Architecture’s William Braham on energy, carbon, and buildings for the future

In 2007, Penn President Amy Gutmann became the first Ivy League president to commit to tracking and reducing the University’s carbon emissions as part of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment pledge. Two years later, the University published its first Climate Action Plan in 2009 and the Center for Environmental Building & Design (CEBD) worked closely with the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee (ESAC) to develop and test scenarios.

bill braham
William Braham, professor of architecture at the Weitzman School. (Image: The Weitzman School)

By the time the second climate plan was released, in 2014, the CEBD and ESAC had a lot more data to work with, and a clearer picture of how difficult it would be to meet the university’s carbon reduction goals. With the release last October of the third plan, Climate and Sustainability Action (CSAP) Plan 3.0, Penn’s decade-long effort to measure and reduce its carbon footprint has intersected with a newly energized movement to respond to climate change.

Throughout that evolution, William Braham, professor of architecture at the Weitzman School, and director of both the Master of Science in Design with a Concentration in Environmental Building Design program and the CEBD, has been at the center of the University’s thinking on sustainability and energy use.

Since the time Braham started thinking about the first sustainability plans, he’s discovered more about how the built environment contributes to the University’s carbon footprint. “Penn is a campus built over 100 years, and like many universities, a big chunk of the campus was built in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Those buildings were built before there were energy codes, before people put insulation in walls, before they used insulating glass and windows and so forth,” Braham explains. 

“In any given year, 85% of Penn’s carbon emissions is because of consumption in the buildings. So, it takes real renovation work to achieve dramatic reductions.”

Read more at The Weitzman School.