MIT has a rich history of integrating sustainability into its operational campus systems. The Institute has developed initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of designing and operating its buildings, managing energy use, getting people to and from campus via alternative transportation, consuming and disposing of materials, and sourcing its food. The Office of Sustainability will continue to work collaboratively with the Department of Facilities, Planning, Dining, Procurement, faculty, students and others to innovate in these areas, with special attention to opening up campus systems to serve as hands-on learning opportunities and test beds for innovation.
MIT seeks to develop and deliver energy for campus operations using efficient, low carbon, and renewable strategies, while encouraging building occupants to take an active role in energy conservation.
MIT has worked extensively to deploy state-of-the-art energy conservation, efficiency, and production strategies. Since 1995, MIT has generated a significant portion of the electricity, heat, and chilled water use of its campus buildings with the state-of-the-art natural gas-powered William R. Dickson Co-generation plant. Today, the plant generates about 55 percent of MIT’s electricity through cogeneration. The plant uses a 20-megawatt gas turbine to produce electricity and thermal power simultaneously by utilizing waste heat to generate steam. The plant, in conjunction with the Facilities Control System (FCS), automatically adjusts building heating, cooling and ventilation levels and has helped MIT to cut its steam usage and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, saving the Institute millions of dollars over the plant’s lifetime. Since it became operational, the plant has avoided emissions of an estimated 1,230,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, compared to conventional energy sources. This includes 2013 avoided emissions of more than 58,300 metric tons, equal to those from the generation of electricity used annually by 8,015 homes.
The Department of Facilities leads the Institute’s energy efficiency measures and pursues aggressive strategies to continually reduce energy consumption in all campus operations.
MIT Efficiency Forward
In addition to efficiency improvements through on-campus power generation, MIT has partnered with NSTAR to implement energy efficiency retrofits to its older buildings and mechanical equipment. MIT and NSTAR have successfully concluded the first phase of “MIT Efficiency Forward”—a groundbreaking, multi-million dollar pilot collaboration—achieving their ambitious goal to reduce 34 million kilowatt-hours between 2010 and 2012. These savings are equivalent to the electricity used by 4,500 Massachusetts homes.
In June 2013, MIT and NSTAR signed a second agreement to renew the program through 2015 and are designing a new portfolio of measures that have an ambitious goal of saving an additional 21 million kilowatt-hours annually. For this second phase, Efficiency Forward also includes thermal savings from the reduction of natural gas use on campus, with a goal to save 150,000 therms of natural gas annually over the next three years. Detailed information is available at the Efficiency Forward website.
Also, read the latest MIT News articles about Efficiency Forward’s impact:
- Energy savings add up to success for Efficiency Forward, August 2013
- MIT and NSTAR celebrate energy efficiency success, extend ‘Efficiency Forward’ through 2015, July 2013
- Five-year effort by Campus Energy Task Force saves MIT millions of dollars, kilowatt-hours, December 2011
- MIT receives local and regional recognition for energy programs, September 2011
- MIT Efficiency Forward exceeds electricity reduction goal, January 2011
- ‘Efficiency Forward,' May 2010
MIT strives to employ sustainable design principles in new construction, renovation, and operations to deliver efficient, healthy, and productive spaces. The Office of Sustainability is working closely with the Department of Facilities and the MIT community to advance the development of building standards that ensure that every capital project is approached and executed with a firm understanding of and commitment to the integration of sustainable strategies.
At MIT, all new capital projects and major renovations must meet Silver or better standards of the US Green Building Council’s (USBGC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program, in addition to meeting the energy efficiency goals of the City of Cambridge’s Stretch Energy Code.
