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Vassar College

Vassar College Building Guidelines

Holistic Sustainability

Prioritizing Environmental Sustainability in All Construction and Development Projects

1)  Commitments

As an institute of higher education Vassar assumes the responsibility to create an inclusive, low-carbon campus community while protecting and preserving its culture of inclusivity and architecturally rich heritage. Vassar College has committed to carbon neutrality by 2030 and identified “Sustainability” along with “Stewardship” and “Fostering an Inclusive Learning Environment” as three key pillars of the Campus Master Plan.

  1. Sustainability: 
    “Sustainability will be a core feature of all campus planning and development efforts.” Read more
  2. Stewardship:
    “The College must prioritize the renovation and reuse of buildings in ways that recognize their historical importance while ensuring that they support current and future needs.” Read more
  3. Fostering an Inclusive Learning Environment: 
    “The College will continue to create academic facilities that support and enhance new approaches to how faculty, students, and members of the community teach, learn, gather, and interact over the next decades.” Read more

2)  Goals

  1. Capital Project Outcomes
    Capital projects play a key role in supporting all three pillars of the Campus Master Plan. Three capital project outcomes, as listed below, are constantly pursued to ensure continual alignment with Vassar’s broader vision. 
    1. Carbon Neutrality: Implementing strategies and technologies to support and encourage the College’s 2030 carbon neutrality aspirations. 
    2. Education: Developing a campus-wide understanding of the climate and ecological crisis, applicable solutions and stakeholder responsibilities.  
    3. Process: Fine-tuning and documenting a process-driven approach to ensure the longevity and consistency of sustainable solutions.
  2. Energy Goals
    1. Reduce energy consumption through technological and behavioral methods.
    2. Apply Energy Use Intensity targets as they are established and updated in Vassar’s Climate Action Plan
    3. Increase on-site renewable energy opportunities. 
    4. Investigate clean energy procurement contracts       

3)  Preservation Considerations 

  1. Ecological Preservation
    1. Vassar College has a mission “to protect and preserve the ecological diversity of the land to ensure that its educational value will be maintained in perpetuity” (Farm and Ecological Preserve).
    2. Through proper site analysis and contextual consideration, (refer to (9) Site & surroundings), the professional team should design and develop tailored solutions that are sensitive to the ecological surroundings and incorporate the natural setting. 
    3. Present and future ecological impact must be assessed and mitigated through consulting with members of Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve and The Environmental Cooperative.  
  2. Maintaining 93% minimum permeable green open spaces on campus
    Including the campus golf course Vassar College’s Main Campus currently boasts approximately 95% open green and permeable space. Maintaining as much permeable and green open spaces as possible on campus has physical and psychological benefits, including stormwater management and contributing greatly to the overall aesthetic quality of the area. 

    The usage of existing structures and spaces must thus be maximized to avoid unnecessary development. By minimizing greenfield development, resources can be optimized, efficiency can be increased, fewer materials need to be used, and existing open green spaces on campus can be maintained. In cases where greenfield development is required, design landscaping for these projects should prioritize carbon sequestration to match pre-development capacity.  

    According to the Green Stormwater Infrastructure Toolbox and Campus Guidelines, July 2018, an increase in impervious surfaces on campus can significantly contributed to the increase in pollution and in the rate and amount of water entering the Casperkill after storm events. Runoff from roadways and parking lots is higher in temperature and contains salts and heavy metals, which can damage flora and fauna. Without infiltration, groundwater and soil water recharge declines. It is thus critical that open permeable space be maintained. 
  3. Historical Preservation
    1. Vassar’s building stock consists of varying architectural styles that should be protected and preserved. Many of these have varying historical significance, states of preservation and are noted as Architecturally and Culturally significant.
    2. The State Historic Preservation Office currently recognizes and lists several buildings on the National Park Services’ National Register of Historic Places. 
    3. Utilize the Getty Grant Design Manual to realize preservation goals.
    4. In order to safeguard Vassar’s rich building stock, a State Historic Preservation Officers and Heritage Consultants should be appointed to provide a heritage report prior to Conceptual Design. They should be consulted throughout the design process to maintain the historic integrity of the campus built environment. 
    5. Sustainable strategies need to be considered in conjunction with preservation strategies.

4)  Project Classifications

  1. V1 New Buildings & Full Renovations
  2. V2 Substantial Building Renovations: These include projects that affect more than 50% of the building area pertaining to room configuration, modifications and renovations. V2 projects also include new HVAC/ energy management systems, envelope modifications, lighting and infrastructural replacements worth over $500,000.   
  3. V3 Partial building renovations: This affects less than 50% of the building area pertaining to room configuration, modifications and renovations. V3 projects include upgrade to/ replacement of systems with an energy/ GHG impact and a project cost of up to $500,000.       
  4. V4 Limited/ no energy/ GHG impact: V4 projects has no or a limited energy/ GHG impact including minor systems adjustment/ replacements, internal renovations, detailing, furnishings and landscaping.  

