Building & Grounds

Cal Poly Facilities Management and Development (FMD) has a number of capital projects currently under construction, or in planning and design. Each project strives to be sustainable in the areas of energy and water efficiency, use of renewable and recycled materials, recycling of construction waste, site erosion control, and use of native and drought tolerant plant species.

Whether a project has a budget of $10,000 or $100,000,000, FMD staff strive to make sure that projects are designed and constructed with the environment in mind. Sustainability issues are considered during every phase of a construction project - programming, design, construction, startup, and commissioning. Throughout the life of a building, sustainability is used to guide operations and maintenance, including renovation and eventual replacement.

Cal Poly Master Plan

In 2020, Cal Poly completed a new Campus Master Plan, envisioning the buildings and facilities needed to support the ever-evolving academic mission and enrollment growth through 2035. Much of the plan is focused on developing additional student and workforce housing, which will reduce regional traffic congestion, improve air quality, and reduce carbon emissions from commuting. Research shows that housing all first and second year students should significantly increase student success, retention, and graduation rates. New academic and support facilities, and enhanced outdoor spaces will accommodate a future enrollment of 25,000.

Sustainability is a guiding principle of the Master Plan. Smart growth measures include high density infill development, protection of important environmental resources such as prime agricultural land and open space, protective buffers around creeks, and continuing the transition to a pedestrian and bicycle friendly campus core. New facilities and campus infrastructure must be environmentally responsible, energy and water efficient, and showcase advancements in sustainable technologies.

Utility Master Plan

To support the enrollment growth and new facilities envisioned by the Master Plan, Cal Poly completed its first comprehensive Utility Master Planning in 2020. Like a small city, Cal Poly manages utility infrastructure systems for electricity, natural gas, district heating and cooling, water, sewer, storm water, and telecommunications. These systems were evaluated to ensure adequate capacity to support Master Plan development in a sustainable manner – considering issues like efficiency, carbon emissions, life cycle cost, and climate resilience. The plan identified some $550,000,000 in utility infrastructure needs to support full build-out of the 2035 Campus Master Plan, and adopts innovative electrification and heat recovery technologies to meet future loads in a low-carbon manner.

Planning Policies

CSU Sustainability Policy

Cal Poly High Performance Building (HPB) Policy

As a Charter Signatory to the Second Nature Climate Commitment, Cal Poly is committed to achieving carbon neutrality and climate resilience “as soon as possible” – currently targeted for 2050. A significant opportunity exists to integrate this goal into the way new buildings are designed and constructed. Sustainability goals and requirements for new construction and major renovations are also set forth by CSU Sustainability Policy. Read the full HPB policy here.

CSU Executive Order 987

Cal Poly operates under Executive Order 987, the CSU Policy Statement on Energy Conservation, Sustainable Building Practices, and Physical Plant Management. This document sets minimum efficiency standards for new construction and renovations, and establishes operating practices intended to ensure CSU buildings are operated and maintained in the most energy-efficient and sustainable manner possible while still meeting the programmatic needs of the University. One provision of this policy is that CSU campuses may not heat buildings above 68 degrees, nor cool them below 78 degrees.

Cal Poly Energy Policies

These policies and procedures are intended to provide guidance to Facility Managers and the campus community regarding acceptable building temperatures, Efficient Building Operations, procurement and use of Energy Star appliances, criteria for justification of air conditioning, and Design and Operation of Energy-Efficient Air Conditioning Systems.


Cal Poly uses the United States Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system to guide sustainable design of new buildings, renovations, and operations and maintenance. As per CSU policy, all new facilities are designed to be equivalent to a minimum LEED Silver level, with the goal of each project achieving LEED Gold or Platinum.

Cal Poly was awarded LEED Silver certification of the Faculty Offices East building in 2008 under the LEED for Existing Buildings (EB) system, becoming the first building on a CSU campus to receive the honor. Since then, Cal Poly has been awarded Gold certification under the LEED for New Construction (NC) system for most new buildings, and Silver certification of several more existing buildings under the LEED for Operations and Maintenance (O+M) system.

