New Version of LEED to Incorporate Better Metrics for Historic & Existing Buildings

Posted on: March 24th, 2008 by Barbara Campagna 15 Comments

Sustainable Preservation Coalition

The National Trust for Historic Preservation created the Sustainable Preservation Coalition two years ago in order to impact further development of the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Building Rating Systems. We partnered with several national organizations who were developing separate sustainability agendas including the AIA, APT International, the National Park Service, General Services Administration and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers. We realized we could make a bigger impact integrating historic preservation and green building values by working together.

Our first goal was to meet with the U.S. Green Building Council, the developer of LEED, and open up a dialogue to discuss improvements to their products which would better reflect the importance of existing buildings to sustainable stewardship of our planet and its limited resources. While LEED does much to encourage more sustainable development, and historic buildings can achieve the highest LEED rating, we believed it could certainly do better because the current version of LEED (LEED 2.2):

1. Overlooks the impact of projects on cultural value;

2. Does not effectively consider the performance, longer service lives and embodied energy of historic materials and assemblies;

3. And is overly focused on current or future technologies, neglecting how past experience helps to determine sustainable performance.

Our meeting with the President of USGBC (Rick Fedrizzi) and the Director of LEED Technical Development (Brendan Owens) was quite successful, ending with Rick inviting us to help them prepare preservation metrics for the revised versions of LEED. Over the past year, our coalition has been meeting with USGBC and are delighted to announce that soon LEED 3.0 will be unveiled.

The LEED Revisions

At the Traditional Building Conference in Boston on March 14th, Brendan Owens of USGBC, Carl Elefante (Principal at Quinn Evans Architects in Washington, DC and Co-Chair of the APT Technical Committee on Sustainable Preservation) and I presented a panel entitled “LEED & Preservation: It Works!” We presented the following information:

1.  USGBC has determined that they are going to launch an interim version of LEED this year called LEED 3.0. There are so many changes that need to be made, they decided they would implement some changes this year and then work on the really complicated ones (social/preservation/cultural metrics) next year. This also gives their membership time to ease into the transition and makes some much-needed changes immediately.

2. LEED 3.0 will go out for public comment May 1st and be adopted by the membership at GreenBuild in November in Boston. It will in essence go into effect January 1st, 2009.

3. What is LEED 3.0? LEED 3.0 will adopt the new system where the credits are weighted according to Life Cycle Analysis Indicators. (This is really, really important for existing buildings and what we've been promoting). The LEED rating system is increasing from a total of 69 points to 100 points. In many cases now in the new version, the points related to existing buildings will be much higher and more effectively addressed in the new weighting system.

4. In addition, there will be an "interim compliance route" in LEED 3.0 which existing buildings can choose that specifically focuses on the Durability of materials and assemblies in existing buildings in the Materials & Resources Category (where many of the targeted existing buildings points are). This does not exist in LEED 2.0.

5. The amount of points a building will now get will be different for every building depending on its materials, their durability, etc. But in many cases it may mean more points for existing buildings, but more importantly, the inherent durability and embodied energy will be much better represented, where it currently is not addressed at all.

6. Immediately after LEED 3.0/2009 goes out for public comment, we are going to start working on LEED 3.0/2010 with USGBC which will change the structure of LEED even more. Here is where we will apply a new overlay of cultural/social/preservation metrics in addition to the durability metric which will already have been implemented with LEED 3.0. This is the really complicated stuff that hasn't been done before. BRE out of Europe has done it a little, but USGBC is committed with our help to figure this out and get it implemented for 2010. In addition, they are looking to filling the gaps they've identified with our help and others, and will probably be adding new credits as well.

Stay tuned – we will keep you updated!

