singh green roof

Penn Sustainability Walking Tours

Find Green Locations on Penn's Campus

Use these resources to help you find green locations on Penn's campus.

Penn Sustainability Walking Tour

The University of Pennsylvania is dedicated to promoting a sustainable culture and implementing environmentally-conscious policies through its research, teaching, and operational practices. Penn’s Climate and Sustainability Action Plan, created in 2009 and updated in 2014 and 2019, serves as a road map for reducing the University’s carbon footprint and enhancing its overall sustainability. Penn’s approach to sustainability continues to be holistic, incorporating initiatives in energy conservation, green building design, waste reduction, sustainable campus operations, and academics. This self-guided tour highlights some of the noteworthy green features across campus.

Sustainable details of projects numbered on Walking Tour:

1 Singh Center for Nanotechnology

The Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology features high-efficiency mechanical and electrical systems that operate at 14% above industry standard and plumbing fixtures that reduce water use by 30%. Natural daylight floods the building, reducing the need for artificial fixtures in many of the studies and workspaces. Two green roofs and energy-efficient labs and equipment contributed to this building’s LEED Gold Certification.

2 Penn Park

The creation of Penn Park added 20% more open space to campus when the 24-acre park opened in 2011. What was a former industrial site is now home to two synthetic-turf athletic fields, a softball stadium, and a 12-court outdoor tennis center. Woven among these facilities are a variety of passive recreation spaces, walkways, elevated bridge connections, meadows planted with native species and over 600 newly-planted trees. A 2,000,000-gallon cistern is located at the heart of the site to capture and reuse stormwater. No synthetic chemicals or fertilizers are used, nor is salt used on the landscape so to not affect the pH of water in the cistern.

3 Weiss Pavilion

Weiss Pavilion, which opened in 2010, is demonstrative of one of the University’s oldest architectural traditions – preservation through adaptive reuse. The pavilion inhabits the space underneath the double-height arches that support the stadium seating, and connects the interior concourse with the new outdoor east-west exterior pedestrian promenade. The project’s innovative combination of excavation and infill has redefined Penn’s hundred-year-old football stadium by adding usable space without increasing the building’s footprint. Weiss Pavilion was awarded LEED Gold Certification in 2011. Ninety-five percent of demolition and construction waste was diverted through salvage, reuse, and recycling of materials. Including, for example, the excavated soil from the site was used in the construction of the adjacent Penn Park.

4 Hutchinson Gymnasium

The Tse Ping & Cheng Cheung Ling Sports Center at Hutchinson Gymnasium has incorporated a state-of-the-art sustainable glazing system. Both the Hutchinson Gym and the Palestra had original windows dating from the late 1920s – single pane, etched, wire pebble glass, which did not provide the energy efficiency, daylighting, and views required for a modern athletic facility. The new insulating glass units with clear polymer honeycomb met the architect and the University’s goals for improved performance while integrating with the building’s historic fabric. The cellular honeycomb structure has a neutral yet textured appearance that relates to the original glass but optimizes performance. The IGUs provide integrated shading, they offer an excellent solution for retrofit projects where add-on elements such as exterior louvers or interior shades would compromise the historic character of the building as well as increase installation and ongoing maintenance costs. Furthermore, it provides directional transparency, allowing views to the campus without the monolithic appearance of a typical clear insulating glass unit. 

5 Shoemaker Green

Shoemaker Green has received a silver rating from the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), the first rating system for green landscape design, construction, and maintenance in the U.S. The design of this open space utilizes native plants and best practices in stormwater management, including a rain garden and underground cistern, making it a hallmark for environmental design on campus.

6 Music Building - The Lerner Center

The Lerner Center, home to the School of Arts & Sciences’ Music Department, received a LEED Gold Certification in 2011. The existing historic structure was restored while a new addition doubled the size of the building to house faculty offices, classrooms, and practice rooms. The building boasts energy-efficient building systems, recycled and salvaged building materials, quality indoor environments, and a new green cleaning program to ensure that the use and maintenance of the building will meet sustainability goals in the future. Ninety-five percent of non-hazardous construction debris was recycled or salvaged, including materials from the demolition of the building’s 1911 rear wing.

7 Lauder College House

LEED Gold Certified Lauder College House is the first signature residential building on Penn’s campus specifically designed and built to maximize the College House experience. Sustainable design details include a large open landscaped lawn area, a series of 13 green roofs and a below-grade cistern to manage the stormwater. Low-flow and low-consumption plumbing fixtures have achieved a reduction in water usage of 30-40% over the baseline.

