The third and final public comment period for the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) draft of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) 2012 is now open for public comment. As with the public comment periods for the first and second drafts of LEED 2012, we’re offering suggestions on how to comment on the documents to help make the guidelines and credits more preservation-friendly. Check out our blog posts on the first and second drafts to see how the process has evolved.
A couple of summers ago I was in Plano, Illinois for meetings at our mid-century modern masterpiece, the Farnsworth House, when I was trapped in town overnight because of flash floods. The only place I could find to stay was a lovely bed and breakfast on the edge of town. When the owner found out that I was the chief architect at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, he took me from room to room to show me the small, round Unico vents hidden throughout. He was proud of his Unico system because he was able to save all the historic plaster on the ceilings and afford to add air conditioning too. He said he learned about Unico by seeing an advertisement in Preservation magazine, which made him forever indebted to the National Trust. He refused to let me pay for my room that night and told me I always had a place to stay in Plano for free.
Now, I can’t promise you that you too will get a free hotel room if you mention “Unico” to the owner, but I can tell you that in the world of heating, ventilating and cooling systems, the Unico system can definitely be a strong alternative if you and your architect and engineer decide a mechanical system is needed. I learned this first-hand managing the renovations at President Lincoln’s Cottage, another of our National Trust Historic Sites.
The President Lincoln’s Cottage National Trust Historic Site is comprised of the Gothic stucco cottage that President Lincoln used as his seasonal home and the Renaissance Revival former administration building for the Old Soldier’s Home in Northwest Washington, DC. The cottage has been restored as a house museum and the administration building has been adapted for use as National Trust offices and a visitor center. The Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center at President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, DC became the first National Trust Historic Site to receive LEED certification – LEED Gold. The cottage restoration itself did not register for LEED since the project was begun earlier than the VEC project, just as LEED was first coming on the market. But at the Cottage, the original passive design features such as operable windows and shutters were reactivated, and the Unico System was seen as the perfect way to supplement the heating and cooling of the building.
Before the renovation, President Lincoln’s Cottage used a steam heating system with radiators (not original to the home) and a few window units for air conditioning. The initial plan was to only install central heating because the home had natural ventilation due to its location on a hilltop and shutter system. However, The Unico System was easily adaptable for both heating and cooling by adding an air conditioning module at the fan end of the system, with no changes to the duct work. Unico’s easily-customizable circular outlets were stained to match the original wood floors on the first floor and the walls and ceilings on the second floor.
The system is fed by three 5-ton air handlers with chilled water coils that provide both heating and cooling. The air handlers are tucked away in the basement and third-floor servants’ quarters, while the chillers were installed remotely in a historic water tower structure away from the main building. Unico donated the equipment for this project which assisted in making this project manageable for us.
Today, the National Trust and Unico, Inc. announced that they were renewing their corporate partnership. I am grateful for Unico’s support of the National Trust and also believe that in the right circumstances it is a reasonable alternative to the big-ducted systems we’ve been burdened with for so long.
- Unico on PreservationNation
- Unico System homepage
- Unico's Case Study on President Lincoln's Cottage (PDF)
Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP, is the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office.
The final version of LEED ND (Neighborhood Development) is open for its second and final public comment. Comments, which can be made by anyone, not just members, are due by Sunday, June 14th, 2009 at 11:59 PM Pacific Time. My colleague Patrice Frey and I have advised LEED ND staff on many of the changes and in many respects we are very pleased with the way it is looking. But there is one major oversight that I would like everyone to send comments in on: the lack of a prerequisite for demolishing historic buildings. Read my tale below and if you agree I invite you to go to the USGBC website, download LEED ND and send in comments online. If you have any trouble submitting comments, let me know and I’ll be happy to help you.
What is LEED ND?
LEED Neighborhood Development (ND) is in some respects as different from LEED 2009 as it is similar. It has a very different construct (four sections instead of six), was developed by a working group of three organizations – USGBC, Natural Resources Defense Council (representing the Smart Growth community) and Congress for New Urbanism – and focuses on infrastructure and the public realm, with buildings as just one component. For more detail please read two blogs I wrote in November, one on LEED ND specifically and one on both LEED ND and LEED 2009.
LEED ND has three categories:
- Smart Locations & Linkages (SLL);
- Neighborhood Pattern & Design (NPD) and
- Green Infrastructure & Buildings (GIB).
Historic preservation values are particularly addressed in NPD Prerequisite Credit 1 - Walkable Streets and GIB Credits 5 – Existing Building Reuse and 6 – Historic Resource Preservation & Adaptive Reuse.
