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Dartmouth College
Irving Institute for Energy and Society

The Irving Institute sought a purpose-designed space to bring interdisciplinary education and research to the work of driving a positive energy future. Their new home is now the university’s highest-performing building; it embodies Dartmouth’s distinct architectural style and its commitment to using 100% renewable energy by 2050.

  • Location



    Practice area



A vision without precedent

Our collaboration with the Irving Institute began while the Institute’s vision was still being shaped. But it was clear from day one that the new building would need to achieve high standards both in energy performance and in fostering learning and research. That meant delivering on a range of sustainability objectives (including net-zero readiness and integrated natural ventilation), and designing teaching and work spaces that would maximize flexibility and collaboration.

Enriching the campus experience

The building and site forge new academic and physical connections. Sitting directly between Tuck School of Business and Thayer School of Engineering, the Institute is the programmatic mixing valve of the new West End Innovation District; it brings together students and faculty from both of these schools to participate in shared research.

Before this project, the west end was inaccessible and lacked a community heart. Today, the Institute building and its site provide accessible, equitable routes through the district, and its atrium has been dubbed the “living room” of the west end. Abundant daylight, natural ventilation, and radiant heat and cooling make for a truly comfortable environment; it welcomes hundreds of students each day to its café and sunlit spaces.

On axis with the iconic Baker library, our design responds to its historical context while presenting a vision for the future of learning and collaboration. Headshot of Arjun Mande with dark blue background
Arjun Mande Principal

Raising the bar on sustainable design

The Irving Institute is an exemplary model for the future of sustainable building design, in large part due to the human-centered approach which informed its final forms. Occupant behavior was programmed into every aspect of the design, and it continues to play an integral role in further optimizing the building’s performance.

Natural ventilation, access to daylight, and views to the exterior were all maximized through the building’s facade and plan to promote occupant comfort and mental well-being. A passive ventilation system was also employed to encourage connections to the natural environment. Operable windows, temperature controls, and ceiling fans in the offices and labs provide users with the ability to change their immediate environment, while automated systems in public areas, such as deployable window shades, respond to factors systematically.

On a campus where the average building’s energy use intensity (EUI) is 130 kBtu/sf/yr, the institute has a projected net EUI of 18.6—an 88% reduction from the 2030 baseline.

The Irving Institute’s human-centered approach was instrumental in shaping its final form, making it an exemplary model for the future of sustainable building design.
There was no precedent for a building project with such ambitious energy targets at Dartmouth. Without a model, we faced unique design challenges as well as opportunities to influence future approaches. Headshot of Elaine Hoffman with dark gray background
Elaine Hoffman Director of Sustainability
The thermal vent—a striking architectural focal point— features blinds which automatically deploy and operable windows, reducing cooling loads in adjacent spaces by 50%.
A glazed, double-skin cavity at the main entry serves as a ventilation stack: its air cavity provides a natural path for air movement.
Passive ventilation systems also encourage connections to the natural environment; 83% of spaces are ventilated by fresh air, and the system is monitored for air quality.
Collaboration is at the center of our work. From a literal sense of transparency with many opportunities to ‘see in’ to the work in the building, to appealing, sunlit public spaces that draw residents out to meet each other, the building is accomplishing this goal.
Rosi KerrDirector of Sustainability, Dartmouth College

a culture of collegiality

The institute’s culture of collegiality is set by the communal kitchen on the second floor. This welcoming, inclusive space is features retractable glass doors and furniture that easily reconfigures, creating space for events ranging from cookie socials to research talks.

Mission accomplished

Today, the Irving Institute hums with activity as faculty and students from across campus gather here to collaborate on important research.  An emphasis on internal transparency visually unites learning and work spaces while a rich variety of social spaces foster movement and interaction. High-efficiency systems that prioritize natural ventilation, and natural materials contribute to a healthy indoor environment. In short, the Institute’s building successfully embodies the mission of the Institute itself.

Project impact
  • 8.3 kBtu/sf/yr

    PV potential of the institute’s roof, which offsets 36% of annual energy consumption

  • 91%

    Of work areas receive natural daylight, connecting users with their environment and campus context

  • 35%

    Reduction in embodied carbon below baseline through the reuse of existing foundation elements, low-concrete cement mixes, the use of wood framing for windows and curtain wall, and other low-carbon material choices.

Prominent energy efficiency features—the natural ventilation chimney, the operable, integrated windows—not only make the space physically comfortable, but also serve as a demonstration of sustainability in practice. In this way, the building supports our mission in an integral way.”
Rosi KerrDirector of Sustainability, Dartmouth College

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Project Team


Anne Hicks Harney, LLC

Engineering Ventures

Faithful + Gould

HLB Lighting Design, LLC

Jensen Hughes

LeMessurier Consultants

Malcolm Grear Designers

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

Robbie McCabe Consulting, LLC

Simpson Gumpertz & Heger

Stefura Associates

Steven Winter Associates

Thornton Tomasetti


van Zelm Engineers

VisionBuilders Design


Above Summit

Chuck Choi

Ryan Bent

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