8 Golkin Hall

Golkin Hall, which achieved LEED Gold status, opened in 2012 and provides increased space in the Penn Law complex for faculty offices, research centers, administrative offices, student organizations, and classrooms. The building was designed to promote interactions among faculty, staff, and students to foster the cross-disciplinary thinking that is a hallmark of the School. Golkin Hall’s two green roofs provide both outdoor areas for students, staff, and faculty but also reduce the urban heat island effect and stormwater runoff. The building earned 11 of 15 possible points for indoor environmental quality because of the building’s focus on low-emitting materials, daylighting, and thermal comfort for occupants.

9 Van Pelt Library

The green roof or a living landscape at the Van Pelt- Dietrich Library Center has helped to moderate the temperature of the building; it captures rainwater, reduces carbon dioxide, and provides visual relief for neighbors. The green roof also lessens the burden of the West Philadelphia sewer system and ultimately increases ecological managed green space, decreases building energy consumption, and increases education and awareness of sustainable design. 

10 The ARCH

Built in 1928 to house the Christian Association, the Arts, Research and Culture House (ARCH) was purchased by the University in 1999 and is listed in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. In its renovation, the historic building reused 40% of the original building, including walls, roof, and superstructure. At least 5% of the materials taken from this building are being held for re-use in other different projects. All new woods used in the building are part of the Forest Stewardship Council program that ensures the best forestry standards. Furthermore, optimized HVAC systems have been added to the building for the first time and building occupants have enhanced control of the lighting and thermal systems.

11 Steinberg-Dietrich Hall

The Wharton School Steinberg-Dietrich Hall West Tower Entrance addition opened in early 2013. Designed by Kling Stubbins, it was built to achieve LEED Silver certification and exceeded that to reach LEED Gold in 2014 through its use of green features that, like the Singh Center, have green roofs that manage stormwater runoff and reduce cooling loads and heat island effects, that utilize high-performance building materials and that have high-efficiency mechanical, lighting and ventilation systems. The 15,000-square-foot addition includes two high-occupancy classrooms and creates a new main entrance with a plaza offering seating areas and light-colored pavers to reduce the heat island effect. Steinberg-Dietrich Hall also houses Joe’s Café, an eatery that was Penn’s first sustainable commercial interior, having earned LEED Gold in 2011.

12 Joe’s Café

LEED Gold Certified Joe’s Café was designed to recycle or compost 50 percent by volume of its waste. They purchase food and drink produced seasonally and within 150 miles of campus, as well as hormone and antibiotic-free meat and dairy, vegetarian-fed beef, humane eggs, ecologically sourced fish, dolphin-safe tuna, and Fair Trade and Certified Organic coffee. Joe’s Café offers an educational program on sustainable food.

13 Huntsman Hall

A 2-year LEED analysis at the Wharton School’s Huntsman Hall provided opportunities to improve the building’s performance, operational efficiencies, and occupant satisfaction. Specific outcomes included implementation of lower toxicity, green cleaning practices; enhanced recycling opportunities (including composting of paper towels from restrooms); installation of water bottle fillers to reduce waste from disposable bottles; enhanced building systems management to conserve energy; and adoption of more suitable commuter choices by occupants. The Koo Plaza on the second floor of the building served as a green roof to help moderate the temperature of the building, retain stormwater, reduce carbon dioxide, provide visual relief for neighbors, and act as additional green space on campus. The dramatic glass pyramids that punctuate the perimeter serve as skylights, filling the Forum below with natural light.

14 Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine

The Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, completed in 2008, houses the University of Pennsylvania Health System’s Abramson Cancer Center, radiation oncology, cardiovascular medicine, and an outpatient surgical pavilion. The state-of-the-art center received a LEED Silver Certification in 2011 and remains Penn’s largest LEED project to date. More than 90 percent of construction and demolition debris—over 20,000 tons—was recycled. Other important features include the use of recycled materials and locally manufactured materials to support the local economy and reduce fuel use and pollution from transportation.

15 Smilow Center for Translational Research

The School of Medicine’s Smilow Center for Translational Research is home to research initiatives that integrate a range of biomedical disciplines to achieve advances in the understanding of disease and the development of new therapies. In addition to providing space for interdisciplinary research, the building’s close physical proximity to Penn Medicine’s patient-care facilities in the new Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine and the Roberts Proton Therapy Center facilities the exchange of ideas among clinicians and researchers on new discoveries, techniques, and technology. The 500,000 square foot building received LEED silver certification in 2014.