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The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 68.76
Liaison Kimberly Williams
Submission Date Feb. 27, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

George Washington University
OP-1: Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.67 / 10.00 Mark Ellis
Sustainability Project Facilitator
Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution's GHG emissions inventory include all Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions?:

Does the institution's GHG emissions inventory include all Scope 3 GHG emissions from any of the following categories?:
Yes or No
Business travel Yes
Commuting Yes
Purchased goods and services Yes
Capital goods No
Fuel- and energy-related activities not included in Scope 1 or Scope 2 Yes
Waste generated in operations Yes

Does the institution's GHG emissions inventory include Scope 3 emissions from other categories?:

A brief description of the methodology and/or tool used to complete the GHG emissions inventory:

GW's GHG emissions were quantified by the university's Office of Sustainability and Facilities Services staff using the Clean Air-Cool Planet (CA-CP) Campus Carbon Calculator (v.6.9). CA-CP is convenient, recommended, comprehensive, and allows for relative ease of comparison since it is used by several hundred other institutes of higher education and also serves as the default tool for GW's GHG reporting through the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). CA-CP Campus Carbon Calculator's default emissions coefficients were used for all categories except electricity. GW used a custom electric source mix provided by its retail electricity suppliers (RES) rather than the regional figure from the CA-CP Calculator.

GW used an operational control approach to determine the scope of its footprint. The guiding principle of GW's inventory is to include facilities that are owned or leased by the University that house activities and/or personnel that directly contribute to (e.g., classrooms, offices, research laboratories) and/or support (e.g., administrative offices, student medical clinic, and warehouse space) its academic mission. All facilities used for University purposes that are either owned and operated or rented from a third party are included. Buildings GW owns but rents to others were excluded as they do not house GW personnel or activities, and as such, GW does not control consumption patterns in these locations.

Certain assumptions were used in assembling this inventory, including the following:

Metrics for emissions from leased building spaces included certain assumptions, as the University is limited in its ability to track emissions from spaces it does not own/manage. For this metric, emissions were calculated using the following energy estimates in kBTU/GSF: 45 for warehouses, 83 for classrooms, 93 for offices, and 105 for medical spaces. Energy consumption is allocated as 60% from electricity and 40% from natural gas. These figures were based on existing data from similar buildings and Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Information Administration's (EIA's) 2003 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) data. DOE-EIA is in the process of conducting its 2012 CBECS data collection and analysis; this is the first CBECS survey since 2003 (2007 CBECS data were not publicly released by DOE-EIA due to data quality/credibility concerns). Per the DOE-EIA, building characteristics microdata for public use will not be available until April 2015. GW will update its kBTU/GSF energy estimates for subsequent GHG inventories once the new CBECS data are available.

Additionally, air travel mileage is not tracked at present, although information on dollars spent is available. Therefore, to develop a mileage figure, dollars spent were converted into miles flown (per AASHE's suggestion). Our air travel mileage is based on the separate dollars spent on international and domestic flights during FY2013, divided by the respective factors of dollars-per-air-mile-traveled for 2012 as tabulated by the Airlines for America (formerly Air Transport Association of America).

The commuting emissions data do not include student travel to/from campus at the beginning/end of each semester. In early 2010, GW performed a comprehensive transportation survey of each population (students, staff, and faculty), to improve upon the 2005 data used in our initial FY2008 GHG inventory. The data for the FY2013 inventory are based on this newer survey and improve data accuracy. GW plans to conduct another comprehensive transportation survey for its next GHG inventory to further improve upon and update the data used for its FY2013 inventory.

Has the GHG emissions inventory been validated internally by personnel who are independent of the GHG accounting and reporting process and/or verified by an independent, external third party?:

A brief description of the internal and/or external verification process:

Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions::
Performance Year Baseline Year
Scope 1 GHG emissions from stationary combustion 20,539 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent 27,492 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent
Scope 1 GHG emissions from other sources 1,885 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent 2,592 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent
Scope 2 GHG emissions from purchased electricity 64,198 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent 74,980 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent
Scope 2 GHG emissions from other sources 0 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent 0 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent

