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By Juliet R Bailin and Alyza J. Sebenius, Crimson Staff Writers

Wasserstein Hall, Caspersen Student Center, Clinical Wing—a new sustainabile facility that houses approximately 250,000 square feet of innovative classrooms and student space—opened its doors at Harvard Law School early this January.

The Law School recently submitted WCC for Gold LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and will hear of the building’s sustainability status in the next few months.


Sustainability Coordinator Kathryn A. Cosgrove ’07 steps into one of the new facility’s classrooms, which, she says, were designed to “inspire a different method of teaching and learning.”

She points out features in the space that enhance the building’s sustainability.

Cosgrove first directs attention to the occupancy and daylight sensors on the classroom’s ceiling that facilitate energy-efficient lighting.

Circular vents on the floor, she says, are used for displacement ventilation, allowing both hot and cool air to flow out from the classroom floor and circulate throughout the room.

As the air exits through ceiling vents, it completes a cycle that eliminates cold and hot spots that students often feel in standard classrooms when sitting directly underneath vents or next to heaters.

The building also has integrated carbon dioxide sensors that adjust ventilation for crowded rooms by sensing the rise in carbon dioxide levels associated with an increase in the number of occupants, Cosgrove says.

When windows are opened, the sensors automatically shut off ventilation.

WCC’s green features are not limited to the building’s interior, Cosgrove says. A rainwater capture system uses runoff water to care for the surrounding landscaping along with vegetated roofs that provide insulation and white-painted roofs that deflect sunlight to keep the building cool.

“Productivity is one of the huge cost savings,” Cosgrove says. “The building provides high quality air and lighting, which allows students and their professors to focus more easily.”

Law School Green Living Representative Amrit P. Dhir says that the new WCC fosters a sense of community.

“The Law School is a completely different place now,” he says. “People used to hang out in the library or the cafeteria. The new building has brought students together and moved the center of campus.”


LEED, or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council that grants four levels of sustainability certification—Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

WCC, which is currently under review, is expected to earn a Gold certification.

The Law School did not aim for Platinum certification, Cosgrove says, due to cost and the trade-off between additional sustainable features and user friendliness.

For example, Cosgrove said that rather than fitting the courtyard space with layers of solar panels in order to earn additional points, the Law School opted to make the lawn an enjoyable social space instead.


Harvard currently has 64 projects certified by LEED and 95 projects that are LEED registered and currently being processed for certification. A renovated suite of offices in the Law School’s Griswold Hall was the first LEED Platinum Commercial Interior Space in New England and the first among American universities. It is one of less than 20 projects in the world that have ever earned this title.

Cosgrove says that architects may adopt some of WCC’s new features—such as low-energy light bulbs—in other Harvard buildings if it makes “economic sense.”

While the sustainable bulbs may be more expensive up-front, Cosgrove says this kind of cost-benefit analysis is taken into account for LEED certification.

Law School Green Living Representative Laura B. Wolf echoes this sentiment.

“Some people look at the [WCC] and think it’s a huge waste of money,” she says. “But I think that when you build something green and well, it is a smart investment because it pays you back.”

The project has less expected benefits beyond its environmental and economic profile.

“One of my favorite things is that [WCC] does not smell like a new building because they use good materials that do not have chemicals in them,” Wolf says.

Green Living Representative David M. Jochnowitz says he appreciated changes as simple as trading old, bolted windows for openable ones that make it possible to regulate temperature.

“[HLS] took a lot of things into consideration, some of which were remarkably simple,” he says. “Little, obvious things can make it a better place.”

—Staff Writer Juliet R. Bailin can be reached at

—Staff writer Alyza J. Sebenius can be reached at

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