New Stanford Facility Goes Green

Stanford University unveiled a cutting-edge, eco-friendly building yesterday that will use less than half the energy and a tenth of the water that a similarly-sized building would, according to University officials.

The Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Enviroment and Energy Building (Y2E2), which will house Stanford’s environmental science and energy researchers, comes amid a push by several schools—including Harvard—to make their campuses more sustainable. In particular, the minimization of energy and water use has also been a “key issue” in the construction of the Allston science complex, according to Nathalie Beauvais, the principal architect for the Allston Development Group.

“Y2E2 is a living laboratory for good sustainable practice and good sustainable design,” said Jack Cleary, associate vice president for academic projects and operations.

The $118-million, 166,000-square-foot building interacts with both its inhabitants and stimuli from the outside in order to enhance sustainability. The building’s windows and shades will shift according to the weather and the angle of the sunlight in order to maximize the efficiency of natural ventilation and lighting. In addition, four large atria provide the center of the complex with ventilation and natural light.

The building’s lighting system is not only equipped with motion sensors but also dims when it detects the presence of an abundance of natural light. At night, windows open and allow night air to rush in and cool the building and the accumulated daytime heat to exit.

Though the building features state-of-the-art technology and is built in accordance with Stanford’s own sustainability guidelines, the university will not seek certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). In contrast, as Harvard expands into Allston, it has committed that all buildings and landscapes will conform to a LEED Gold Standard, according to the Harvard Gazette.

While Stanford used LEED certifications as background, the university ultimately decided to use their own guidelines to regulate the construction of the building. Cleary said that the university had several problems with LEED, including the price of certification, estimated at $100,000, which he said could better be used to equip the building with better technology.

Cleary said that because LEED was designed for generic office buildings, it does not take into account location-specific issues such as campus-wide initiatives or the water-scarcity that plagues much of California.

“What is important is achieving sustainability goals, not so much getting a particular rating,” according to David Orenstein, spokesman for the Stanford School of Engineering. “It is in a sense akin to studying to learn rather to do well on a test.”

In addition to minimizing environmental impact and serving as a template for future buildings to be constructed on Stanford’s campus, Cleary said the building will allow professors and students to learn from the building’s design elements.

“This is a pedagogical building,” Cleary said. “A bit of time, money, and effort has gone into making sure this building tells us something.”

For example, the building includes several solar panels, which were installed not to save money—the technology is not advanced enough—but in order for researchers to study them.

And like many new constructions, the building was designed to allow collaboration among the scholars inside who study environmental science and technology.

“This is going to be a building that provides a place for faculty and students to do their environmental research and teaching,” Orenstein said. “What makes the building special is that it is meant to be a physical manifestation of what we talk about inside—a building that demonstrates that one can do their work in a building that uses a lot less energy and a lot less potable water than buildings traditionally do.”

—Staff writer Natasha S. Whitney can be reached at nwhitney@fas.harvard.

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