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Tapping the Synergies of Green Building
and Historic Preservation
Proponents of these two highly dedicated and concerned movements are finding ways to work together to advance their many shared values
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By Nancy B. Solomon, AIA


To bolster their position, preservationists cite a recent study undertaken by Chris W. Scheuer and Gregory A. Keoleian at the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems on behalf of the Building and Fire Research Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The admittedly limited analysis suggested some inconsistencies within the LEED credit system. In their general research conclusion, the researchers write: “The lack of comparability between LEED ratings and LCA [life cycle assessment] results indicates that when considered in a life-cycle perspective, LEED does not provide a consistent, organized structure for achievement of environmental goals.


Renovated in 2001 by Holst Architecture, the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center in Portland, Ore. , is the first historic building to receive a LEED gold rating.

Photography: © Dan Tyrpak Photo.com


Despite these criticisms, no one wants to turn back the clock. Carroon sees LEED’s checklist format as a useful tool to motivate those who are less informed, but he believes architects should strive for something greater—integrated design for the long term and in the context of community and culture.

Nigel Howard, vice president for LEED & International Programs at the U.S. Green Building Council, acknowledges that the first version of LEED was not designed explicitly for historic buildings. But another version now in development may be more applicable for at least some aspects of historic buildings. “LEED is on a cycle of continual improvements. I can imagine that these issues will be taken up in future versions of it.” Only then, perhaps, will the sibling rivalry finally end and the two symbiotic movements truly join forces for the common good.


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