Sustainable UMass

Publication Date



The University of Massachusetts has a rapidly evolving commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the environmental sustainability of its operations. According to the most recent IPCC report, the buildings sector has more potential to contribute to climate change mitigation than any other sector.1 The energy efficient designs of the current spate of building projects are indicative of the University’s commitment to green building—reducing the energy intensity of the university relative to building area and activities. However, these efforts cannot reduce the total energy use or greenhouse gas emissions from current levels. Among the University’s assets with the greatest potential to achieve these goals are its existing buildings.

Most of these are good buildings that have not reached the end of their useful life. Forty-two buildings, encompassing more than half of the general administration and educational space fall into the categories of “catch up and keep up” or “keep and renew” according to the university’s Building Disposition Report.2 Many of the existing buildings have great historical, aesthetic, and emotional value and have stood the test of time as the site of the academic, scientific, and cultural work that is their primary purpose. Can these buildings be updated to dramatically reduce their energy consumption and allow them to continue to function as valuable assets for the long term? What levels of energy savings are possible and reasonable? This report is designed to answer these questions for one representative building: Holdsworth Hall.

The recommendations in this report are the product of a detailed and careful examination and exploration of the building and its operations. The investigations and proposed solutions are motivated by two principles: First, the architectural intention should be respected. The building as designed works well on many levels, and no recommendation should undermine currently effective systems and designs or compromise the aesthetic intention of its designers. Second, the building is a complex system, and no change can be considered in isolation. Single measures may achieve savings, but cannot maximize savings or performance without complementary changes in related systems. A final package of recommended measures will define a new building system with emergent properties that make for a qualitatively different and better building beyond simple energy consumption metrics. 1 (