Harvard University Teaches Healthcare About Green Kitchen Design

April 3, 2013
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Harvard University Dining Services' kitchen at Dunster House was the very first project to earn a LEED for Commercial Interiors certification. It’s important for institutions, including healthcare, to consider food services equipment for achieving energy conservation goals.
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According to the U.S. Department of Energy, food service has the highest energy intensity of any sector, followed by healthcare—a fair incentive for taking a closer look at energy costs related to healthcare food service operations. Healthcare facilities often place their kitchens on the backburner. Even those that can tout overall energy conservation successes voice frustration with their outdated food service equipment and lack of buy-in from leadership on greening the kitchen.

But there is an example out there of what can be done by launching energy programs in institutional food services.

In 2008, Harvard University made a commitment to make a 30 percent reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2016, and sustainability is a core value for Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS). That commitment includes purchasing and operational practices that sustain the health and well-being of the environment, a foundational charter that’s led to sustainable design principles for renovations and new construction.

Harvard began assessing its campus kitchens in the mid-’90s. Serving 25,000 meals daily across the campus, the university’s overall goal was to bring small-batch cooking to the dining experience and become more efficient in the throughput of diners. Challenges included limited footprints, historic buildings, and distinct styles for each location that had to be maintained.

The continuous upgrade of one or two kitchens per year over the course of 10 years yielded plenty of lessons on the sustainability front, too, and in 2006 HUDS’ Mather/Dunster House kitchen received the nation’s very first LEED for Commercial Interiors certification. The 15,870-square-foot kitchen achieved all 30 of the points submitted, earning a LEED Silver rating.


The right equipment matters

By making changes to refrigeration controls, exhaust fan controls, dishwashing equipment, and refrigeration waste heat capture, $245,000 in annual utility savings was achieved, which translates to 12,454 metric tons of carbon dioxide; 1,088,089 kWh of electricity; 4,533 MMBtu of steam; and 1,518,666 gallons of water.


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