5)   Project presentation and evaluation framework

As a representation of its time, architecture and design should reflect contemporary technologies and respond to matters of environmental concern. It should also respect the heritage and significance of the site. To ensure that all capital renewal projects continue to add value to Vassar’s physical assets and identity, each item in the following table should be addressed in the presentation of projects to the campus community or planning committees.

Design Rationale

  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of the requirements.
  • Analysis and site assessment.
  • Core rationale and design intent?
  • Is it valid / appropriate / rational / innovative / sustainable?

Design Development

  • Concept
  • Use of internal / external space
  • Architectural tectonics (form massing, proportion)
  • Choice of architectural language in context (heights / application of material & proportion relative to surroundings)
  • Mechanisms to control climate


  • Stormwater planning and response to The Green Stormwater Infrastructure Toolbox and Campus Guidelines, July 2018
  • Hierarchy of spaces
  • Circulation
  • Understanding activity as generator of space
  • Economical use of space
  • Ventilation: Explore passive design strategies
  • Light: Explore passive design strategies
  • Services provision (ducts etc.)

Structure and Technology

  • Indicate intended use of materials
  • Building control systems
  • Provision for renewable energy
  • Consult an engineer where applicable

Energy Certification

  • Although projects are not required to obtain formal certification, all projects should at a minimum strive to meet LEED Silver standards where compatible with scope. Where possible, projects should pursue meeting Living Building Challenge standards. All project teams should evaluate and document their pursuit of these standards.

Precedent Study (optional)

  • Relevance(s)
  • Identified applied principles

6)   Scope finalization process: Applicable to V1 – V4 projects

Prior to the start of Schematic Design (SD), the scope and applicable timeline for all capital renewal, including building renovations and new constructions, should to be discussed with, and accordingly approved by, the Office of Strategic Planning. 

  1. Pre-project kick-off
    1. Where applicable, consult with the Vassar Project Representative (VPR) to arrange a stakeholder engagement meeting.
      1. Refer to 6.b) Stakeholder Engagement
      2. This should aim to gather information that will assist in formulating the scope of the project. 
      3. Stakeholders may include, but is not limited to, the project leader(s) (Vassar faculty/ staff), relevant department representative (Vassar faculty/ staff), Facilities and Operations representatives, students, the Sustainability Director, The Environmental Cooperative representatives, Vassar alums, Board of Trustees members, pre- and post-project occupants and relevant members of the appointed professional team (this will vary depending on the project). 
    2. Consult a heritage consultant prior to finalizing the project scope.
      1. Refer to 3.c.iv) Historical Preservation.   
    3. Review the scope of the project to ensure a clear understanding of project requirements and realistic deliverables.    
    4. Review relevant Building Guideline objectives during concept design to ensure the incorporation of appropriate and necessary sustainable technologies from prior to Schematic Design (SD) completion.  
    5. Where applicable, determine unique and project-specific sustainability energy goals including the Energy Use Intensity targets. 
    6. Where applicable, determine unique and project-specific heritage/ building conservation goals.
    7. Align sustainability & energy goals with project-specific requirements to ensure an applicable and realistic outcome that stays within the allocated budget. 
    8. Accordingly, determine a realistic timeline for design and construction deliverables that coincides with project requirements as closely as possible. 
    9. Review the Project Evaluation Guidelines, pg.5, ensure that all aspects are addressed and structure presentations and communications accordingly. 
  2. Stakeholder Engagement
    1. All projects should engage stakeholders where able and appropriate, as determined by the Dean of Strategic Planning and Academic Resources. 
    2. Projects in categories V1 and V2 should be advised by a formal Planning Committee 
      1. This committee should consist of (at a minimum) the Dean of Strategic Planning and Academic Resources or designee, the Facilities Operations project manager, the Director of Sustainability, and additional student, faculty, staff, and administrator members as is consistent with project scope and impact
      2. The work of this Planning Committee shall be directly informed by multiple key stakeholder groups:
        1. The Climate Action & Sustainability Committee and the Campus Master Planning Committee
        2. Consultative Participants from constituent groups such as the Office of Accessibility and Educational Opportunity, 
        3. Representatives from tenant departments and offices
    3. Feedback from these groups should be gathered routinely through forums, presentations, and other avenues of collecting data
    4. All stakeholders should be made aware of the design process, intent, and results.
  3. Feasibility
    1. A Life-Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) will be conducted to quantify the impact on energy consumption, related maintenance costs, GHG emissions etc. 
    2. NOTE: All LCCA will be performed over a 20 year period to determine long-term expenses/ savings from incorporated sustainable practices. 