Figures needed to determine total carbon offsets::
Performance Year Baseline Year
Institution-catalyzed carbon offsets generated 0 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent 0 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent
Carbon sequestration due to land that the institution manages specifically for sequestration 196 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent 118 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent
Carbon storage from on-site composting 4 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent 0 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent
Third-party verified carbon offsets purchased 823 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent 0 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent

A brief description of the institution-catalyzed carbon offsets program:

A brief description of the carbon sequestration program and reporting protocol used:

GW has committed through its Ecosystems Enhancement Strategy to enhance tree canopy and green cover to help increase sequestration potential and outdoor air filtration capacity. In the near term, the university commits to offset the square foot loss of existing tree canopy and green cover from natural causes or campus development with new plantings. GW will do so by factoring green cover into campus development and conducting annual campus tree surveys to measure progress.

Casey Trees, a non-profit organization, performed GW's initial tree inventory. The inventory occurred in two parts, the first was in spring 2009 and covered only the Foggy Bottom Campus. The second occurred in late 2009 and covered the Mount Vernon Campus. Casey Trees surveyed both campus and street trees (city-owned) and gathered information about tree species, size, and location. This information was uploaded into the Forest Service's Street Tree Management Tool for Urban Forest Managers (STRATUM) model and yielded 196 metric tons of carbon dioxide benefit, net of decomposition and maintenance losses.

STRATUM was developed by researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service Center for Urban Forest Research. This model quantifies the structure, function, and value of a city's street trees. This run of the model was calibrated for trees in the Piedmont Climate Zone, which includes Washington, DC and parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Southern states.

One of the tenets of GW's Climate Action Plan is to identify credible local offset programs to offset emissions the university cannot reduce (i.e. air travel for faculty to conferences). As GW works toward its carbon neutrality goals, the university will continue to seek projects to invest in to identify ways to reduce its carbon footprint through local measures.

A brief description of the composting and carbon storage program:

(From OP-23)

Composting & Carbon Storage:

Pre-Consumer Composting -- GW's Mount Vernon Campus dining hall has participated in pre-consumer food waste collection for about five years. Beginning in the fall of 2014, the pre-consumer food waste collection program was expanded to include the JStreet dining hall at the GW Foggy Bottom Campus. JStreet Dining is the main dining hall for the university and serves hundreds of students daily.

Post-Consumer Composting -- GW has post-consumer composting at Pelham Commons, the major dining facility at the Mount Vernon Campus. GW also collects post-consumer compost at designated events. At roughly ten events per year, composting is available. These include large catered events and sporting concessions.

A brief description of the purchased carbon offsets, including third party verifier(s) and contract timeframes:

GW purchased Green-e certified renewable energy certificates (RECs) for FY2013 (July 1 2012 - June 30, 2013) from 3Degrees, Inc. RECs were purchased to help achieve LEED Gold Certification for campus residence halls and other facilities (Lafayette Hall, Ames Hall, and Smith Center). In total, GW purchased 1,568,000 kWh of RECs in FY2013, which accounted for 1.3% of the university's total electricity consumption in FY2013 and mitigated 823.0 metric tons of CO2e.

Figures needed to determine “Weighted Campus Users”::
Performance Year Baseline Year
Number of residential students 7,000 6,571
Number of residential employees 27 24
Number of in-patient hospital beds 0 0
Full-time equivalent enrollment 21,421 20,108
Full-time equivalent of employees 5,982.50 5,319.50
Full-time equivalent of distance education students 1,766 871

Start and end dates of the performance year and baseline year (or three-year periods):
Start Date End Date
Performance Year July 1, 2012 June 30, 2013
Baseline Year July 1, 2007 June 30, 2008

A brief description of when and why the GHG emissions baseline was adopted:

GW became the first university in the Washington, D.C. area to join the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in 2008. The university, along with more than 660 other higher education institutions, committed to develop a Climate Action Plan for carbon neutrality and to spotlight and support its academic endeavors on climate issues. GW's Climate Action Plan, completed in May 2010, established a 40% carbon footprint reduction target for the institution by FY2025 relative to a FY2008 baseline, and committed to carbon neutrality by FY2040. The baseline year in this survey was thus adopted for FY 2008, during which GW became an ACUPCC signatory and consistent with GW's Climate Action Plan.

