Skip to main content

rooftop garden

Green Building Program

UC San Diego’s Offices of Capital Program Management and Project Quality Management are committed to the design and construction of a sustainable environment. The university follows the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.

We strive to meet these criteria for all new buildings and renovations:

  • Outperform the energy requirements of a California Building Code by at least 20% on all new construction and major renovation projects (except acute care facilities) or meet UC's Whole Building Energy Targets.
  • Design and construct:
    • All new buildings and major renovations to a minimum LEED v4 BD+C GOLD certification.
    • All new parking structures to meet Parksmart Silver certification.
    • All renovation projects with a cost of $9 million or greater (except acute care facilities) to a minimum LEED-IDC Certified rating.
  • Prohibit on-site fossil fuel combustion (e.g., natural gas) for space or water heating in all new buildings and major renovation projects (except those projects connected to an existing campus central thermal infrastructure).

Visit UC San Diego Sustainability for more information on how we’re working together to meet campus sustainability goals. 


  • The San Diego Green Building Council awarded UC San Diego with the 2022 Sustainable Leadership Award for its commitment to Sustainable Practices and Green Building.
  • Nine new projects achieved LEED certification in 2022-23.
  • North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood (NTPLLN) received:
    • The prestigious 2023 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top 10 Award.  LINK to award.
    • LEED Platinum certification for all six buildings, totaling more than one million square feet.
  • Franklin Antonio Hall:
    • Was nominated for an Orchid by the San Diego Architectural Foundation.
    • Received LEED Platinum certification in 2023.
  • The Warren Field House received LEED Silver certification in 2023.
  • The Torrey Pines Center South fourth floor renovation received LEED CI certification in 2023.
  • Campus Design Guidelines were updated to include information for the California Energy Design Assistance (CEDA) incentive program and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Incentives via 179D.
  • Reinforced current practice of Life Cycle Cost Assessment (LCCA) for projects. UCOP has published RD 4.5 LCCA best practices guide for implementation in 2023.

In Progress

  • Seeking Parksmart Silver certification for North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood, Theater District Living and Learning Neighborhood and Hillcrest Outpatient Pavilion structures.
  • Implement more explicit LCCA requirements for all capital projects. Metric = number of capital projects that successfully implement LCCA.
  • Coordinate all deferred maintenance and renovation projects with the campus decarbonization plan.  As new work is planned, determine the most appropriate retrofit and seek additional funding from UCOP for all electric infrastructure upgrades.
  • Tracking construction and demolition waste for all capital projects.


UC San Diego Physical Design Framework

Design Objectives and Guidelines - Sustainability: Led by the UC Sustainable Practices Policy, UC San Diego pushes the boundaries of excellence in sustainable construction. The university routinely evaluates design features that strive for in U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold or higher ratings. Examples of sustainability elements considered at the project level include:

  • 20% post-consumer recycled content material
  • Bicycle facilities/employee showers
  • Carbon dioxide sensors
  • Cool roof system
  • Dedicated parking for low-emission vehicles
  • Displacement ventilation system
  • Grey water use potential
  • Naturally ventilated office modules
  • Photovoltaic infrastructure
  • Reclaimed water for irrigation
  • Storm water treatment system
  • Ultra-low flow plumbing fixtures

Life cycle costing analyses are part of the building design process so that economy and sustainability in the design of systems and selection of equipment may be achieved. Parameters evaluated include cost, energy savings, operation and maintenance, replacement cost and upgradeability. Further, projects that have upgraded both the campus and medical center utilities plants, renewal of building systems and implementation of new energy-management and energy-conservation equipment, have proven to be efficient and cost-effective.

Working with private sector energy experts and in partnership with industry, UC San Diego has developed an alternative energy program to use the campus as a living laboratory engaging students and faculty from multiple disciplines and working with campus operations staff in designing and deploying renewable energy systems to provide power for the university. In addition, plans are under consideration for expanded use of photovoltaic systems, enhanced energy-efficiency programs, installation of stationary fuel cells powered by renewable methane, use of renewable methane at the cogeneration plant, and electrical power produced by Southern California wind farms, so that UC San Diego develops into a state-of-the-art, carbon-neutral campus.

See UC San Diego Physical Design Framework

2018 Long Range Development Plan Goals Related to Buildings

  • Continue to meet UC Sustainable Practices Policy objectives and implement greenhouse gas reduction strategies in building design
  • Optimize the use of existing facilities, sites, and campus space through repurposing, renovation, infill, and consolidation where appropriate
  • Embrace sustainable facility designs and encourage “green” operations where appropriate
  • Continue to provide and expand on-campus housing opportunities to reduce vehicle miles traveled to/from campus, thus reducing the campus’ carbon footprint

See 2018 Long Range Development Plan

Adaptive Reuse of Existing Building (non-Historic)

Adaptive reuse provides ongoing use of existing older buildings that may have substantial deferred maintenance and require significant upgrades. These projects reduce embodied carbon by reusing significant portions of the building superstructure and existing utilities when possible. A good example of this is the HSS exterior retrofit that maintains the original building character and provides a new life to the building envelope.

Historic Preservation

In addition to maintaining a link to the past and celebrating historic buildings along with new ones on campus, reuse of an historic building is one of the most sustainable actions the campus can take to promote green buildings and sustainability. The university has several notable historic buildings and it should maintain their eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Campus Planning has a list of campus buildings that are potentially eligible for listing on the National Register that should be sensitively upgraded and/or maintained.

