Photo of the exterior of the new Garfield House.

Garfield House One of Two Passive Houses in State

When the Garfield House residence hall opens for students next month, it will be one of only two residence halls in Massachusetts to meet the energy-efficiency standards of the Passive House Institute US. Considered the most stringent energy performance criteria in the industry, the standards are focused on a well-insulated, airtight outer shell, high performance windows and high-efficiency energy recovery. The new building is built to LEED Gold standards and reflects Williams’ commitment to sustainability and reducing greenhouse emissions.

“From our perspective, it is the responsibility of higher education to lead, experiment with new techniques, and demonstrate best practices to other institutions and businesses,” said Amy Johns ’98, director of Williams College’s Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives. Designed by SGA Architects, the 16,000 square-foot structure features 40 beds in 10 double and 20 single bedrooms, a full kitchen, dining and living room areas, laundry facilities and bike storage.

The original Garfield House was built in 1850 and purchased by the college in 1924. In 2016, a nine-person committee convened by the college determined it would be too costly and inefficient to renovate that structure for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the college’s sustainability goals.