Gross floor area of building space, performance year:
7,940,445 Square Feet

Floor area of energy intensive building space, performance year:
Floor Area
Laboratory space 304,619 Square Feet
Healthcare space 60,000 Square Feet
Other energy intensive space 74,699 Square Feet

Scope 3 GHG emissions, performance year::
Business travel 18,197.50 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent
Commuting 11,635 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent
Purchased goods and services 370.90 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent
Capital goods 0 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent
Fuel- and energy-related activities not included in Scope 1 or Scope 2 6,349 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent
Waste generated in operations 10.10 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent
Other categories (please specify below) 25 Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent

A brief description of the sources included in Scope 3 GHG emissions from "other categories":

- "Other categories" footprint includes biogenic emissions from mobile and stationary combustion.

- "Purchased goods and services" footprint accounts for Scope 3 emissions due solely to the university's paper purchases.

- "Business travel" footprint includes air travel and other directly financed travel.

- "Waste generated in operations" footprint is net for disposal/treatment of solid waste (-103.0) and wastewater (113.1) metric tons of CO2e.

A copy of the most recent GHG emissions inventory:

The website URL where the GHG emissions inventory is posted:
A brief description of the institution’s GHG emissions reduction initiatives, including efforts made during the previous three years:

Capital Partners Solar Project:

Capital Partners Solar Project is an innovative renewable energy project that will provide solar power from three project sites to the George Washington University (GW), American University (AU) and the George Washington University Hospital (GWUH). It is comprised of 52 megawatts (MWac) of solar photovoltaic (PV) power.

Collectively, once all three solar farm sites are operable by early 2016, the project will deliver 123,000 MWh of renewable energy to the three partners in its first year, with GW taking approximately 70.4% of the total load (equivalent to about 50% of its total electricity demand). At the time of signing, GW's share represented the largest ever non-utility solar PV power purchase agreement (PPA) in the United States in terms of total megawatt-hours contracted over the life of the 20-year contract term.

This project demonstrates how large organizations in an urban setting can partner to significantly reduce their carbon footprints by receiving offsite solar energy. Supplied by Duke Energy Renewables, the solar power will help all three institutions reduce their carbon footprint significantly, abating approximately 60,000 metric tons of CO2 compared to conventional electricity. This is equivalent to taking roughly 12,500 cars off the road. In addition, the project will yield economic savings for each institution as the price of traditional power is expected to increase over the duration of the project contract.

This project is a model for other urban institutions that want to meet their electricity needs using renewable energy. The groundbreaking for the first site located in Pasquotank County near Elizabeth City, NC, took place in summer 2014 and the project began to deliver electricity to GW in January 2015. The second and third site locations will be finalized by April 2015, and begin delivering solar power to GW by the start of 2016.

Eco Building Program:

Energy use in existing buildings comprises 80 percent of the university's GHG emissions. In the first years of implementing the Climate Action Plan, GW has prioritized improving building energy efficiency and enhancing IT systems that result in energy use reductions.

GW's Eco Building Program provides a comprehensive capital improvement plan to strategically implement energy and water conservation projects in campus buildings. Implementation of this program will result in a reduction of energy and water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and will produce short-term and long-term financial savings. Through these projects, GW aims to reduce energy use from the buildings by 15%.

Within the last 3 years, 30% of GW's buildings (by square footage) have undergone an energy-efficiency oriented retrofit as part of the Eco Building Program. Work will continue in the coming years, with capital projects already scheduled.

On-SIte Renewable Energy:

An 18-panel photovoltaic array is operating on a trellis above a walkway, known as the Solar Walk, between two buildings at the Virginia Science and Technology Campus. Below the Solar Walk is the world’s first walkable solar-paneled pathway which includes 27 slip-resistant, semitransparent panels comprising 100 square feet. In peak conditions the walkable panels, designed by Spain-based Onyx Solar, generate enough energy to power 450 LED pathway lights, while the panels on the trellis generate energy that feeds nearby Innovation Hall.

On-SIte Thermal Hot Water:

The university installed its first solar hot water system in March 2011 on a residence hall at 2031 F St. During the summer of 2011 the university installed two more solar hot water heating systems on residence halls at 1959 E St and Ivory Tower (later renamed Shenkman Hall). A fourth solar hot water system will be installed in spring 2015.