In the past decade, MIT has made considerable progress in constructing its new buildings with many sustainable features. The Department of Facilities maintains a comprehensive list of additional information on current and planned construction projects. Examples of recent building projects include:
- The Sloan School of Management building (E62), was completed in 2010 and is LEED Gold certified. Post occupancy studies show that the building is meeting aggressive energy efficiency targets, using about 45% less energy than a typical building of a similar size that simply meets code requirements. The building incorporates a high-performance envelope with operable windows in office areas, (partial) green roof, low-wattage lighting, demand ventilation, occupancy sensor controls, water-based terminal heating and cooling units, and easy access to usable outdoor spaces. Read more about the design and operation of the building here.
- The Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Institute, completed in Fall 2010, is MIT’s first LEED Gold certified research lab. The project demonstrates the viability of combining sustainability and scientific function in building design and operation. Reports confirm that the building is using 35 percent less energy than a standard laboratory research building. Designing an energy efficient ventilation system was a priority; Koch has over a hundred fume hoods that flush contaminated air away from researchers, which are a major source for energy consumption. To learn about more about Koch’s sustainable features, read here. Other sustainable design features include: redevelopment of a brownfield site, a reflective roof, and a storm water filtration system.
- Ashdown House (NW35) is a LEED Gold certified graduate residence hall completed in 2008 that houses more than 400 students. The building received LEED Gold certification in 2009 and includes many sustainable design features including light pollution reduction, Energy Star appliances, nontoxic materials.: landscaping and irrigation systems that use water from a non-potable source; a storm-water management system that reduces storm-water runoff; maximized daylight available in 95 percent of regularly occupied spaces; and low-flow fixtures that reduce water use by more than 20 percent. Read more here.
- MIT’s Brain and Cognitive Science Complex is the world's largest center for neuroscience research, opened in 2005 and received LEED Silver certification in 2008. Sustainable features include: a high-performance building envelope, gray water reuse, exhaust-fan heat recovery, and daylight-balanced lighting. Read more here.
- The iconic Stata Center, completed in 2004, has an innovative storm water management system, displaced ventilation systems, and a roof design that uses native vegetation and a white reflective surface to reduce the heat island effect.
MIT works to improve the environmental performance of its existing buildings across campus, significantly investing in projects that conserve energy and water and educate building occupants. For examples of these projects, click here to visit the Department of Facilities’ Sustainability site.
MIT works to minimize the generation and toxicity of its waste and to increase the diversion of material from the waste stream through reuse, recycling, and composting. MIT also encourages the purchase of environmentally preferable and sustainably produced products and services throughout its supply chains. The Institute will continue to innovate in this area, as it moves toward an intentional and ecologically balanced approach to material management in which the Institute clearly understands and responds to the flow of materials that enter and leave campus.
MIT seeks to recognize the ecological and health impacts of its waste management decisions and aims to take into account the connection between materials that enter the campus and those that leave campus.
Through recycling, composting and conservation efforts, MIT has worked hard to reduce its overall waste disposal, which has saved money while reducing the Institute’s environmental footprint. In 2012, MIT attained a 46 percent recycling rate. Read more about these efforts at the Department of Facilities website here.
The Environment, Health and Safety Office at MIT provides guidance and support to the MIT community on the proper management of the Institute’s regulated waste. For more information on proper waste management, visit the EHS website here.
Reuse is an important keystone of MIT’s waste reduction efforts. The Institute has a number of programs in place for the community to find a second home for unneeded or unwanted items.
MIT ReUse is a service that allows MIT students, staff, faculty, and alumni to sell or exchange items. This listserv community promotes waste minimization through the reuse of usable goods. The Green Committee -- a committee of MIT's Working Group on Support Staff Issues -- operates an extensive list of MIT reuse programs and tips on ways to reduce waste.
- Choose to Reuse is held in the Stata Center (Building 32) every third Thursday of the month. MIT community members can donate and pick up free clean, reusable items for free. The event is organized by the staff Green Committee. Visit their website for more information.
- Swapfest, held the third Sunday of every month, April through October, is a way to buy, sell, and swap electronic items.