7)   Commissioning and Retro-commissioning 

  1. V1 Commissioning:
    1. Commissioning for new construction projects begins with pre-design and continues through design, construction, and early operation.  Commissioning is intended to ensure that building systems and equipment have been designed, installed, and tested to perform in accordance with the design intent.
  2. V2 – V4 Retro-Commissioning:
    1. Also known as existing building commissioning, it is a systematic process for identifying and implementing operational and maintenance improvements in a building to ensure continued good performance over time. 
    2. See Energy Start Building Upgrade Manual, Chapter 5
    3. See LEED O+M: Existing Buildings | v3 - LEED 2009 Existing building commissioning - investigation and analysis

8)   Site & surroundings – designing to add value

  1. Site Factors
    Various site factors should be considered for new- and renovation building projects to ensure that sustainability is realized during the construction and occupancy while achieving balance with the surrounding natural environment. 
    1. Refer to LEED BD+C
    2. When possible, develop on a brown site instead of a green site.
      1. Brown site: Land/building/infrastructure that has been previously operational.  
      2. Green site: Site in natural condition/untouched by any previous development. 
    3. Maintain at minimum and enhance where possible the existing biodiversity and surrounding natural environment. 
    4. The following must be done prior to Schematic Design (SD) completion: 
      1. An Environmental Impact Assessment must be completed prior to Schematic Design (SD) completion.
      2. Members of the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve and The Environmental Cooperative should be consulted.
  2. Site Assessment
    1. Refer to LEED BD+C: New Construction | v4 - LEED v4: Site assessment.
    2. Refer to Green Stormwater Infrastructure Toolbox and Campus Guidelines, July 2018, figure 1: Vassar campus topography and water resources, pg. 11, to determine where the project at hand is located and how it could align with stormwater requirements.   
  3. Landscape design
    1. Always consult with members of the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve and The Environmental Cooperative to ensure that appropriate and contributing plant species are specified and appropriate best practices are followed.
    2. Along with the Schematic Design drawings, prepare a “plant-specification design proposal” that should be submitted to the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve, The Environmental Cooperative and Office of Strategic Planning for approval.
      1. Approval from all departments is required. 
    3. Specify plant species that support the lifecycle of key pollinators and seed dispensers such as birds and insects. 
    4. Specify plant species that require little to no irrigation.
    5. Landscape Design should support storm water management. 
      1. Consider permeable pavement, durable ground cover, rain gardens, vegetated swales (in replacement of curbs and gutters), vegetated filter strips, sand and organic filters, and constructed wetlands: Stormwater Management Practices
      2. NOTE: Permeable pavement: Permeable pavement includes porous asphalt, porous concrete, and permeable concrete pavers and crushed stone walkways. All allow water to infiltrate into the ground, reducing runoff. Applications include sidewalks and paths, parking aisles and roads. Permeable paving reduces puddles and freezing (making surfaces safer in winter) which decreases the need for salt and ice-melting chemicals. 
    6. Aesthetically pleasing landscape elements can be incorporated into GSI practices to enhance biodiversity and landscape aesthetics, and to provide a living laboratory for both faculty and students.
      1. Refer to Green Stormwater Infrastructure Toolbox and Campus Guidelines, July 2018, Goals For Integration of Green Stormwater Practice
    7. Rainwater management: Refer to LEED BD+C: New Construction | v4 - LEED v4.
    8. Refer to 14.b) Biophilic Design Principles,
  4. Soil management and protection practices
    1. Restrict vehicle access, equipment traffic and construction activities to approved allocated areas where interference with natural ecological systems are minimized. 
    2. Along with the Schematic Design drawings, prepare a “designated building waste proposal plan” that should be submitted to the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve, The Environmental Cooperative and the Office of Strategic Planning for approval.
      1. Approval from all departments is required. 
    3. Demarcate and protect tree zones. 
    4. Rehabilitate post-construction sites in accordance with Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve and The Environmental Cooperative recommendations. 
  5. Stormwater Infrastructure
    1. Prior to planning: 
      1. Consult members of The Environmental Cooperative at the Vassar Barns from as early as the concept design phase. 
      2. Refer to Green Stormwater Infrastructure Toolbox and Campus Guidelines, July 2018. In particular:
        1. Goals For Integration of Green Stormwater Practices, pg. 11.
        2. GIS Toolbox: Benefits, Relative Cost, Applicability, And Decision Support Tools, pg. 13.
        3. Common Green Stormwater Infrastructure Practices, pg. 20.
        4. Campus Opportunities, pg. 24.
    2. A variety of Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) measures can improve the health and ecological functions of water and ecological resources on college campuses, as well as within their broader communities and watersheds. 
    3. By transitioning from conventional or "grey" stormwater infrastructure to green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) techniques over time, Vassar can improve the quality of its water bodies and their ecosystems, as well as the quality of water conveyed offsite, via the Casperkill into the Hudson River. 
    4. New Construction and landscape projects should contribute to community efforts to improve the quality of its watersheds by incorporating green stormwater management on the campus.
    5. Consider green roofs: Vegetated roofs capture and filter rain, reducing the amount of stormwater that flows from roofs to the conventional storm sewer system. Green roofs also provide cooling effects, resulting in lower energy costs and better air quality. 
    6. A stormwater proposal plan should be submitted to and approved my respective heads to The Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve, The Environmental Cooperative and the Office of Strategic Planning. 
      1. For a precedent study, refer to Green Stormwater Infrastructure Toolbox and Campus Guidelines, July 2018, Appendices, Vassar Barns Green Infrastructure Master Plan / Pilot Projects, pg. 39.  