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of buildings, structures, objects, sites and districts worthy of preservation because of their significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. The National Register recognizes resources of local, state and national significance that have been documented and evaluated according to uniform standards and criteria. The National Park Service, which is part of the U. S. Department of the Interior administers the National Register. In California, the State Historic Preservation Office administers National Park Service.

OCEAN Tool Development and Integration

For proposed capital development projects, campuses utilize the Operational Carbon and Energy Assessment tool for new buildings (OCEAN) to forecast utility costs and operational carbon emissions. The results are presented to the Board of Regents for information relative to achieving our overall carbon reduction strategies on a project-by-project basis. The tool introduces a uniform methodology for considering energy and carbon in capital asset development. It enables and facilitates campus design teams to evaluate various major building system and sustainable strategy options to support carbon neutrality goals.

Future Climate Realities

To reduce energy and water consumption, avoid carbon emissions and improve resilience and comfort, University of California buildings and infrastructure are designed with local climate conditions in mind. As the Earth warms, these local conditions are changing. The University of California recognizes that buildings and infrastructure will need to react to shocks (e.g., extreme weather events), stressors (e.g., warmer temperatures),and their indirect effects (e.g., power outages). Since the historic design criteria used by designers may not accurately reflect future conditions, future-shifted climate data is needed to improve awareness and enable decision makers to better tailor designs to respond to these shocks and stressors. This guide equips University of California stakeholders with improved tools to assess impacts and adjust design for our changing climate.

Cultural Resources Impact Avoidance

During project siting and building design, the campus aims to avoid any impacts to sensitive cultural resources that may lie beneath the ground surface. However, to account for potential unknown cultural resources to be unearthed during building construction, the campus will employ Native American and archaeological monitors to monitor the top 3-4 feet of soils removal. This applies to both construction on native soils and redevelopment sites alike. Learn more

Sustainable Building Operations

UC San Diego Facilities Management is committed to sustainable operations, maintenance of campus buildings and management of minor campus building renovations and retrofits in accordance with the UC Sustainable Practices Policy.


  • Our fleet:
    • Consists of 65% alternative fuel vehicles (EV, PHEV, Renewable Diesel, Hybrid and CNG).
    • Has been operating two 100% electric buses since FY 2022–23 with additional electric buses planned for FY 2023–24 to replace gas- and diesel-fueled buses.
    • Procured one electric forklift in FY 2022–23.
  • The campus currently has 344 charging ports.
  • Building Services:
    • Ensures that all electric equipment, including scrubbers, is 100% electric.
    • Increased the purchase of sustainably recognized products during 2022 by 62% — a sizeable increase from 2021.
  • Landscape Services achieved its goal of 95% electric blower equipment and will prioritize future electric equipment purchases.
  • Building Automation Systems (BAS) are installed on 85% of campus buildings to increase energy efficiency of HVAC systems, lighting and VFD motor controls.
  • Over the last 10+ years, Facilities Management has replaced 70% of the campus street and walkway lighting with LED fixtures/LED retro-kits, which can reduce energy consumption by up to 50%.
  • Multiple major building systems and components, including air handling units, variable frequency drives, CO2 monitors, motor controls, pumps and many others throughout campus, have been replaced with more efficient and sustainable equipment that use less energy and reduces the campus’ carbon footprint.

In Progress

  • In alignment with UCOP policy, Fleet Service’s annual goal is to increase alternate fuel vehicles to 68% in FY 2023–24:
    • 50% of all new vehicle acquisitions will be ZEVs.
    • 100% of all sedan and minivan acquisitions will be ZEVs.
    • If ZEV options are not available, Fleet Service will choose clean transportation fuels and other low-emission fuels.
    • All new forklift purchases will be 100% electric powered.
  • The campus is expanding EV charging to more than 1,250 charging ports over the next two years, which supports the use of ZEVs and reduces Scope 3 emissions.
  • Building Services:
    • Aims to purchase 70% sustainable products in FY 2023–24.
    • Will expand Bin Buddies (small bins to replace larger desk-side trash bins) in 50% of non-core, recharge facilities in 2023–24. Bin Buddies help individuals move away from disposing trash and encourages additional recycling.
    • Will implement food composting bins in breakrooms and kitchenettes campuswide in FY 2023–24.
    • Is pilot testing compostable trash and recycling bin liners at SIO. Expanding use of compostable liners campuswide will increase sustainably purchased products in FY 2024–25 to an estimated 79%.
  • Landscape Services will:
    • Procure a 100% battery-powered street sweeper to replace the existing gas-powered sweeper.
    • Convert additional small-engine tools to 100% battery-powered equipment with a goal of replacing 30% per year through 2026.
    • Increase power availability for battery-operated equipment in all Landscape Services spaces to meet electric charging needs.
  • Building Operations aims to:
    • Convert all remaining exterior light poles to LED.
    • Install Building Automation System (BAS) operational on all new and existing campus buildings.

Take Action

Visit LEED-Platinum buildings on the UC San Diego Main Campus

UC San Diego Map

USP 169 – Introduction to Green Building Course

The Urban Studies & Planning (USP) 169 for-credit course was initiated from a volunteer pilot hosted by the North Torrey Pines Living & Learning Neighborhood (NTPLLN) Design/Build team in collaboration with UC San Diego. A UC San Diego adjunct alumnus with extensive green building experience teaches the course using the campus as a living lab and sharing multiple project team experience with the students, including on campus tours, and specific hands-on experience with LEED credits, leading to the opportunity for the students to gain their LEED GA credential.

LEED Projects

New buildings and major renovations are designed and constructed following the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. See our LEED projects.

Related Links