Skip to main content

Environmental Sustainability Framework

Analysis and Recommendations for Capital Projects and Facilities Operations

Birds-eye view of Swarthmore campus

The College created a set of sustainable building standards for new construction and major renovations of existing buildings. These standards are informed by an in-depth analysis of key opportunities for energy conservation and renewable energy and the most effective areas on campus to manage stormwater. To accomplish this analysis and develop the standards, the Sustainability Framework Committee worked with a consultant team led by the architecture firm Ballinger. The standards were drafted in Spring 2015 and first implemented Fall 2015. 

The Framework document has several components: a Stormwater Management Analysis, a Carbon & Energy Analysis, Sustainable Building Guidelines, and Implementation Recommendations. Read an executive summary [pdf] and the project checklist [pdf]. See below for the identified Key Findings, Next Steps, and Summary of Implementation Recommendations. The full Framework document is currently viewable on Slideshare.


Key Findings

Stormwater Management Analysis

  • Swarthmore is already using green infrastructure techniques (green roofs, infiltration beds, bioswales, etc.) to manage stormwater from development projects to the required level of regulatory compliance.
  • By increasing stormwater management requirements beyond regulatory levels to the 98th percentile storm event (2.25”), approximately 61,000 gallons of stormwater will be managed per developed acre.
  • Increased stormwater management to the 98th percentile event level will help protect Crum Creek and more closely mimic ideal Pre-Columbian land conditions on campus.
  • Standalone watershed mitigation projects undertaken separately from development projects can help to further counteract the impacts of past development and improve the health of the Crum Creek watershed. Potential mitigation projects include channel and outfall stabilization, installation of additional or upgraded stormwater infrastructure, and expansion of existing stormwater management facilities.

Summary of Implementation Recommendations

Achieving the College’s environmental performance goals will require robust implementation strategies to help support, fund, and prioritize campus sustainability initiatives. Most importantly, implementation relies on the ability to measure success and validate project performance, enabling the College to make informed decisions about campus sustainability initiatives. The following four implementation strategies will help the College achieve the environmental performance goals established in this Framework and guide sustainable campus growth into the future:

  1. Identify and support the internal sustainability leadership of the College and network with peers
  2. Include sustainability goals and aspirations in the vision for new building, site and infrastructure projects, as well as guiding principles
  3. Explore funding opportunities to support sustainability initiatives
  4. Enhance analysis, tracking and reporting

Next Steps

The following are proposed next steps for the College in reviewing and integrated the proposed recommendations from the framework:

  • Identify standalone watershed mitigation projects to further counteract the impacts of past development and improve the health of the Crum Creek watershed.
  • Determine how carbon offsets will be acquired and create a purchase plan accordingly; develop a tracking system to document and account for these offsets.
  • From the Carbon Emissions Reduction Scenarios Good, Better or Best describing CO2 reduction strategies (Table 1.1), develop an implementation plan in accordance with the capital plans for campus growth.
  • Develop a life cycle analysis protocol for use when evaluating additional project costs including, at a minimum, the College’s policy on rates including escalation, inflation, discount rate and criteria for net present value, internal rate of return, maintenance costs and payback.
  • Determine to what extent building metering and sub-system metering is needed to track performance of individual buildings against the larger carbon emissions and energy use goals.
  • Develop a timeline for phasing out campus steam, installing new heating systems in buildings and reconfiguring the campus central plant.
  • Conduct a campus Transportation emissions audit to determine emissions associated with campus vehicular use and develop a baseline for future improvements to be compared to.
  • Develop a plan to implement and collect data from water use meters on a building level.
  • Revise Campus Standards documents to include the following performance targets: envelope, lighting, retro-commissioning, HVAC system, plugin equipment, site lighting, and on-site renewable technologies.
  • Perform an assessment of the campus housekeeping protocols and materials.
  • Continue to encourage staff to participate in green building conventions.
  • Continue to consider using external benchmarking systems to verify landscape and building performance.
  • Continue to connect with sustainability groups at other peer institutions.
  • Develop an integrated design protocol for project request for qualifications and request for proposal processes.
  • Establish funding for the added costs associated with the environmental improvements set forth in this framework.