9)   Building Orientation- Responding to the context

  1. Context:
    The relationship between a building, its natural environment and surrounding building context is extremely important. The context of a building’s location on campus should dictate its orientation and form.
    1. Ensure that context and scale are always visible on all drawings, including Concept and Schematic Design (SD) drawings.  
    2. Building should 
      1. minimize excavations and the disturbance of natural grounds by following the natural contours of the site. 
      2. be orientated to maximize exposure to the south. If buildings cannot be thus orientated, they shall be orientated to achieve the lowest net energy use.
    3. Living spaces should be arranged so that the rooms where people spend most of their hours are located on the southern side of the building. Uninhabited rooms such as bathrooms and storerooms can be used to screen unwanted western sun or to prevent heat loss on the north-facing facades. Living rooms should ideally be placed on the southern side. 
    4. The longer axis of the building should be orientated so that it runs as near east/west as possible. 
    5. Orient and design the building to encourage non-motorized traffic. 
  2. Thresholds:
    1. Design the building with efficient thresholds to facilitate the transition from public to private space. 
    2. This can be achieved through, but not limited to, landscaping, terracing & seating, verandas and various tiers of social gathering spaces. 

10)   Building Envelope

Many of Vassar’s buildings were constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The thermal efficiency of their walls, windows, basements, and roofs were not taken into consideration in the same way as they are today. Since we now understand that these aspects of a building’s design are crucial to minimizing heat loss & energy use while maximizing internal comfort, an airtight building envelope is imperative. 

  1. Requirements
    1. Consult with Facilities and Operations prior to Schematic Design (SD) completion to ensure compatibility with existing and future infrastructure.  
    2. Refer to the five basic principles of Passive Houses.
    3. New buildings and major renovation projects should meet the ASHRAE 90.1 2016 standard for envelope effectiveness.
    4. Refer to AAMA 501.2, a guideline that establishes a minimum envelope resistance to the build-up of water and moisture.
    5. Solar heat gain (SHG) should be minimized in the summer and maximized in the winter months. Orientation, glazing type, size and placement, sunscreens and overhangs should all be considered and incorporated. 
    6. Minimize thermal bridges through careful insulation, especially around window and wall joints, prevents heat loss and enhances building envelopes. 
    7. Access ways: 
      1. Ensure that main entryways and all access ways that experience regular foot traffic, support indoor air regulation by preventing drafts and decreasing the loss of heating or cooling for the building (i.e. avoid main access doors opening directly to the outside). This is particularly important during peak winter and summer months. 
    8. Glazing and fenestration:
      1. Double glazed windows at minimum should be installed. 
      2. Where glazing exceeds 70% of the floor to window ratio, triple glazing should be considered. 
      3. Where glazing does not exceed 70% of the floor to window ratio, prioritize optimally insulating and sealing non-fenestration elements of the building envelope, like walls, floors above unheated basements, cladding and roofs, before considering triple glazed fenestration options. 
    9. Heat recovery systems should be considered and planned for accordingly. Be sure to communicate with Facilities Operations.
    10. During the project’s Schematic Design (SD) phase, design team members shall evaluate the feasibility of providing at minimum 30% of roof areas as a green roof to recover natural ecological systems, minimize water run-off, reduce heat absorption and add a layer of insulation.
      1. Members of the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve and The Environmental Cooperative should be consulted in order to specify and plan for species that support the lifecycle of key pollinators and seed dispensers such as birds and insects.
      2. Refer to 8.c) Landscape Design
  2. Suggestions
    1. Building sealing can be done by methods such as caulking, or adding skirting, architraves or cornices. 
    2. Ceiling voids, attics and basements can be designed/ renovated to minimize air infiltration. 
    3. Consider insulation R Values that meet Passive House Standards: Sample R-Value guidelines.
  3. Shading
    1. Where shading is used, the building shall:
      1. have a permanent feature such as a veranda, balcony, fixed canopy, eaves or shading hood, which 
        1. extends horizontally on both sides of the glazing.
        2. provides the equivalent shading with a reveal or other shading element.
      2. have an external shading device, such as a shutter, blind, vertical or horizontal building screen with blades, battens or slats, which 
        1. is capable of restricting at least 80 % of summer solar radiation, and 
        2. if adjustable, is readily operated either manually, mechanically or electronically by the building occupants. 
      3. Shading device orientation: 
        1. South elevations: vertical fins
        2. East and west elevations: Vertical fins
      4. Consider vegetation and edible creepers like grapes, kiwis, passion fruit etc. to cover shading mechanisms.  