UPDATE - May 6th, 2008

USGBC is hard at work tweaking the draft of LEED 3.0.  Their board will be reviewing it on May 14th and determining whether it is ready to go out for public comment.  If the USGBC Board approves its release, it should be out on the street for public comment some time the third week of May.  All USGBC members will receive the draft.  The National Trust will post the draft on our website and work with our coalition to provide comments.  At the same time, we will begin work with USGBC on the next version of LEED. 

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


15 Responses

  1. Paul

    March 25, 2008

    Great news Barbara!

  2. Milford Wayne Donaldson FAIA

    March 25, 2008

    Barbara, excellent work throughout the many years and thanks for including the NCSHPO in the Sustainable Preservation Coalition.

  3. Kim O'Connell

    March 25, 2008

    It must be gratifying to see all this hard work come to fruition. I look forward to seeing what the new incarnation of LEED does for our historic buildings and downtowns. Great job Barbara!

  4. Terri Treinen, Studio One Design

    March 25, 2008

    At last, acknowledgment of all the harvested building materials, related labor support resources, and site specific endowments already invested from the planet and embodied in our nation’s historical structures. We don’t need to open another hole in the earth from which to mine more gold , we just need to polish the treasures already standing in our midst! LEED 3.0 gives historical buildings an even playing field from which to make a case when the ‘everything has to be new, cutting edge, and redeveloped’ Green-monsters come threatening at Historic Districts’ doors. Thanks for all your hard work.

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  6. Pamela Reilly

    March 26, 2008

    I am glad to see a more old building inclusive approach being developed –as a preservationist, it is hard to imagine what took them so long to notice the inherent greeness of reusing what you already have! Has there been any effort to pull HUD into this discussion? HUD’s current approach to federally funded low income housing rehab programs is not very green or very preservation savvy. All those wooden windows replaced by short life, lower R value, vinyl ones in efforts to reduce maintenance costs and lead paint exposure definately have an environmental impact. I hope the LEED principals will become more universally used in all construction/rehab projects.

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  8. Patricia meyer

    March 28, 2008

    Last year (before I even knew about the National Trust’s efforts) I decided that it was time to bring historic preservation and sustainable practices together. Long considered mutually exclusive enterprises (as one person said, “you can’t make a space ship out of a log cabin”), these two worthwhile endeavors deserve to be recognized as equally important and even highly compatible. I am the Operations Director for the Felt Estate (Michigan), and this year (or early next) we will complete our certification process to become a LEED Platinum site. While others have rehabilitated buildings before using the LEED standard — not many have kept the interior intact, doing a true preservation project, while implementing state-of-the-art technologies and environmentally sensitive operating procedures. Passionate about both concepts, I was determined to bring them together – and, hopefully, the Felt Estate will show others that it is very possible — even on a limited budget.

  9. Mark Voigt, Admin. Nantucket Historic District Commission

    April 2, 2008

    Great News! If there were ever a time to recognize the beginning of a trend it is now, regarding green initiatives, energy conservation and historic preservation. Generally, each is redundant to the other of achieving and ends to their means, but distinctive in their specific means. All have been around for some time experiencing different levels of acceptance, understanding and implementation. Only now have they begun to come together in such a significant way to allow all of us to focus our collective energies in the same direction. Historic Preservation has never looked so good, so green and so energy efficient!

  10. Barbara Campagna

    April 2, 2008

    Thanks to everyone for your comments and thoughts!! There will be an update and longer version on the cover of “Forum Journal” in November. But as progess as made I will continue to report on it here…

  11. Clay G

    October 13, 2008

    Unfortunately, both LEED and historical preservation agencies have noble causes, but they can sometimes be at cross with one another. Good to see them working together for positive results for everyone.

  12. Bess Althaus Graham

    April 8, 2009

    When will this information be updated? Is the Sustainable Preservation Coalition working on any issues at the moment?

    Why isn’t LEED 3.0 more responsive to preservation issues? I think we’ve been green washed again by USGBC…

  13. Barbara Campagna

    April 8, 2009

    Please look at my recent article written for the AIA, which is also posted on our website.

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