Penn GSE announces LEED Gold certification on Earth Day

April 22, 2024
A view of the 2023 courtyard and lobby additions to the Penn GSE building from above, showing their green roofs and rear facade

Green roofs on the lobby and courtyard additions of the new GSE building aid with cooling, carbon dioxide absorption, and stormwater management. These upgrades contributed to the building’s recently announced LEED Gold certification. (Chuck Choi for Penn GSE)

The Penn GSE building expansion and renovation that opened in August 2023 was recently awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification for its sustainable design, construction, and operation. The project — the School’s first new construction in 50 years — connected the adjacent GSE building and Stiteler Hall while adding 16,200 square feet of new space. The building’s design and construction were supported with a capital fundraising campaign that generated gifts from almost 100 donors across Penn’s community of alumni and friends.

“I can think of no better day to share the news of our LEED Gold certification than today — Earth Day,” said Penn GSE Dean Katharine Strunk. “We remain deeply committed to Penn’s Climate and Sustainability Action Plan to move the campus closer to becoming 100% carbon neutral by 2042.”

Philip Chen, FAIA, Annum Architects President, said, “Sustainability was at the core of this project, which transformed a 60-year-old site and buildings into a modern and vibrant home for GSE, nourishing the community and serving their needs now and long into the future.”

While the project was aiming for Silver certification, Penn GSE recently learned that it had achieved Gold. The culmination of years of planning and 18 months of construction, the remarkable educational space has already had an enormous impact on GSE’s sense of community and collaboration. The most sustainable impact of the project is the reuse of the two 1960s buildings, formerly designed as opaque structures that turned away from the campus and city. Well-being is reinforced with interior and exterior spaces designed for social interaction, relationship-building, and chance encounters, supporting a sense of community and identity. Access to daylight and views has transformed the interior of the newly renovated spaces within the GSE building and Stiteler Hall. Ninety percent of renovated and new spaces have direct views to the outside, allowing occupants to be connected to their broader surroundings and environment. Acoustic quality and noise isolation were high priorities in the design of instructional spaces, common spaces, and spaces near new mechanical systems.

The building additions are energy- and water-efficient. Green roofs on the lobby and courtyard additions aid with cooling, carbon dioxide absorption, and stormwater management. The mechanical system design recovers heat within the building, and the external terra cotta and aluminum shading elements reduce the need for cooling. The building was able to reduce its interior lighting energy use by 47 percent and its exterior lighting energy use by 52 percent. All of this combines to help the new Penn GSE building achieve a 40 percent annual energy use savings.