MIT’s Custodial Services strive to continuously develop a more sustainable approach to keeping the Institute clean and healthy, choosing equipment and procedures that reduce environmental impact, promote healthy indoor air quality, and are cost-effective. A signature staple of the program is the “eco floor scrubber,” which cleans floors at MIT by electrically converting water into a chemical-free cleaning solution, uses 70% less water than other scrubbers, and is safer because it leaves the floors completely dry. Custodians also use wet mops that are manufactured from recycled and renewable raw materials that use less energy and water to produce. To reduce exposure to chemicals, Custodial Services use “command centers” that provide pre-diluted chemicals and are set in strategic locations that give custodians the opportunity to fill their cleaning containers more easily, quickly and safely. The dispensing units allow for the proper dilution of chemicals. Cleaning chemicals are also Green Seal approved and are healthier for the Institute's custodial staff and the MIT Community.
Sourcing and Procurement
The MIT Office of Sustainability will be working closely with MIT’s Sourcing & Procurement department to further embed sustainability into the Institute’s purchasing systems. Understanding the life cycle of products and services will lead to a decision-making process that considers the complex ecological, social, and financial impacts of purchasing.
MIT advances the use of alternative commuter transportation to and from campus, seeks to minimize air travel, and deploys efficient, low-emission vehicles in its campus fleet in order to reduce environmental impact associated with transportation emissions and promote a healthy, interconnected community.
Getting to and from campus
MIT has implemented a variety of programs to encourage its students, faculty, and staff to get to and from campus using alternative transportation – such as biking, using public transportation, carpooling, and car-sharing. These programs have earned MIT the EPA’s “Best Workplace for Commuters” designation. Read more about resources available to staff, students, and faculty at MIT’s Commuter Connections.
MIT’s vehicle fleet
MIT is committed to maintaining an efficient fleet of vehicles that run on alternative fuel. Campus shuttles currently are fueled with a commercial biodiesel and in 2011, the Department of Facilities introduced into its fleet its first all-electric full-service vehicle, a Ford Transit Connect modified by Azure Dynamics. With a range of 50-80 miles and a top speed of 75 mph, the vehicle will be used by MIT Mail Services and monitored for its performance.
MIT has made continuous efforts to “right size” its vehicle fleet by replacing 6- and 8-cylinder vehicles with fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles. The Institute has also collaborated with the City of Cambridge to retrofit diesel vehicles with pollution control devices.
Electric vehicle charging stations
In 2012, MIT began installing ChargePoint networked electric vehicle charging stations for use by the MIT community and the public. Charging stations are currently located at building WW15 (2 stations for 4 parking spots), Building 46 (2 stations for 4 parking spots), and Building 32 (1 station for 1 parking spot). These installations are intended to advance regional infrastructure to support the adoption of electric vehicles through a collaborative program with the City of Cambridge. MIT plans to add additional charging stations in the spring of 2014, for a total capacity to charge 25 electric vehicles on campus.
MIT endeavors to provide its community with healthy, nutritious dining opportunities that embrace sustainable food practices including local, fresh, organic and other sustainable approaches. MIT Campus Dining has implemented a number of measures to become more sustainable through energy efficiency efforts and waste reduction.
Bon Appetit provides food service at MIT’s dinng halls, including McCormick.Baker. Maseeh. Simmons. As a company, they are committed to working toward “food service for a sustainable future,” striving to cook food that is both delicious and good for diners, animals, workers, the community, and the planet. At the 2015 MIT Sustainability Summit, Fedele Bauccio, Co-Founder and CEO of Bon Appetit shared insights about his company has led the restaurant industry in upholding Circular Economy principles that are inclusive of environmental, social, and economic responsibilities across food production and consumption.
Waste reduction efforts include: introducing reusable takeout containers in student dining halls, reducing paper cup usage by offering discounts on using renewable mugs, cooking in small batches to reduce waste, and composting pre- and post-consumer waste. For information on MIT Facilities composting efforts, visit here. Food service providers also now include more local, organic food options in meals served at House Dining Rooms.