The No-Demolition Prerequisite
In my November blog I discussed how pleased we were that these new credits, GIB 5 and 6 (4 and 5 in the first iteration), were developed and referenced preservation standards. In order to get either of these credits, there is a prerequisite that no historic building can be demolished. The problem is, someone could still demolish a historic building and just choose NOT to go for these credits. It would be much stronger if there were a prerequisite credit that precludes someone from getting LEED ND at all if they demolish a historic building. This was the major comment I submitted on behalf of the National Trust during the first public comment period. When reviewing the comments with LEED staff following the comment period, we were told that it did not appear that the No Demolition for Historic Buildings prerequisite had enough votes for this first version of LEED ND and that we should work towards it for the next version in two years.
... Read More →
Last week I made my annual mecca to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention, held this year in San Francisco. This is my favorite conference every year because it reinforces my decision (or rather calling) at the age of 14 to become an architect. This year was particularly special because I was inducted into the AIA College of Fellows, along with three of my friends who are also preservation architects. In fact, of the 112 inductees, a large portion were architects who mentioned preservation or adaptive use in their statements – it was large enough that everyone was commenting on it. It made me think that possibly being a preservation architect is no longer on the edge of architecture but has become more mainstream. And that’s a good thing.
Sustainability Isn’t Separate or Special Anymore
One of the best things I noticed about the convention was that there was no longer a “sustainable” track or theme. Instead, it was now an integral component of the convention and most of the talks. And starting this year architects need to get sustainable design (SD) credits as part of our continuing education requirements. So I focused on going to sessions that would allow me to complete these new SD requirements.
Can We Live More Like a Redwood Forest Than a Ragweed?
The opening keynote on Thursday (April 30th) was presented by Peter Head, a principal at Arup.
Peter works in Asia evaluating and developing megacities in China. On the surface that would seem an incredibly unsustainable action, but I must say his discussion of the social and cultural issues, both ours and theirs, made me think about sustainable development in the “developing” world in a whole new light. His underlying concern was whether our planet can actually sustain 10 billion people when the way we have been living and our use of non-renewable resources is in essence shrinking our planet, which is a closed system.
... Read More →
It’s always a pleasant surprise when you go to a lecture only because someone invited you, and you have the expectation of being bored, to instead discover a humorous, brilliant speaker who makes you think in ways you haven’t thought before. That’s what happened last Thursday night when I dragged myself to the National Building Museum to hear Dr. Howard Frumkin from the Centers of Disease Control speak about the impact of green building on health - How Do We Know What Makes Places Healthy? Here is a man with more degrees than my whole department (and we’re a well educated group) who was as entertaining as he was thought-provoking. His basic premise was: Are walkable, traditional neighborhoods really as healthy as they seem or do they just draw people who would be predisposed to walking anyhow?
Our Drive-Thru Lives
The amazing inventions which culminated in the twentieth century engineered physical activities out of our routines and our lives. As a result we expect everything instantly and immediately. Why walk around the corner to pick up your dry cleaning if you can pull up to the front window in your car and get it instead? Indeed, why even walk around a redwood tree if you can drive through it?! (His jest not mine!) Suburban and even urban developments post-WWII were designed to move traffic, not pedestrians. We need to go back to our traditional neighborhoods and urban cores to remember the pedestrian.
Even with this though, the statistics to prove that walkable neighborhoods are better for our health are more anecdotal than actual. Architects and planners are not used to evaluating our designs and constructions empirically. Scientists at agencies like the CDC and at universities need to be working hand-in-hand with practitioners if we want to truly understand if and how good “walkable neighborhoods” are for the planet and our health.
Community Design’s Effects on Health and Well-Being
But then, at the same time, sometimes common sense is all you need to realize how healthy a walkable neighborhood is or should be. How do we balance common sense with empirical research and which is more real? Are you shaking your head right now? If you are it’s because this is the problem with almost everything related to climate change today. We all want to do what’s best, but the science is so young and evolving so quickly that what we believe for sure now, we may think silly in a year. Arrrrggghhhh. So what do we do? Well, we err on the side of what seems to make sense and move on. Dr. Frumkin mentioned eight criteria which, to him, indicate when a community is good design, healthy, and green. These were:
1. Provides many opportunities for physical activity.
2. Prevents air pollution.
3. Minimizes traffic injuries.
4. Doesn’t make climate change worse.
5. Provides many, healthy food choices within walking distance.
6. Mitigates heat island effect.
7. Improves mental health.
8. And provides positive social interaction – gives residents abilities to meet, greet, mix and mingle.
Walking and Talking
As Dr. Frumkin asked, “When was the last time you heard about a case of ‘sidewalk rage’?" A recent blog I wrote on my True Green column about the beauty of walking and “saying hello” in a historic community like Old Salem, North Carolina got more attention than almost any other blog I have written in the past two years. It would seem that people are hungry for walking and talking, and you don’t need empirical research to prove that.