11)   Energy

All V1 – V2 projects should be meet the International Living Future Institute’s Zero Carbon Certification requirements

  1. Requirements
    1. Refer to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) to determine a baseline for minimum energy performances.
      1. New buildings should aim to exceed the IECC by 20%. 
      2. Renovations/ upgrades to existing buildings with low – moderate historic/ cultural/ social relevance (L  M), as classified by the appointed heritage consultant and planning committee, should aim to exceed the IECC by 10%. 
      3. Renovations/ upgrades to existing buildings with medium-high historic/ cultural/ social relevance, as classified by the appointed heritage consultant and planning committee, should meet IECC minimum requirements
  2. Energy Efficiency Design Strategies
    1. Building enclosure/envelope 
    2. Heating/cooling 
    3. Domestic hot water 
    4. Electrical power and lighting 
    5. All required and additional free-standing equipment  
  3. Passive Design Strategies
    1. Incorporate passive solar design strategies to minimize the need for artificial heating and cooling and refer to insulation R Values
      1. Refer to Passive House Institute US (PHIUS)
      2. Refer to Passive House Institute (PHI)
    2. Maximize natural light into the building to minimize the need for artificial lighting.
    3. Consider the profile and section of the building for optimal and controllable natural ventilation
      1. Refer to Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG).
      2. Refer to Passive House +.
  4. Lighting
    1. Refer to LEED BD+C: New Construction | v3 - LEED 2009: Interior lighting – quality.
    2. Depending upon occupancy and activity, the minimum lighting requirements shall be determined in accordance with the requirements of EISA 2007. 
    3. Designers are encouraged to maximize natural lighting in their designs to reduce energy consumption: 
      1. Maximize daylighting through light-shelves, clerestory windows, atriums, and courtyards.
      2. Use photocell-dimming sensors that adjust electric lighting in response to available daylight. 
      3. Avoid use of electric lighting during daytime in areas with natural lighting. Use motion sensors to minimize lighting wherever possible. 
    4. Only specify high efficiency LED light fixtures,
    5. Consider individually controllable lighting fixtures for energy efficiency and flexible control. 
    6. Standardize lighting to match existing fixtures on campus to maximize efficiency for replacement lamps and parts. 
    7. Plan for motion sensors in transitional spaces i.e. corridors and outside spaces
    8. Specify “Dusk To Dawn Automatic On/Off Energy Saving LED Light Bulbs” for exterior spaces where security is not a primary concern. 
  5. Equipment Specification
    1. Specify equipment that meet Energy Star guidelines.
    2. Specify equipment with premium efficiency motors and variable speed drives (VSD) in order to reduce energy consumption. 
    3. For all equipment, evaluate opportunities to power down during periods of disuse. 
  6. Renewable Energy
    1. All V1 projects have a target of 100% of heating/cooling needs met through renewable systems
    2. All V2 projects have a target of at least 40% of heating/cooling needs met through renewable systems.
    3. All projects, V1 – V4, shall evaluate feasibility and general cost of shifting to 100% renewable heating/cooling sources. 
  7. Air Conditioning and heating
    1. Where feasible, the Space Heating Energy Demand should not exceed 5 kBtu/gsf per year. (Passive House)
    2. Refer to EUI Maximums.
    3. College Energy Conservation Policies should be applied in management of heating and cooling systems.
    4. Zone Controls:
      1. Each air-conditioned zone shall be controlled by individual thermostatic control corresponding to temperature within the zone. Each floor of a building shall be considered as a separate zone at minimum. The same can be applicable to individual rooms. NOTE: Ensure that zone allocation is in line with the University’s pragmatic requirements.  
        1. The heating and cooling supply are controlled by thermostat(s) located within the zone(s) served by the system. 
      2. Where possible, all new/ newly installed Air Conditioning (AC) units must be designed to allow for the automated controlled shut down of individual zones of a building. This is to allow for optimization of energy usage during off-peak seasons like summer break.
        1. A schematic “zone plan” should be submitted as part of the Schematic Design (SD) proposal to serve this purpose. 
        2. Proposals need to be approved by the Office of Strategic Planning and Facilities Operations. Early consultation on plans is encouraged.    
        3. Installation of ceiling fans should be investigated as an option before defaulting to air conditioning.
      3. Where both heating and cooling energy are provided to a zone, the controls shall be such as to prevent 
        1. heating previously cooled air 
        2. cooling previously heated air 
        3. both heating and cooling systems operating at the same time 
    5. Temperature Controls: 
      1. Each air-conditioning system (AC) shall be provided with at least one automatic control device for regulation of temperature. 
      2. Thermostatic controls for comfort shall be capable of adjusting the set point temperature of the space they serve to between 70 °F and 78 °F in summer. NOTE: Ensure that the thermostats can be set  
      3. Specify thermostatic controls for both comfort cooling and heating shall be capable of providing a temperature range or dead band of at least 4,0 °F within which the supply of heating and cooling energy to the zone is shut off or reduced to a minimum. 
      4. Specify programmable thermostats for facilities to adjust the heating or air-conditioning according to a pre-set schedule. Typical programmable thermostats can store and repeat multiple daily settings but allow overrides without affecting the rest of the daily or weekly program.

