Goal: Achieve a 20% reduction in energy use in buildings built prior to Duke's 2009 Climate Action Plan by 2030 while maximizing opportunities for building energy efficiency and low carbon, new construction.

During the last 12 years, Duke University has added more than 3 million gross square feet of building space on campus. Despite this increase, Duke has implemented various efficiency and conservation measures to decrease its energy use by 19% per gross square foot. Duke's Facilities Management Department is also halfway through implementation of a new "Energy Data Analytics" program. This is a project to capture significantly more building operating information, specifically related to heating and cooling systems, into a single database, so that the University can perform "continuous commissioning" on building systems while reducing energy consumption and cost.

Along with a focus on energy efficiency, the University is also making investments in renewable energy. In 2019, construction was completed on a new 750 kW solar photovoltaic system on the Research Drive Parking garage.

Total campus energy use graphic


Goal: Ensure all new construction and major renovations comply with Duke's High Performance Building Framework and meet campus goals for energy and water efficiency.

Since adopting sustainable building guidelines in 2003, Duke University has strived to construct buildings that reduce overall campus impacts. In 2019, the University pushed even further by adopting a new High Performance Building Framework. The framework takes a holistic view of green building at Duke by outlining an improved process for planning campus buildings, a rigorous sustainable design standard for all new buildings and major renovations, and a new tracking and rating system to examine how facilities perform even after construction.


Goal: Focus water-reduction strategies on the top 20 water-consuming buildings, which account for 70% of water use.

Despite significant campus growth, Duke has reduced building potable water use per gross square foot by 30% since 2007. Projects that have led to this reduction include the 10-acre stormwater reclamation pond, campus cisterns, systems to capture air conditioning condensate and audits of the top 50 water-using buildings to add water-conserving plumbing hardware. The University is also exploring options for a new WaterHub that would intercept wastewater flowing from buildings on West Campus and cycle it through a 10-step treatment process to then be reused in the campus chilled water plant. Combined with the roughly 80 million gallons drawn annually from the reclamation pond, nearly all of the plant's needs could be met without drawing from Durham's potable water supply.

Total Campus Potable Water Use

Natural Resources

Goal: Ensure that buildings, landscapes, and natural areas are created and sustained to create a campus community that conserves natural resources, restores environmental quality, and protects biodiversity.

Duke is often described as a "campus in the forest" with the natural resources of the University a key part of its character. Part of this valuable resource is the actual Duke Forest, consisting of more than 7,000 acres of forested land and open fields in Durham, Orange, and Alamance counties managed for teaching and research purposes since 1931. The Forest is a true hands-on laboratory for the campus with 49 active research projects on-site and 96 on-site class visits with almost 1,000 students in 2019. Duke Forest continues to look for opportunities to connect across an increasingly fragmented landscape and realized this goal this year with the addition of 27 acres to the Forest.

Building off of a student project in the undergraduate "Theory and Practice of Sustainability" course, Duke Forest began a Citizen Science program in 2019. This program harnesses the passion of local volunteers to collect data on amphibian and reptile populations. During the last year, more than 100 volunteers submitted data from 229 site visits.