Renewable Energy Credits (RECs):

During the reporting year, the University purchased RECs from local and/or nationwide wind energy farms as a component of LEED certification applications for several new construction projects. A few RECs were also donated by an energy supply firm to offset the natural gas used on Earth Day.

Building Temperature Standards:

GW's design standards include winter and summer temperature ranges for designers of new buildings to achieve. In existing buildings, GW has begun to use Coris Outlet Modules, which are Internet-controlled packaged A/C unit ("window shaker") timers. Programmable thermostats are also employed.

LED Lighting:

GW has used LED lighting in exit signs for many years. At the end of FY11 the university began retrofitting its underground parking garages with LED lighting and occupancy sensors. GW now has five underground parking garages using LED lighting and occupancy sensors. In FY12 GW installed LED lights as house lights in its historic Lisner Auditorium theater. GW is now installing LED lights into a wider range of fixtures including interior and exterior uses.

Occupancy Sensors:

The most common type of occupancy sensor used to control lighting on campus is a dual-technology sensor that detects both motion or sound. These are usually mounted into ceilings of public spaces such as classrooms and conference rooms. In smaller rooms such as public bathrooms a sensor detects motion to bring lights on and then the lights go off again a pre-set amount of time later such as 15 minutes. This application is now switching to the use of vacancy sensors instead. Some daylight sensors are in use in lobbies with a lot of natural light. Most outdoor lighting is controlled by timers or photocells.

Passive Solar:

The University has a few buildings that incorporate passive solar heating. One example is our two greenhouses. Three buildings on GW's campuses -- Ames Hall, Rice Hall, and 45155 Research Place -- include a total of approximately 3,500 square-feet of solar window films to reduce solar incidence into spaces to help prevent overheating, in turn reducing peak air conditioning loads during warmer months of the year.


No cogeneration technologies are in use at this time but a new CHP unit in Ross Hall on GW's Foggy Bottom Campus is expected to commence operation in Spring 2015. Start-up of this unit will shortly follow the opening of a new Science and Engineering Hall (SEH). The 5-MW cogeneration unit will supply approximately two-thirds of the combined electricity demand for Ross Hall and SEH, as well as heat for the two buildings.

Building Commissioning/Retrofits:

GW has commissioned all of its new buildings for the past 20 years. While a formal recommissioning program has not been implemented to date, two pilot-scale recommissioning activities have been undertaken. In one building a continuous commissioning project was used for a year and in another LEED-certified building a recommissioning effort was undertaken to correct a higher-than-expected energy usage. A formal building retrofit program is now underway; see its description below under the description of the institution's program to replace energy-consuming equipment with higher-efficiency alternatives.

Energy Metering/Building Management Systems:

The University's building management systems (BMS) currently interconnect 40 buildings with either remote monitoring or control functionality. In terms of the absolute number of buildings with BMSs the coverage is small (~30%) but the buildings with BMSs are the largest buildings on campus so in terms of square footage (or energy usage) the BMS coverage is extensive (~78.5%). The BMS primarily monitors and controls space temperatures, humidity, and HVAC functions rather than lighting. Lighting is generally controlled with local occupancy sensors, daylight sensors, or photocells. One building that opened recently has its lighting system controls integrated into its BMS.

Energy-Efficient Equipment:

Three years ago the University launched its Eco-Building Program to reduce energy usage and GHG emissions in existing buildings. To date three phases of projects have been conducted, covering ten major buildings.

Energy-Efficient Landscape Design:

The University has begun replacing a variety of exterior lighting with LED alternatives. Two other initiatives were described in response to OP-9 where renewable energy sources have been incorporated into the landscape to power LED lights along a pathway and to allow students to recharge their laptops, tablets, and phones.

Vending Machines:

We currently have "SnackMisers" on two vending machines on campus, which control the energy use of the machines based on motion. We piloted twelve of these products, but it was determined that it is not the best fit for GW's vending machines, so we continue to explore additional options.

Other Initiatives:

GW has undertaken several behavior-change initiatives aimed at reducing energy usage and GHG emissions. The Eco-Challenge competition has been used for many years as a way to engage students living on campus in a friendly energy-reducing competition. This competition has expanded to include many academic buildings. There are now two kiosks on campus that display the energy usage of many campus buildings, with a third to be added during the Spring 2015 semester in Science and Engineering Hall.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.