12)   Water

  1. Requirements
    1. During the project’s Schematic Design (SD) phase, design team members shall evaluate the feasibility of providing a minimum of 50% by volume of the annual average hot water heating requirement by means other than electrical resistance heating, including, but not limited to, solar heating, heat pumps, heat recovery from other systems or processes.
    2. Toilets, showerheads, faucets, and urinals must meet the WaterSense standard of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or higher.
    3. Specify low-flow or no-flow plumbing fixtures.
    4. Consider pressure-assist toilets, waterless urinals, and automatic shut off controls on sinks, toilets and urinals.
    5. All plumbing components must meet NSF/ANSI 61 standards.
    6. Appliances must be Energy-Star-certified, at minimum. 
    7. Water quality must meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Code of Federal Regulations’ goals for maximum contaminant levels. 
    8. Water-efficient landscape planning: Specify plant species that require little or no irrigation.
    9. Building and Landscape Design should support storm water management. 
      1. Refer to EPA Stormwater Management Practices.
    10. Refer to 8.e) Green Stormwater Infrastructure. 
    11. Install permanent/ portable water bottle refill stations in new buildings. 
  2. Heating
    1. All renewable water heating options should be investigated, and indicated, for applicable projects and/ or system replacements. 
    2. All exposed pipes to and from the hot water cylinders and central heating systems shall be insulated with pipe insulation material. 
    3. Insulation shall
      1. be protected against the effects of weather and sunlight,
      2. be able to withstand the temperatures within the piping, and 
      3. achieve the minimum required total R-value. 
  3. Strongly Consider
    1. Innovative wastewater collection- and management systems and initiatives.  
    2. Methods to decrease water usage through automations, fixtures and behavioral encouragement.  
    3. Hot water usage should be minimized through visible and well-designed signage to create awareness and positively influence occupant behavior.   
    4. Indoor portable water: Refer to LEED v4 Indoor Water Use Reduction Calculator.
    5. Install rainwater harvesting systems for irrigation and toilet flushing. Note: Calculate rain water harvesting potential for accurate water-storage sizing.
    6. Install greywater harvesting for irrigation and toilet flashing.
      1. Greywater is the relatively clean waste water from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other kitchen appliances.  

13)   Materials

  1. Goals
    1. Refer to ILFI – Materials Petal for a quick reference.
    2. Vassar strives to create healthy buildings that protect both occupants and our natural environment. This can be achieved by 
      1. implementing sustainable building practices
      2. focusing on circular economy strategies on site
      3. incorporating place-based solutions by sourcing locale building materials to support regional economies
      4. minimize emissions from transportation and designing with bio-based materials in mind.
        1. Bio-based products are derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine, and forestry materials and provide an alternative to conventional petroleum-derived products. Bio-based products include diverse categories such as lubricants, detergents, inks, fertilizers, and bioplastics. Bio-based products do not include food, feed, or fuel.
  2. Facts about material usage and the built environment
    1. According to the Worldwatch Institute:
      1. 55% of the wood cut for non-fuel uses is for construction 
      2. 40% of the world's materials and energy is used by buildings 
      3. 30% of newly-built or renovated buildings suffer from "sick building syndrome," exposing occupants to stale or mold- and chemical-laden air 
  3. Sourcing requirements and material objectives
    1. Refer to LEED BD+C: New Construction: Rapidly renewable materials: Use rapidly renewable building materials and products for 2.5% of the total value of all building materials and products used in the project, based on cost. 
    2. Refer to the International Living Future Institute Materials Petal: 13. Living Economy Sourcing Imperative and adhere to the sourcing requirements:
    3. Minimize building waste by
      1. re-using existing building materials where possible.
      2. maximizing building material utilization (i.e. design according to standard sizes etc.).
      3. not over ordering material.
  4. Material specification guidelines
    1. Refer to the International Living Future Institute Materials Petal: 10. Red List Imperative: It contains the worst in class materials prevalent in the building industry.  
      1. Required: 80% of total cost of materials sourced must not contain any levels (including trace levels) of listed materials. 
      2. Recommended: 100% of materials contain no levels of listed chemicals. Exceptions may be made for recycled products 
    2. Compile a list of intended building materials and consult with the Sustainability Office and chemistry department to determine the risk.  
    3. Use recycled products where possible:
      1. Required: 20%
      2. Recommended: 30%
    4. Specify Forest Stewardship Council certified wood:
      1. Required: 80%
      2. Recommended: 100%
    5. Specify Natural Stone Council certified stone where possible.
    6. Consider the lifespan and embodied energy of intended materials.   
  5. Re-use of materials
    1. Refer to LEED v4 for Building Design and Construction:
      1. New Build: > 5% of the total cost must be material salvaged, refurbished, or reused materials.
      2. Full Building Renovation: > 70% of existing walls, floors and roof reused, > 40% of existing interior non-structural elements reused. 
      3. Partial Building Interior Renovation: > 80% of existing walls, floors and roof reused, > 55% of existing interior non-structural elements reused. 
      4. Small Building Upgrades: > 95% of existing walls, floors and roof reused, > 80% of existing interior non-structural elements reused. 
    2. Culturally/ historically significant buildings: non-service related salvaged, refurbished, or reused materials should be used in a manner that is celebrated, visible and educational.
      1. Consider an information plaque as part of the design. 
      2. Refer to 15.e.iv) Livable Environment, pg. 17
  6. Waste Management Plan: Design and Construction
    1. Refer to the International Living Future Institute Materials Petal: 14. Net Positive Waste.
      1. Indicate consideration of all requirements with a focus on the following: 
        1. divergent goals. 
        2. waste reduction.
        3. natural recourse conservation. 
    2. Dedicate appropriately sized areas for collection and storage of recyclables with additional measures in place for batteries, mercury-containing products (fluorescent light bulbs, lamps, batteries, etc.) and electronic waste. Mercury-containing products must be identified and criteria for handling and disposal methods must be determined. 
    3. For Renovations/upgrades: Complete a pre-building audit to inventory available materials/ assemblies/ furniture/ service elements for reuse or donation. 
  7. Future Waste Management
    1. All capital projects should take into consideration the adequate spatial provision of waste collection locations for recycling, trash, compost and universal waste receptacles. (Four types of universal are batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment and lamps.) 
      1. Ensure appropriate signage and labeling. 
      2. Ensure appropriate sizing specifications to meet spatial requirements. 
      3. Establish clear communication between all involved stakeholders like service providers, Facilities and Operations and waste management, to ensure appropriate infrastructural planning and considerations. 