Building name and link to USGBC Scorecard

LEED System and Version

Certification Level

Year Certified

Square Footage

yak?ityutyu Residence Halls BD+C: New Construction V4 - LEED V4 Gold 2021 375,225 sq ft
Vista Grande Dining BD+C: New Construction V3 - LEED 2009 Gold 2020 35,400 sq ft
Construction Innovation Center O+M: Existing Buildings V4 - LEED V4 Silver 2017 56,222 sq ft
Advanced Technologies Laboratory O+M: Existing Buildings V4 - LEED V4 Silver 2017 17,214 sq ft
Cotchett Education O+M: Existing Buildings V4 - LEED V4 Silver 2017 51,106 sq ft
Warren J. Baker Center for Science BD+C: New Constructionv3 - LEED 2009 Gold 2015 188,372 sq ft
ASI Recreation Center BD+C: New Construction V2 - LEED 2.2 Gold 2013 165,717 sq ft
Poly Canyon Village BD+C: New Construction V2 - LEED 2.1 Gold 2009 822,605 sq ft
Faculty Offices East LEED O+M: Existing Buildings V2 - LEED 2.0 Silver 2008 27,335 sq ft

Title 24 – California Energy Efficiency Standards

By state law, all new construction and renovation projects in California must comply with Title 24 Energy Efficiency Standards. Title 24 sets minimum efficiency standards for the building envelope (roofs, walls, doors, windows, and insulation systems) as well as building energy and water systems including HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning), lighting systems, and plumbing systems. The latest edition of Title 24, issued in 2019, sets the highest energy efficiency standards in the nation. Cal Poly, as per its Master Plan and Climate Action Plan, seeks to exceed 2019 Title 24 on all new and renovated buildings by at least 30%.

ASHRAE 90.1 – Energy Standard for Buildings

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers publishes a number of technical standards that guide the design, manufacture, and construction of HVAC&R equipment and systems. ASHRAE 90.1 is the Energy Standard for buildings in the United States, and has been a key driver of energy efficiency improvements in the building industry. The US Department of Energy requires every state in the US to adopt an energy code that meets or exceeds ASHRAE 90.1.


Laboratory buildings are notorious energy and water hogs. Many energy systems in lab buildings run 24 hours per day, and heating and cooling systems usually use 100% fresh outside air for safety, meaning that all conditioned air supplied to occupied spaces is exhausted rather than reused. A single fume hood can use as much energy as an average US home. Since lab buildings are exempt from Title 24 Energy Code for safety reasons, a new voluntary benchmarking system, Labs21, has been developed by the EPA and Lawrence Berkeley Labs to establish best practices in lab design and promote the development and adoption of advanced strategies for energy and water efficiency. The Labs21 program was an essential in guiding the design of the new Warren J. Baker Center for Science.

Current and Past Building Projects

To learn all about current and past building projects at Cal Poly visit the Facilities Planning and Capital Projects database here.

Campus Building History

Founded in 1901, Cal Poly has a rich architectural history. The current campus still has a number of historic buildings with the oldest dating back to 1908. The history of sustainability on campus is visible in the evolution of campus building design and construction over the different eras of the last century. Many early buildings reflect the Spanish architecture of the central coast, with plaster finishes and terra cotta tile roofs. A construction boom followed World War II as returning veterans used the GI bill to complete their education. Buildings of this time were utilitarian, simple and cheap. Campus doubled in size during the massive construction boom of the 1960s, which ushered in the era of monolithic concrete structures. These proved to be very sustainable due to their durability and passive building features such as natural ventilation and large thermal mass.

Even though energy and water were considered relatively cheap and limitless commodities prior to the energy crisis of the 1970s, the campus administration made a conscious decision not to air condition the vast majority of buildings, taking advantage of the mild central coast climate. The technology boom of the 1980s brought higher education into the digital age, and the proliferation and density of computers created a need to air condition both new and existing buildings. The massive escalation of construction and material costs of the late 1990s and early 2000s essentially ended the era of concrete buildings due to high costs. Designs evolved to the use of steel frame construction with more complex wall, roof, and window systems to make building systems energy-efficient.

Over the years, the perpetually developing campus has been extensively documented through Historical GSF, including everything from significant changes in HVAC, lighting, and plumbing systems, with the largest changes beginning in the 1980s with the advent of computerized building automation control systems.