Wellbeing and Sustainability

The Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center is a model for how the design of indoor spaces can strengthen community well-being. This vision is grounded in Harvard’s Sustainability Plan and its goals to use the campus as a living laboratory for enhancing health and addressing climate change. Sustainability features of the new Campus Center include:

Expanded access to nature and daylight

The renovation dramatically increases access to daylight and nature via an enormous open-air vitrine garden, glass facades, and second-floor roof gardens. Selected plant species are indigenous to New England, changing color with the four seasons. Five new mature trees were also planted in the front of the main entrance on Massachusetts Avenue to provide a welcoming and inviting experience. 

Green walls that clean the air, provide access to biophilia

The Campus Center’s green walls are complex hydroponic landscapes, with over 12,000 plants, comprised of 19 species. The walls contribute to the well-being of occupants and visitors by improving air quality, providing a connection to the natural world, and opening up opportunities for research and enjoyment.    

The green walls are a complex hydroponic landscape, designed to improve air quality and provide a connection to the natural world. The plants help to clean the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. They are irrigated with UV-filtered rainwater harvested from the Campus Center’s rooftop. Lighting is supplied by super energy-efficient LED light bulbs. Plant selection and placement are based on light conditions and gradient.

The nineteen plant species are:

Adiantum sp. Maidenhair Fern sp. Pachira aquatica, Money Tree
Aglaonema, Aglaonema Maria Christina Peperomia caperata, Green Peperomia Caperata
Aglaonema, Aglaonema Silver Queen  Peperomia Sandersii, Peperomia Sandersii
Calathea Lancifolia, Calathea Lancifolia Philodendron bipinnatifidum, Philodendron Selloum
Davallia fejeensis, Rabbit Foot Fern Philodendron scandens, Philodendron Sweet Heart
Dryopteris erythrosora, Autumn Fern Philodendron micans, Velvet-leaf vine
Ficus benjamina, Ficus Benjamina Philodendron ‘Brasil’ , Brazilian Philodendron
Ficus pumila, Creeping Fig  Platycerium superbum, Staghorn Fern
Fitonia Albivenis, Green Fitonia Spathiphyllum, Peace Lily
Maranta leucoreura, Red maranta prayer plant  

Sustainable, Healthy Food Options

Common Spaces and Harvard Real Estate partnered with the Office for Sustainability to incorporate the forthcoming Sustainable and Healthful Food Standards into the selection process for food vendors at the Smith Campus Center. The collaboration focused on identifying locally-owned businesses that highlight healthier food options and plant-based menus that are climate-friendly.

Healthier Furniture

The Smith Campus Center was the first pilot project for Harvard’s innovative Healthier Building Materials Academy which was launched in 2016 and relies on the latest science to address chemicals of concern in the building products and materials used in Harvard’s construction and renovation projects. The effort is a unique partnership between Harvard’s Office for Sustainability and faculty researchers at the Harvard Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (C-Change). The Academy was an inaugural recipient of the President’s Administrative Innovation Fund.

• All 3,000 pieces of furniture meet the HH-Healthy Interiors Standard, at no additional cost.
• 75% of the 22 furniture manufacturers had never met the HH-Healthy Interiors Standard.
• 100% of the carpet produced without targeted classes of chemicals of concern.

Alternative Transportation

The Smith Campus Center is centrally located in Harvard Square with easy access to public transit, bicycle amenities, and walkable spaces. Taking transit, biking, or walking supports the University’s commitment to transition away from fossil fuel use and build a healthier, more thriving campus community. As part of the renovation project, the amount of bike racks in and around the Smith Campus Center were increased by 60 percent.

Resource Conservation

Stormwater runoff from rainstorms is recaptured from the rooftop, collected in an underground tank, and reused to irrigate the green walls. Four-pane glass was used in the entrance and Harvard Commons to maximize energy efficiency.

Recycling and Composting

Harvard’s Sustainability Plan sets a goal to reduce waste per capita on campus 50% by 2020 from a 2006 baseline. To help meet this commitment, the Smith Campus Center provides composting and recycling bins throughout our new space.

•      Single stream recycling means all recyclables can be placed in the same bin with no sorting required. All recyclables are sent to a local sorting facility.

•      Food scraps, compostable products, napkins and paper towels, and other compostables can all be placed in the compost bins to help divert organic waste from the landfill.  Compost collected at Harvard is processed and then undergoes an anaerobic digestion process that creates new energy.

Learn more about waste reduction at Harvard.