Martha Richards is research director for the Reed Business Information’s Reed Research Group, Newton, Massachusetts.  She can be reached at; this is her first article for Facilities Manager. We also thank Rob Cassidy of Building Design & Construction for his assistance on this project.

In September 2004, Reed Research Group and Building Design & Construction magazine conducted a survey among professionals involved in the field of education to understand their opinions, perceptions, and actions regarding sustainability and “green” colleges and universities. Facilities, design, and planning professionals in the university setting were targeted. APPA and SCUP (the Society for College and University Planning) participated in this university study.

This survey was conducted online. Each organization sent their members an e-mail inviting them to participate in this study. A total of 513 respondents participated in the study. Respondent participation included 296 from SCUP (58%) and 217 from APPA (42%).

The following were the objectives of the study:


Respondents have a high level of familiarity with green building terms and principles. The majority are at least somewhat familiar with the term “sustainable design” or “green building” and/or the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system.

Respondents expressed differing levels of expertise at their institutions with regards to green building or sustainable design. Nearly three-fifths of respondents indicated they are at least somewhat experienced in the area, while nearly one-third indicate little experience but a definite interest. Virtually no respondents expressed little interest in the topic.

Nearly three-fourths of respondents believe that sustainable/green buildings are more costly to build or develop. Although more costly to develop, respondents find a cost differential of 6 percent as acceptable to gain approval of a sustainable/green building at their institution.

The costs associated with green buildings prove to be the biggest barrier to acceptance in the university setting. Over two-thirds of respondents indicate “adds significantly to initial costs of construction” as a barrier to sustainability. Priority of programs also is a common barrier, with nearly half indicating “other program needs more important than green building.”

Nearly three-fourths of respondents have actually incorporated sustainable/green concepts in their recent university/college building designs. Energy management, daylighting, and automated lighting controls are the most popular concepts currently being incorporated.

The impetus to incorporate green elements came from a variety of sources among those respondents who indicate they have incorporated these concepts. One in three indicate the primary impetus came from the facilities planner or director, while nearly one-fifth indicate it came from university/college officials or the architect/designer.

When it comes to leading the green effort, nearly three-fifths of respondents feel the institution’s administration should be at the forefront. Nearly one-fifth feel the architect should lead the effort.

Sustainability as a Teaching Tool

Nearly four-fifths of respondents believe sustainably designed or green buildings can serve as a teaching tool for students. As one respondent states: “Many of the students who go out to industry will have an accepted notion of the viability of green buildings if they have actual experience of being in one.”

Following are some of the statements made by APPA members when asked, “Do you believe sustainably designed or green buildings can serve as a teaching tool for students? How?”