Creating an ethos of sustainability at Yale’s new residential colleges

Sustainability will be as much a part of daily life at Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin Colleges as leisurely strolls across the courtyards.
Dining hall with wood paneling and long wooden tables.

Ninety-nine percent of the wood used in the new colleges is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Sustainability will be as much a part of daily life at Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin Colleges as leisurely strolls across the courtyards.

When students arrive at the new Yale residential colleges, they will find buildings, services, meals, and amenities that are designed with an eye toward preserving the planet. What’s more, students will learn about incorporating sustainable choices into everything they do, from laundry to disposing of old ballpoint pens.

A key component of the Yale Sustainability Plan is enhancing the campus to better address financial, environmental, and social imperatives,” said Virginia Chapman, director of Yale’s Office of Sustainability. “The new colleges align with these goals, comprehensively integrating sustainability from the construction to occupancy phase.”

The two colleges certainly have sustainable infrastructure. They are designed to LEED Gold certification standards, with a variety of features:

  • 99% of the wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council
  • 11% of materials locally sourced
  • Paints, adhesives, and carpeting with no or low-volatile organic compounds for healthier indoor air
  • Windowpanes insulated with middle layers of inert gas
  • Dozens of underground heat pumps that exchange heat with the ground in a closed loop system to help regulate temperature
  • Walls with three inches of insulation to act as a heat shield; southern walls that are lower in order to let as much natural light as possible into courtyards
  • High efficiency showerheads and motion-activated faucets to reduce water use
  • Outdoor infiltration systems to decrease storm water runoff

Students at Murray and Franklin also have a bike trail conveniently located adjacent to the colleges, as well as a bike repair shop. They will receive sustainability training and tips on everything from proper waste disposal to water and energy use reduction.

In addition, all students who organize events at Murray and Franklin colleges will receive training in how to conduct events in a more sustainable manner, with follow-up after events. For any catered events, caterers will adhere to “green event” guidelines.

By providing occupancy training and setting expectations, the new colleges will help students create sustainable habits that they can pass along to their peers and take beyond Yale,” Chapman said.

The new colleges’ dining halls are another area of sustainability, tailored to a collaborative mindset regarding personal behaviors. The dining halls are designed to foster more interaction between students and staff, allowing for more communication about how and why to make choices that reduce the carbon footprint.

Even the students’ sofas and writing implements are getting a sustainable makeover. For example, furniture in the students’ common rooms will be provided by the university, which reduces moving and storage costs, protects the buildings from minor moving damage, and reduces the waste created during the student move-out each year. Also, the colleges will collect used writing utensils and bring them to recycling bins at Bass Library.

Lastly, the university is looking to students at Murray and Franklin to help fine-tune the colleges’ energy usage. Students will be asked to participate in sessions to talk about temperature set points and time intervals. Students will get a guided tour of the colleges’ energy systems, and be asked to give feedback on where there might be opportunities to use less energy.


Share this with Facebook Share this with X Share this with LinkedIn Share this with Email Print this
Part of the In Focus Collection: Yale’s new residential colleges

Media Contact

Jim Shelton:, 203-361-8332