoor Environment. On average, Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, and indoor pollutant levels can exceed outdoor levels by two to five times. For Yale’s green buildings, interior finishes (e.g., paints, sealants, and adhesives) and flooring products (e.g., tile and carpet) have low volatile organic compound (VOC) content to reduce toxicity and noxious odors. Yale also follows green cleaning standards and practices, with a goal to reduce cleaning chemical usage on campus 30% from 2013 levels by June 2016. 

  • Tip: If you purchase your own cleaning supplies, look for products that are biodegradable, non-toxic, and non-petroleum based. 


Additional Resources

Have questions about your building space? Contact your Facilities Superintendent. If you work in a leased space, speak with your building manager, or contact the University Properties office.

To learn more about the LEED certified buildings at Yale, visit our website or refer to info cards inside the buildings. You can also arrange a tour of LEED buildings, or take our online sustainability tour.

For a detailed look at sustainable building initiatives around Yale, take a look at the article published in the Yale Daily News this September about Yale’s commitment to LEED certification.

Find out how hot it will get in your lifetime using The Guardian’s interactive guide, based on the UN’s examination of climate change science to date.

Have you reviewed the Yale Building Occupancy Training program yet?
Learn more about the sustainable aspects of your building, and how you can help maximize the performance of your building by reviewing the following PowerPoint presentations:

(These PowerPoint presentations work best when viewed in “presentation” mode and navigated using the “Next Slide,” “Back,” and “Bulldog” buttons.)

[i] Energy use by sector (2012 data): residential 18%, commercial 22%, transportation 28%, industrial 32%.  Source: Energy Information Administration.

[ii] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

[iii] GHG emissions by sector (2011 data): commercial and residential 35%, transportation 28%, industry 28%, agriculture 9%.  Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

[iv] World Green Building Council, 2013.  “The Business Case for Green Building: A Review of the Costs and Benefits for Developers, Investors, and Occupants.”

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.