The Physical Environment at Penn

The Climate and Sustainability Action Plan 3.0 advances Penn’s holistic approach to a sustainable campus by addressing design, construction, and maintenance of our built environment. The focus is on reducing Penn’s ecological footprint by adopting best practices for renovations, new construction, and ecological landscapes. The implementation of the Ecological Landscape Stewardship Plan (ELSP) will build on landscape best practices and will articulate improved ecological design and management of landscape and open space across campus. The five-year goals also explore wellness-focused design and commit the University to focus on adaptation planning through peer institution benchmarking and exploration of campus resiliency strategies.

Campus Development

Penn Connects


The Penn Connects plan, launched in 2006, was a blueprint for Penn’s land use, urban design, and campus development through 2011. The updated plan, Penn Connects 2.0, released in 2011, upped Penn's investment in our historic West Philadelphia campus, while boldly creating a new innovation ecosystem exemplified by the exciting new Pennovation Works. Penn's vision for Penn Connects 3.0 will continue the transformation of our spectacular urban campus, supporting all aspects of Penn's teaching and scholarship, research and clinical care, while enriching our students' living and learning experiences, strengthening community engagement, and advancing sustainable leadership.

Fagin Hall Green Roof



Penn is exhibiting best practices in sustainability by installing green roofs on a number of buildings.  By capturing rainwater and reducing it slowly over time, Penn's green roofs lessen the burden on the West Philadelphia sewer system, while providing several additional environmental benefits.

Green roofs can be found on several buildings across Penn's main campus, and there are many adjacent green roofs in the vicinity of campus through Penn’s real estate portfolio, the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS), and the Morris Arboretum.

  • Academic Research Building
  • Annenberg Public Policy Center
  • English College House
  • Fagin Hall 
  • Golkin Hall
  • Lauder College House
  • New College House West - pending 
  • Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics
  • Singh Center for Nanotechnology
  • Steinberg Hall – Dietrich Hall
  • Stephen A. Levin Building
  • Tangen Hall
  • Van Pelt Library

Real Estate

  • The Radian
  • Cira Green


  • Morris Arboretum Horticulture Center
Morris Arboretum Horticultural Center

leed buildings

The campus development plan, Penn Connects, recommends sustainable development for all new projects. Every new building and major renovation project currently under design is registered with the US Green Building Council, and is targeting LEED Silver rating or higher. (In addition to the list below, a number of projects have been submitted to USGBC and a decision is pending.) As of November 2019, University projects include:

LEED Silver Buildings:

  • Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine (PCAM)
  • Smilow Center for Translational Research
  • Vance Hall
  • Graduate Research Wing Phase 1 (Levine North)
  • ARCH (Arts, Research & Culture House)
  • Levin Building (Neural & Behavioral Sciences)
  • Hutchinson Gymnasium Infill
  • Perry World House
  • Richards Medical Research Building, Phase 1 & 2

LEED Gold Buildings:

  • Lerner Center (Music Building)
  • Joe's Cafe
  • Weiss Pavilion
  • Golkin Hall
  • Singh Center for Nanotechnology
  • Steinberg Hall-Dietrich Hall Addition (Mack Pavilion)
  • Steinberg-Dietrich Dean's Suite
  • 3901 Walnut Street
  • Pennovation Center
  • Lauder College House
  • Hill College House
  • Robbins House
  • Evans Centennial Century Bond Renovation 
  • Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics 
  • Richards, Phase 3
  • Stemmler Hall Renovation
  • in Beijing, China - Wharton China Center
  • in San Francisco, CA - Wharton San Francisco

LEED Platinum Building

  • Morris Arboretum Horticulture Center

Irvine Hall


Well built, durable lasting buildings are our most sustainable tradition:
College Hall (1873)
Logan/Cohen Hall (1874)
Fisher Fine Arts Library (1891)
Houston Hall (1896)
University Museum (1895-99)
Law School, Silverman Hall (1900)
Towne Building (1906)
Franklin Field (1922-25)
The Palestra and Hutchinson Gym (1928)
The Quadrangle (1894-1959)

*Data is from Building America's First University: An Historical and Architectural Guide to the University of Pennsylvania 2000 by Penn's George E. Thomas, Lecturer of Historical Preservation and Urban Studies and David B. Brownlee, Professor and Chair, History of Art.

Irvine Auditorium (pictured left) was dedicated with the Curtis Sesquicentennial Exposition Organ on May 9, 1929. The building's design was directed by the Horace Trumbauer firm, led by chief designer Julian Abele, the first African-American graduate of Penn's School of Architecture (1902).

Hayden Hall


Sustainability requires not only looking at present and future needs, but also drawing upon the lessons and resources from the past. Adaptive Reuse of buildings is now an important part of the sustainability movement. Examples of adaptive reuse on Penn’s Campus include:

  • Claudia Cohen Hall (1874) is the second-oldest building on campus
  • The Moore School, where the world's first computer (ENIAC) was created, was originally the Pepper Musical Instrument Factory (1909)
  • Hayden Hall (1896) was built as Dental Hall, and later used for the School of Architecture, Geology and now for Bioengineering


In 2013, Penn completed a comprehensive Stormwater Management Master Plan for the campus. The Plan included an assessment of all pervious, impervious, and landscaped surfaces on campus and provided an estimate of total stormwater generated within Penn’s 300-acre landscape.  The plan provided site-specific examples of best practices for stormwater management, including cisterns, bioswales, rain gardens, green roofs, and permeable paving. The Master Plan also includes an Operations and Maintenance Manual for existing stormwater management systems on campus.


Locust Walk




Building on the experience of the Sustainable SITES Initiative at Shoemaker Green, sustainable landscape practices have been adopted for implementation across campus. These practices have had a number of significant impacts:  reducing the amount of chemical fertilizers used on campus; eliminating the use of herbicides and pesticides except to treat spot outbreaks; adoption of new native species planting standards; and the reduced use of grass as a groundcover. Penn’s Urban Parks maintenance teams now treat campus meadows, grass, turf, and plants with “compost tea,” an all-natural amendment that improves soil and vegetation health and discourages weed growth and pest infestation. The compost tea is brewed on campus from compost and leaves and lawn clippings from campus. Surplus leaves and landscape waste are also mulched on campus, providing a landscape material used throughout Penn’s 280-acre landscape. 

Biological integrated pest control practices are also used in Penn Park and Shoemaker Green. In September 2013, staff, faculty and students joined the Penn Park maintenance team to release 30,000 ladybugs to control an aphid infestation on catalpa trees. Praying mantises have also been released on campus to help control damaging insects, further reducing the need for systemic pesticide application.