Washington and Lee University Sustainable Design Guidelines

The following provides a summary overview of the concepts guiding design and construction on campus. For specifics, including project EUI and LEED scorecards, contact the Office of Sustainability and Energy Education (OSEE) to coordinate a request to the Office of Capital Projects.

Washington and Lee University is committed to becoming a net zero carbon campus. Campus construction and renovation projects are key to meeting the University's emissions-free goals in the accelerated time-frame required by the climate crisis and should be designed to the highest possible standards of sustainable siting, construction, and building operation and maintenance.

Life-cycle costs related to energy use, water use, maintenance, and waste disposal will inform decision-making. Project-specific Energy Use Intensity (EUI) targets produced in collaboration with University Facilities and a project design team including a Building Energy Modeling Professional will determine project EUI and renewable energy opportunities.

Successful designs will combine creative strategies and innovative technology to produce high efficiency, low carbon buildings that both demonstrate and communicate the University's commitment to environmental responsibility and bold climate action, in the spirit of the University Mission Statement, which empowers the "capacity to think freely...responsible leadership, service to others and engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society."

While LEED Silver certification criteria provide a benchmark for minimum project achievement, that standard should be considered the starting line, not the goal. Essential considerations for future renovation and construction projects will include the following:


  • Projects will be sited to prioritize the protection of healthy ecological environments and habitats and to prevent disturbance of pristine greenfield, wilderness, prime farmland or floodplain.
  • Landscape design will prioritize native and other plant species that will thrive in the local conditions without dependence on municipally-supplied irrigation, petrochemical fertilizers or pesticides and that will play a positive role in building functionality, including providing seasonally useful shade and natural water run-off mitigation.
  • Building location and design will embrace opportunities for building occupants to benefit from natural surroundings, including engagement with nature along pathways and at egress points, and optimization of natural light and views of the outdoors from within the building.


Consistent with the University's goal of carbon neutrality, new construction and renovation projects will consider all opportunities for realizing a carbon neutral building. Any viable renewable energy resources will be designed as part of the structure or within the project limits. Maximum energy efficiency in building systems and operation will be complemented by renewable energy resources where feasible.

All project schematic designs will include an energy performance target for kBtu per square foot of site energy use and pounds per square foot of greenhouse gas emissions, and energy sub-metering, particularly for high-intensity zones, will be included in the project. Strategies for limiting building energy use will draw from consideration of:

  • Site conditions
  • Massing and orientation
  • Building envelope attributes
  • Lighting levels
  • Monitoring-based commissioning during construction and first year of operation using data from Building Automation System and energy and water sub-meters
  • Plug load
    • Note: plug load predictions should be included in building target EUI.

HVAC and lighting levels will be customizable by zone in multi-zone spaces where occupancy schedules will differ by area (e.g. buildings with both classroom and office areas).

Energy performance requirements include:

  • For new buildings:
    • Where project-specific target EUI has not been provided, default efficiency standard will be 50% reduction from a baseline building designed to current ASHRAE 90.1 Standard
    • No combustion-based systems
    • On-site renewable energy resources to meet building load
  • For existing building renovations:
    • Where project-specific target EUI has not been provided, default efficiency standard will be 50% reduction from a baseline building renovation designed to current ASHRAE 90.1.
    • Standard Use of centrally-generated thermal sources (chilled-and-hot-water, steam), provided by the existing Heating and Cooling Plant are allowed for HVAC systems. Design review should include a study of independent thermal sources which do not rely on combustion.

Materials & Waste

Project materials, including those used in building construction (e.g. foundation, framing, insulation) as well as those employed for finishes, furnishings and equipment, will be evaluated for both negative health impacts, embodied carbon and VOC emissions thresholds. Red List chemicals will be avoided, construction materials decisions will be informed by the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3), and VOC contents will, at minimum, meet LEED Silver certification standards.

Building design should include strategies for minimizing and responsibly managing material procurement and waste stemming from normal building operation. Planning should consider routes for easy maneuvering of both supply and waste materials through the building, dedicated locations for waste stations and any related storage and/or equipment, and access to the outside for deliveries and waste collection.


Building design will maximize opportunities afforded by nature and siting for storm-water management and rainwater collection, and will embrace innovation and creativity for highest efficiency in use of municipally supplied water. Design considerations will include closed-loop water systems and gray water reuse.

Every effort will be made to avoid the use of potable water for non-potable purposes, including irrigation.

Compared to a representative comparable building baseline:

  • New and renovated buildings will use 40% less water than a calculated baseline using standard efficiency fixtures, excluding irrigation uses.