Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Under Construction

Thank you for your understanding while the site is being renovated. If you need help finding something, please let us know.

Contact us

Building Initiatives

Main content start

As described in Stanford's Project Delivery Process (PDP) manual, the university is committed to providing a sustainable and inspiring built environment for its students, faculty, staff, and visitors. At Stanford, sustainable buildings must use energy, water, and other natural resources efficiently, and also provide a safe, productive, and educational environment. Stanford recognizes that the building industry has a tremendous impact on the natural environment, both regionally and globally. The university demonstrates how buildings that conserve resources can also engage building occupants by integrating sustainability as a base criterion in all development stages.

Stanford’s PDP manual consequently incorporates sustainability through the Guidelines for Life Cycle Cost Analysis and Stanford's Guidelines for Sustainable Buildings, which adapt the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system and the US government’s Labs21 guidelines to the university setting, addressing a wide spectrum of qualities across five categories.

Energy and Water Usage Reduction Targets

In 2015, the university embraced a new method of benchmarking that allows for a more holistic and more rigorous method of designing high-performance buildings. The university replaced the goal that new buildings would be 30 percent more efficient than required building codes with whole-building energy performance targets created specifically for each new building coming online. The targets are set by comparing the new building to the energy consumption of peer buildings at other California universities, the energy consumption of similar buildings on campus, and the building’s best possible energy performance. This new method allows Stanford to continuously improve the energy performance of its buildings.

These targeted strategies to address energy demand in buildings has yielded some significant results. The energy use index (EUI) for each new building constructed has fallen significantly, from an EUI of 93,100 kbtu/sqft/year for office buildings and 331,000 kbtu/sqft/year for lab buildings in 1988 to about half of that today. As Stanford continues to incorporate cutting-edge technologies,  energy efficiency in buildings is expected to increase.   


Conservation standards are achieved through key design strategies that reduce the electricity and heating load of the building and make the interior as resource efficient as possible. The exterior design is a referential but current expression of Stanford context and identity, driven by modern construction technology and sustainability. The interior expression is driven by the goals of the program and sustainable performance goals and conveys the identity of the users.

Key strategies in design include:

  • Siting: Driven by the Campus Master Plan, which encourages a quad with East/West elongation to take advantage of the natural benefits of North/South vs. East/West light, site location is the most important element of design.
  • Envelope: An overarching strategy for façade exposure and high-performance building envelope design, including advanced glazing technology (different glass specified for each exposure in order to balance daylight penetration with heat loss and gain and exterior), and shading devices to maximize light intake and minimize heat gain.
  • Insulation: Extensive envelope analysis/energy model is performed to determine the optimal amount of insulation and thermal breaks in window construction in order to maximize insulation capacity.
  • Building-level renewable energy:  Renewable power is incorporated as a part of building design, and the university currently has solar installations on more than 30 campus buildings.

Space Utilization

Stanford conducts rigorous space utilization studies to renovate existing buildings to create space for new needs. A key goal is to recover 5-10% of the space in campus buildings. The Department of Capital Planning updated the university’s Space Planning Guidelines in 2006 and is conducting studies to ensure that new space is added only when necessary. Studies have found that offices applying the guidelines could recover up to 10% of their space. To encourage more efficient use of office space, Stanford requires selected schools to pay a charge for under-utilized space. Several schools are working to reduce their space charge, with efforts such as conducting master space plan studies and renovating spaces in conformance with the Space Planning Guidelines.

Constant Innovation in Building Design and Learning

The university recognizes that not all new buildings will achieve energy targets, but the internal design guidelines encourage planners to experiment with new technologies. Stanford engineers and architects transfer information learned through design, construction, and operation of new buildings to subsequent buildings with a goal of achieving these targets in its overall building program. For instance, Y2E2 was the first of four buildings that make up the Science and Engineering Quad. The latter three buildings in this 500,000 square foot development were built, as Stanford President John Hennessy told the Faculty Senate, “to the same level of environmental standards [as Y2E2], so that we can become a leader, not only in research, but [also] in the practice of building new facilities.” The Huang Engineering Center, Spilker Engineering & Applied Sciences, and the Shriram Center have now all been constructed to the same standards or better, completing this pioneering quad.