Redford Conservancy Is First Higher Ed Building in California to Earn Zero Net Energy Certification

Redford Conservancy is First Higher Ed Building in California to Earn Zero Net Energy Certification

CLAREMONT, CALIF. (April 22, 2019)—The Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability at Pitzer College has won the first higher education building certification in California for using Zero Net Energy. The certification from the International Living Future Institute is highly sought after and challenging to achieve. The International Living Future Institute’s mission is to lead the transformation toward a civilization that is socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative.

The Redford Conservancy is only the fourth higher education structure in the world to achieve ILFI Zero Energy Certification. It is the 15th Zero Energy Certified project in California, including other types and structural uses.

“Pitzer College is an extraordinary teaching and learning laboratory for our students, faculty and staff. The Redford Conservancy represents the vision, ambitions and social consciousness of our liberal arts and sciences community of scholars in such a positive way,” said Pitzer President Melvin L. Oliver. “The Conservancy’s achievement of Zero Net Energy certification affirms that vision, ambition and social consciousness.”

The Redford Conservancy occupies the renovated historical infirmary building located adjacent to the Bernard Field Station, a site for ecological research and teaching just north of the Pitzer College main campus. The Redford Conservancy embodies sustainable best practices. Working with design firm Carrier Johnson, Pitzer College developed a shared use approach to the planning and design process, which included indigenous elders, field biologists, residential neighbors and the College community. The site was also replanted with native vegetation from seeds gathered on site and is of cultural significance to area indigenous people.  

More than a well-preserved architectural landmark, Pitzer’s Redford Conservancy is a site of vital interdisciplinary engagement with environmental issues. The original infirmary built in 1931 was designed and constructed in the historic California mission style. Pitzer College, the environmental activist Robert Redford and principal donors were united in their vision of a facility that would retain the finest qualities of the original structure while incorporating sustainable design, construction and programming to ensure optimal energy efficiency.

A primary goal of the building renovation was to establish a model of regenerative design on a limited carbon footprint. Thanks to on-site solar arrays, the Redford Conservancy produces more energy than it consumes and sells the surplus back to Southern California Edison, the primary electricity supply company for much of Southern California.

“Environmental justice and concerns about our impact on the world have to be at the heart of environmental issues,” says Brinda Sarathy, director of the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability. “They are at the heart of everything we do here at the Redford Conservancy. For this facility to achieve Zero Net Energy certification and to be the first in higher education to do so is tremendously affirming for all of us who collaborated to get here.”

In addition to receiving ILFI Zero Net Energy certification, the Redford Conservancy has also achieved the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification, the highest rating available.

In December, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in Los Angeles presented its AIA/La Cote Merit Award to the Conservancy.

Pitzer’s Redford Conservancy was also named the project of the year by the US Green Building Council.

Recently, in a city known for its diligence in preserving its cultural and architectural heritage, the Claremont Heritage Board of Directors selected Pitzer’s Redford Conservancy for its Bess Garner Preservation Award.

The Redford Conservancy ZNE and LEED certification processes were led by Integral Group, Oakland, CA.

Architect on the multiyear Redford Conservancy infirmary building renovation project was Carrier Johnson + Culture of Los Angeles.

The vision and design of the Redford Conservancy, in keeping with the collaborative project process at Pitzer College, was a joint effort among many departments and groups at the College, including the president’s executive leadership team, the director of the Redford Conservancy, facilities, students and staff.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit

Media Contact

Office of Communications
[email protected]