14)   Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ)

Contributors to the quality of indoor environments like natural light, fresh air, acoustic properties and connectivity between interior and exterior spaces can affect the physical- and psychological well-being of building occupants. In addition to increased energy efficiency and financial savings, effective sustainable solutions at Vassar also focus on improving productivity and comfort standard for all building occupants. Together with the four traditional aspects of indoor environmental quality (thermal comfort, visual comfort, indoor air quality and aural comfort), the design and renovation of interior spaces must be approached holistically to support the three main sustainable Strategies (Social, Economic and Environmental). 

  1. Contributing to a happy and healthy indoor environment
    1. Refer to ILFI – Happiness and Health Petal, for quick references.
      1. Read introduction and indicate adherence to petal imperative 06, 08 and 09. 
  2. Biophilic Design Principles
    1. Biophilic design incorporates natural materials, natural light, vegetation, nature views and other experiences of the natural world into the modern built environment. 
    2. Refer to the Living Building Challenge. NOTE: Ensure the latest editions.  
      1. Biophilic Design Guidebook
      2. Biophilic Design Exploration Guidebook
    3. Refer to International Living Future Institute – Happiness and Health Petal – 09. Biophilic Environment Imperative.
    4. Consider how landscape design can influence indoor quality and be incorporated into interior public spaces like foyers and movement corridors. Refer to 10.c) Landscape Design, pg. 8.
  3. Air quality and comfort considerations
    1. All buildings must meet ASHRAE Standard 90.1. 
    2. For building renovations: Meet the requirements of ASHRAE 62.1-2010. 
    3. Refer to the LEED-CIv4 Ventilation Calculator if adjustments to the ventilation system serving the space are within the project scope.
    4. Refer to LEED O+M Existing Building. Indoor Environmental Quality.
    5. Refer to Indoor environmental quality and LEED v4.
    6. Occupants should be given control of ventilation and temperature/ comfort control systems within practical reason. 
      1. Occupants should be educated on the function of the heating and cooling systems, so they are aware of the overall energy consumption consequences of their individual actions.
    7. Buildings should include operable windows, where ventilation is required, and should be individually controlled by occupants/ designated personnel. 
    8. Vassar is a smoke-free campus- plan and design for signage to reflect this. 
  4. Lighting quality and considerations
    1. Refer to 10.c) Shading, pg. 10.
    2. Refer to 11.c) Passive Design Strategies and 11.d) Lighting
  5. Livable Environment
    1. Carefully consider different-sized workplaces with varying layouts, volumes and purposes to meet the pragmatic and psychological requirements of the building program as well as individual and collective occupant requirements. 
      1. Refer to 6.a) Pre-Project Kick-Off and 6.b) Stakeholder Engagement
    2. Changing facilities with showers should be considered for all major buildings on campus. This can:
      1. encourage students, staff and faculty to exercise by cycling/ running/ walking to work or using other forms of human-powered transport. 
      2. allow members of the public to take advantage of Vassar’s beautiful campus and Ecological Preserve before/ after work or during lunch breaks. 
    3. In recognizing Vassar as a campus open to animals with many members of the community bringing their pets to campus, building planning and design could incorporate the needs of pet animals i.e. pet-friendly waiting areas, water filling stations and pet-specific waste bins.  
    4. Include acoustic consideration during the Schematic Design phase (SD). 
      1. It is advised to involve an acoustic consultant in the design process when deemed necessary.  
    5. Culture and history are priorities of Vassar College. When buildings undergo major renovations/ programmatic change, it’s previous use should be exhibited and recognized through design, educational features and permanent exhibitions in order to maintain the structure’s connection within the campus environment. 
      1. Refer to 13.e.ii) Re-use of material 
    6. Consider outdoor classrooms/ learning environments/ multi-purpose gathering spaces to take advantage of Vassar’s beautiful campus and arboretum. Refer to 14.b) Biophilic Design Principles
    7. Consider water bottle refill stations and recycling/ compost bins on every building level.
      1. Ensure appropriate sizing specifications to meet spatial requirements. 
      2. Establish clear communication between all involved stakeholders like service providers, facilities and waste management, to ensure appropriate infrastructural planning and considerations.  

