LEED & Beyond: Duke's Commitment to Sustainable Building

Duke has continued to advance a high standard for all its new buildings and major renovations. A policy was adopted by the university in 2003 requiring new projects to be designed with the goal of obtaining a Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) ranking of silver, and a minimum of certified, which featured strategies aimed at improving energy savings, water efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions.

Through these and other efforts, Duke ranks as one of the most sustainable schools in the country. It features the world's first LEED platinum-rated residence hall - the Home Depot Smart Home; the first LEED gold-rated steam plant - the East Campus Steam Plant; and the first LEED-certified free standing parking garage, the Research Drive Garage. 

In July 2017, Duke had 40 LEED certified campus buildings, representing more than 3o% of the university’s total square footage. After over a decade of building to LEED standards, Duke determined that advancing beyond the current LEED building policy was needed to further progress towards meeting its sustainability goals. 

As a result, Duke's High Performance Building Framework was published in 2019 as a set of internal standards to maximize the efficiency, conservation, sustainability, and economic return of Green Building projects. 


“LEED was instrumental in helping Duke and many other institutions begin thinking more systemically about sustainable building,” said Duke Vice President for Facilities John Noonan. “But our experience over the years shows that LEED is not well suited to our unique campus-wide, long-term perspective on building development and carbon emissions reduction and that it ultimately leads to a more expensive process on projects that also miss the mark on achieving optimal high-performance energy and water use.”