A Report from the Greenbuild Conference in Chicago – Part 2

Posted on: December 19th, 2007 by Barbara Campagna

Presenting the Sustainability Initiative of the National Trust

Two colleagues and I presented the Sustainability Initiative of the National Trust to a room of 250+ Greenbuild-goers on Friday, November 9th. The large number in attendanclincoln-cottage.jpge was a great relief and an indication, I think, that interest in the intersection of historic preservation and green building is not limited or marginalized to the choir of preservationists who have been singing that tune for the past few years. I began the session by asking how many in attendance consider themselves to be preservation professionals – and only a handful raised their hands. But when I asked how many were National Trust members, the hands of about 2/3 of the attendees enthusiastically shot up. Maybe more people are listening than we realize.

We have a multi-component work plan but below are the key issues we presented.

The Coalition & A Partnership with USGBC

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is coordinating the activities of a coalition to develop a joint strategy for making preservation a more viable option within green building. The organizations currently involved are the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Association for Preservation Technology International (APT), the National Park Service (NPS), the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), the General Services Administration, and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO).

This coalition reached out to USGBC to become more involved in the development and revision of LEED products and to advise on the development of guidelines for historic buildings. Leaders of the coalition met with Rick Fedrizzi and Brendan Owens on March 6th, 2007 to discuss the natural intersection of green building and preservation. The coalition was invited by USGBC to develop the preservation metrics for the new version of their products referred to as the “Virtual Bookshelf”.

Since March of this year, we have been working with USGBC to develop a social values/cultural/historic preservation overlay for the new version of LEED currently in development. USGBC is completely retooling all the LEED products to better represent life cycle analysis, cultural values etc. In particular they are developing a comprehensive weighting system for the points (one of the primary criticisms of the current system is that the various points are not weighted in any manner). It is no easy task. But we were thrilled to have been invited by the USGBC President, Rick Fedrizzi, to assist them in this effort. Below are the 8 basic cultural metrics we are trying to figure out!! The basic question is “how do you quantify the unquantifiable?” Look for updates in this blog as we get further. This version of LEED is expected to go online in 2009/2010.

We split the “metrics” into 2 categories – those that fit into life cycle analysis and those that do not. A performance metric is a standard of measurement of a function or operation. Performance metrics provide owners, operators, occupants, and society a way of quantifying and tracking how well buildings are doing compared to performance goals. The coalition reviewed and discussed metrics that would be appropriate for measuring the contribution of historic and existing buildings to sustainable communities.

Life cycle analysis is among the most important grouping of metrics, as it provides a means of measuring the total impact of a building over its life. Our list of suggested metrics below identifies the metrics which are not currently holistically integrated into the LEED rating system, identifies some particular areas in which a better accounting of resource use is required, and/or are specific to existing or historic buildings.

The Metrics suggested below also help provide an accounting of the social, economic and environmental attributes of historic buildings that would not be measured in a Life-Cycle Analysis.

Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) Metrics
1. Reduced Carbon Footprint – Construction Process – Recognize Impacts that are Scaffolding at Woodlawn, Alexandria, Virginiaavoided by the reuse of existing and/or historic buildings, such as the preservation of embodied energy, avoidance of waste generation, and reduction in the production, transportation and use of new materials.

2. Reduced Carbon Footprint – Operations and Livability – Recognize the value of passive climate control. Historic buildings were traditionally designed with many sustainable and passive features that responded to climate and site. When effectively restored and reused, these features can The Arabic Quarter, Palermo, Sicilybring about substantial energy savings. Preference should be given to projects that maximize passive climate control.

3. Durability – Identify the relative durability of various materials, systems and assemblies and reward buildings whose components are more durable.

4. Life Cycle Flexibility– Recognize the multiple reuses and adaptability of historic noto.jpgbuilding types which extends the life cycle of buildings, the building stock and our communities.

Non- Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) Metrics

5. Social sustainability – Celebrate existing buildings and provide more reward for the recognized sites of architectural, cultural and social significance using the nationally recognized standards and criteria already established by the National Register of Historic Places criteria and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

6. Health and Comfort – Recognize the high degree of individual controllability in historic and existing buildings. Traditional and vernacular buildings, constructed before fossil fuels were in wide-spread use, required active participation of building occupants to manage and control their comfort, health and productivity.

7. Social capital – Recognize the importance or “social capital” associated with historic buildings and neighborhoods. LEED should recognize the success of historic buildings in relating and connecting to their context and recognize that “historic districts” have comparable values which give them a unique sense of place or “neighborhood.

8. Density – Optimize the location of a building to community infrastructure. Density through “smart growth” invests time, attention, and resources to restoring community and vitality to center cities and older suburbs.


Rhonda Sincavage, Program Associate, State & Local Policy, presented an overview of our Policy initiatives. More detail regarding our policies can be found in the speech given by President Richard Moe on the occasion of receiving the Vincent Scully Award from the National Building Museum on December 13, 2007. http://www.nationaltrust.org/news/2007/20071213_scully.html
But some key information is discussed below:

Buildings are responsible for more than 40% of carbon emissions in the US.
Focus in the environmental community is mostly on new, green buildings but we can’t build our way out of climate change given the sheer quantity of existing buildings. It is interesting to note that a 2003 Energy Consumption survey indicates that the most energy efficient buildings in the country are those built BEFORE 1920 and AFTER 2000.

Average energy consumption Btu/sq. ft
Commercial Buildings (non malls)
Before 1920 80,127
1920 – 1945 90,234
1946 – 1959 80,198
1960 – 1969 90,976
1970 – 1979 94,968
1980 – 1989 100,077
1990 – 1999 88,834
2000 – 2003 79,703
Source: Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey, 2003

Our basic policy requests are a call to action to our government leaders as described in Mr. Moe’s speech.

President Lincoln's Cottage

And finally, William Dupont, my predecessor at the National Trust and now a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio School of Architecture, presented the National Trust’s project at President Lincoln’s Cottage, a National Monument located in the Old Soldier’s The Visitor Education Center at President Lincoln’s CottageHome in Northwest Washington, DC. The actual cottage is an 1842 Gothic Revival house in which President Lincoln reportedly drafted the Emancipation Proclamation. Adjacent to the cottage is the former Administration offices of the Soldier’s Home which we have adapted as a Visitor Education Center. The site opens on President’s Day in 2008. The Visitor Center is on target to receive Silver LEED certification and will be the National Trust’s first LEED certified project. For more information on the site visit the Lincoln Cottage blog: http://lincolncottage.wordpress.com/

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at bcampagna@bcampagna.com.