Duke University, NC Green Design Standards

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Duke University, NC, US

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Type: Policy

Status: Last revised in 2003

Source File: http://www.duke.edu/sustainability/campus_initiatives/buildings/index.html


Designing buildings that surround green space, rather than face streets, is a guiding principle of campus planning at Duke. On the level of campus planning, there is a strong commitment to infilling while preserving and creating green space. On the level of building planning, the University has made significant commitments to green design and construction.

In 1993, the University adopted a set of Design Guidelines to direct all future building on campus. The original design guidelines contained many sustainable development principles, including a commitment to planning for 50 years rather than the industry standard of 20 years. The guidelines are periodically revised and language promoting Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) and Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) has been added over the years. This has emphasized longevity in the design process and encourages space to be designed with flexibility for future uses.

In 2003, at the request of students in the Duke University Greening Initiative, the University solidified its commitment to green building and the LEED rating system in particular. Duke endeavours to have all new construction and renovations LEED certified, at a minimum. Every reasonable effort will be made to achieve silver or higher ratings. Beginning with the West Edens Link, all new construction has been registered with the US Green Building Council.

Duke has embraced the policy because it is in the best interest of the university. Members of Duke’s administration and the Facilities Management Department have seen that the adopted standards are real contributions to the Duke community. Since Duke is the owner and occupant of these projects, benefits of improved building standards are felt by the very people who are responsible for the design, construction and use of these spaces. Project managers understand that they are building where they live, work, and play, so they find themselves naturally inclined to be good stewards of Duke and Duke’s resources. In short, green building at Duke has been met with great success because it is yet another way to provide quality products for the Duke community.

The process has not come without challenges, however. The capital costs of building to LEED standards are typically higher due to requirements such as contracting LEED consultants and a commissioning agent. However, since Duke is already well above the industry standard in terms of building environmentally responsible buildings, the capital costs of following LEED guidelines have actually been closer to only 1% higher. This percent increase in capital costs also does not reflect the savings a LEED project produces throughout the entire life of the building. Expected results such as better energy efficiency and higher productivity of the building’s occupants are long term benefits that will be yielding rewards – financial and otherwise –for a long time to come.

The certification procedures with USGBC also add another step to the building process. When buildings are finished, the contracts can’t be finalized until the added step of obtaining certified status from the USGBC has been completed. Furthermore, under the current rating system, Duke does not receive points for some of its most effective sustainability measures, such as its energy-efficient steam and chilled water plants, which provide heating and cooling to Duke’s buildings more efficiently than locating heating and cooling units in each building.

Despite these challenges, LEED green building standards have helped Duke formalize its standards for environmentally responsible and sustainable buildings. In this sense, LEED has helped accomplish a goal that Duke already had, which was to construct better buildings. These standards help Duke do everything from save money on energy efficiency to improve the inside environment for the building’s occupants with natural light and CO2 monitoring. Overall, Duke has embraced the goal of creating a campus of high performance buildings.