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The built environment at Stanford is a critical component of supporting academic life, and the university designs and creates buildings that preserve existing green space while using responsibly sourced materials to mitigate environmental impacts. Stanford aims to ensure that all buildings on campus are as efficient as possible, which is key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, 93% of campus greenhouse gas emissions come from energy generated for heating, cooling, and electricity in buildings.

To improve building efficiency, design teams refer to the Guidelines for Sustainable Buildings, which were influenced by Frederick Law Olmstead, Stanford’s original master plan designer and the visionary founder of American landscape architecture. Olmsted envisioned a beautiful, functional campus that would conserve resources, while accommodating the surrounding environment. The guidelines, which new building projects are expected to follow, uphold Olmsted’s vision in today’s context.

Stanford’s new buildings are designed to meet a whole-building energy performance target. The target is unique to each new building, but based on performance of existing campus buildings of the same space type. Each new building is targeted to perform better than comparable buildings that were built before it.

In addition to meeting energy performance targets for new buildings, the university also makes significant investments to improve efficiency in existing buildings. Upgrades include reducing energy and water use to ensure resources are used sustainably.


View the 2018-19 Sustainability Year in Review for more information on energy and water use in buildings and overall campus performance. 

Completed Projects​

  • Stanford Redwood City  has finished the first phase of construction and  non-academic groups are now occupying the new satellite campus. The campus design responds to the guiding principles and objectives that enrich and carry forward the existing Stanford culture, while offering benefits to the surrounding community. It also sets an example of Stanford’s commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability. High-performance strategies for the structures and landscape, coupled with an aggressive transportation management program, will demonstrate responsible stewardship of the site and respect for the community. The Redwood City campus will include a “mini” version of Stanford’s electrically-powered Central Energy Facility, which uses an innovative heat recovery system to meet campus heating and cooling needs.  As a result, natural gas will not be used in any of the individual campus buildings. These features were recently recognized with a Best Practice Award  for Overall Sustainable Design at the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference.
  • Two institutes—Chemistry, Engineering, and Medicine for Human Health (ChEM-H) and the Stanford Neurosciences Institute (SNI)—occupy a new 235,000-gross-square-foot facility on the southwest side of campus. The building has a combination of chemistry labs, engineering labs, and computational space and incorporates a number of energy- and water-saving strategies.  The building is the first “test case” for aggressive new energy and water targets, including a number of best practices gained in recently completed lab buildings to make it as efficient as possible.  The facility incorporates advanced envelope and façade design, unoccupied setback of general and fume hood ventilation rates, and use of exhaust air from non-lab spaces to supplement some of the fresh outside air supplied to labs.
  • Stanford constructed four 4,000 academic square-foot District Work Centers (DWCs) that maintenance, operations, and landscaping staff will use to make daily operations more efficient. Formerly, these staff members were all dispatched from the southeast section of campus, and as a result often had to drive a significant distance to and from worksites to respond to calls. The DWCs distribute these workers throughout campus so they can bike or walk to their worksites in response to calls, and will provide them with localized tool storage, workshops, locker room facilities, and drop-in workspaces. The project is part of a holistic effort to increase efficiency across all aspects of campus operations.
  • Frost Amphitheater, Stanford's largest outdoor performance space, was underutilized for years due to outdated infrastructure. The historic venue was restored to new life after a major renovation project added modern restrooms, improved accessibility, and replaced the old stage and "back-of-house" with state-of-the-art facilities that will support many more performances and events. Sustainability was integrated into all aspects of the renovations, emphasizing water conservation, energy efficiency, and habitat preservation. Water efficiency features include campus lake water for irrigation, low flow faucets for sinks and lavatories, high efficiency lighting, lighting controls that comply with California's strict energy code, and high efficiency transformers. To maintain the amphitheater's historic character, mature trees were protected, additional trees were planted, and additional built space was minimized. 

In-Progress Projects

  • The Bio-Medical Innovations Building (BMI) will help the School of Medicine to translate medical research discoveries into treatments and cures. The new building will be approximately 215,500 sf with four above-grade floors of research labs and light-filled gathering places, and a lower basement level with reduced functional square footage for utility support. The design includes a number of features that should enable the building to exceed its aggressive energy performance targets, including high performance walls and windows, efficient lighting systems, exhaust air heat recovery, low pressure-drop ductwork, high efficiency supply fans, and variable air volume fume hoods, which automatically turn down when not in active use.
  • The Escondido Village Graduate Residences (EVGR) is the largest expansion of Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) to-date, and when completed will increase graduate student housing capacity on campus by almost 20 percent, meeting a critical university priority as Bay Area housing costs continue to rise. As part of this project, mid-rise buildings (new and existing) in Escondido Village will be connected to Stanford’s central hot water loop for space heating, thereby avoiding the need for gas boilers on site. Occupancy is expected as early as Fall 2020.
  • The Center for Academic Medicine (CAM) will provide a consolidated office and administrative environment for several Stanford Medicine departments currently located throughout the Stanford Medicine campus. The new center will primarily house clinical faculty, computational researchers, and departmental administration and leadership. Although the building will not house clinical functions, it will be essential to support clinical faculty and educators as they perform their duties in the nearby Hospitals and Clinics. The CAM project has two major components:
    • A four story, 170,000 gross square foot office and administrative building that includes several amenities for the building occupants, such as a small conference center, a café, and a fitness center.
    • A three story underground parking structure with approximately 830 spaces to replace existing surface parking and provide adequate parking for the new building occupants.