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Sustainable Design: Harvard Science and Engineering Complex

Case Studies

Harvard Science and Engineering Complex 

Harvard University’s Science and Engineering Complex (SEC) was certified by two international building certification programs as one of the healthiest, most sustainable, and energy-efficient laboratories in the world. The SEC won the 2023 American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) COTE® Top Ten Award for setting the standard in sustainable design excellence.


Location:Boston, Massachusetts
Project Area:544,000 SF 
Certification: Petal Certified, Version 3.1
Architects:Behnisch Architekten, Boston
Contractor:Turner Construction
MEP Engineer Civil Engineer:VanZelm Engineers
Landscape:Stephen Stimson Associates
Owner:Harvard University 
Owner Representatives:Harvard Capital Projects, Harvard Office for Sustainability 
Partners:Harvard Healthier Building Academy


  • “The SEC is a centerpiece of the University’s mission to create a healthier, more sustainable campus. Together, Harvard’s community and its partners — faculty, students, architects, sustainability experts, engineers, and manufacturers— are transforming the definition of sustainable building to address climate, health, and equity for all. Our shared vision for a healthier built environment has motivated the broader supply chain to support a healthier building at local, regional, and global levels.” — Katie Lapp, Harvard Executive Vice President
  • “We have shown that it is possible to minimize or eliminate toxic substances such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), chemical flame retardants, and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) from new construction, making the building healthier for its occupants and creating safer conditions for workers involved in the manufacture of products. In the SEC, you will encounter healthier products in the walls, floors, ceilings, lights, furniture, paints, composite wood, wire coatings, pipes, plumbing sealants, countertops, and even lab equipment.” — Elsie Sunderland, Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Chemistry at Harvard John A.Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • “It reflects Harvard’s ambition to create transparency in products to catalyze healthier building practices industry-wide. The SEC is our 41st and most extensive Healthier Building Academy project, including LBC certification, to model how to identify, source, and purchase healthier products by educating and partnering with manufacturers to reduce the use of toxic chemicals. Harvard’s work to translate research into action focuses on reducing human and environmental harm upstream, where products are created, and throughout the supply chain where builders and occupants interact with products. Our goal is to send clear market signals to create healthier, affordable products for all, and reduce our supply chain impacts.” — Heather Henriksen, Harvard Chief Sustainability Officer
  • “The Living Building Challenge is much, much harder than every other standard.Every single petal is a heroic activity. The fact that a 500,000 sf building has achieved three of these petals, and most critically the Materials petal, which is absolutely the hardest petal to earn, is truly impressive. The goal of the LivingBuilding Challenge is to create the greenest building possible for a healthy world and a sustainable climate. This is a great example, and because it’s the largest building to ever be certified under this standard. It’s going to be a huge transformational project for the International Living Future Institute and, I think, Harvard.” — Vivian Loftness, board member of the ILFI and Paul Mellon Chair and University Professor at Carnegie Mellon University