15) Accessibility

  1. Inclusive design and ease of access is a large component of Social Sustainability.
    1. Inclusive design creates barrier-free accessibility and focuses on an incorporated user experience that accommodates physical, sociological, demographical and cultural diversity. 
  2. New construction projects and significant renovations should maximize access to allow all students an opportunity to engage and fully participate in the academic and social life at Vassar. 
  3. Refer to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Checklist for Existing Facilities.
  4. Refer to The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD) – Seven Principles of Universal Design.
  5. Refer to Oregon State University – Built Environment Accessibility Best Practices

16)   Education

Ensuring maximum envisioned building output requires knowledge of its intended function, systems and the importance of occupant behavior and -participation. Every project is an opportunity to inform, educate and inspire people and organizations through accurately documenting processes and products as it pertains to a wholistic approach to sustainability. Making this information available to both the Vassar campus community as well as the community of Poughkeepsie is essential.

Education can be harnessed as a tool to display innovative green building techniques that are equitable and reduce ecological harm, putting Vassar on the forefront of sustainable design. Ultimately, incorporating education into the design process of larger-scale projects will benefit the college by increasing transparency, which will help to establish the college’s status as a leader in sustainability while also increasing student and staff engagement with green building techniques. 

  1. Requirements
    1. For buildings that are intended to house occupant-orientated programs, like academic-, social- and/or residential spaces, the following documentation needs to be completed and made available prior to building hand-over (NOTE: Consult with Vassar team leaders to ensure correct use of templates and formats): 
      1. Project planners should identify and plan, at the outset of a project, opportunities and budgets for communicating sustainability measures. 
      2. A simple user pocket-primer/ manual aimed to educate and inform building occupants on how to best use its sustainability/ mechanical features. 
        1. This creates accountability for building occupants.  
      3. A self-explanatory brochure that explains the concept, design intent and innovative details of the projects and its environmental/ technological features aimed at industry professionals and members of the public. 
    2. Incorporate public building tours/ days into the design and construction schedule from the beginning to allow for advanced notification. 
      1. This is an opportunity to educate people on sustainable building technologies and Vassar’s over-all sustainability strategy. 
      2. Open tours should aim to include:
        1. A short power-point presentation, prior to a guided walk-about, featuring the above-mentioned features, design intent, user-specific requirements and broader concept. 
        2. A guided walk-about lead by the team leaders/ main designer/ project manager/ coordinator/ Vassar representative. 
          1. Vassar representatives can be faculty, staff or students.   

17) Construction

  1. All contractors, sub-contractors and members of the professional team must be made aware of the sustainability goals of the campus as outlined in the Building Guidelines, Campus Master Plan and Climate Action Plan. 
  2. All contractors must be aware of the project-specific sustainability goals as specified by the professional team. 
    1. Refer to 6.a) Pre-project kick-off 
  3. Develop a pre- and post-waste management plan that focuses on material re-use- (i.e. crushing existing building rubble for concrete aggregate), temporary dumping- and waste removal strategies.  
    1. Refer to 
      1. 13.e) Re-use of materials
      2. 13.f) Waste Management Plan
      3. 13.g) Future Waste Management
  4. Air quality must be regulated as much as possible during construction. 
    1. Contractors must present an “air quality control plan” as part of their RFP. 
  5. Carbon offsets should account for carbon emissions in construction through one purchase of equivalent amount of offsets. 

Appendices: Links to Reference Material 

International Living Future Institute Project Requirements

ILFM Materials Petal

ILFI – Happiness and Health Petal

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD) – Seven Principles of Universal Design