New USGBC Manual on Green Building and Preservation

Posted on: April 19th, 2013 by Special Contributor

by Adam Maynard

Last month the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released a new guidance manual, LEED for Neighborhood Development and Historic Preservation. It highlights the ways LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) encourages and rewards historic preservation efforts, dispelling some of the thinking in the market that LEED and preservation are at odds with one another. The new manual describes strategies for (and the reasoning behind) incorporating historic resources into sustainable development projects and for protecting these important cultural sites in a sustainable way.

There is tremendous value in pursuing LEED and historic preservation together during individual building projects, and these benefits are amplified at the neighborhood scale. In LEED Version 2009, the current version of all rating systems, LEED-ND is the only one with a credit that specifically identifies historic preservation. Green Infrastructure and Buildings (GIB) Credit 5: Existing Building Reuse and GIB Credit 6: Historic Resource Preservation and Adaptive Reuse specifically reward projects that integrate historic resources in their development plan.

But the true advantage of incorporating historic resources into a LEED-ND project goes far beyond the two points represented by GIB Credit 5 and GIB Credit 6. Aided by the fact that historic buildings are typically located in urban locations that are well-served by existing infrastructure, are close to a mix of uses and local economic drivers, and are designed at a human scale that promotes walkability and creates an inviting public realm, these buildings are predisposed to score well in the LEED-ND certification process. The guidance manual explains these more nuanced approaches to historic preservation and LEED-ND. In all, two credits and one prerequisite directly address historic preservation, while another three prerequisites and eight credits incorporate common characteristics of historic buildings. They are:

  • GIB Prerequisite 1: Certified Green Building and GIB Credit 1: Certified Green Buildings
  • Smart Location and Linkage (SLL) Prerequisite 1: Smart Location and SLL Credit 1: Preferred Locations
  • SLL Credit 2: Brownfield Redevelopment
  • SLL Credit 3: Locations with Reduced Automobile Dependence
  • Neighborhood Pattern and Design (NPD) Prerequisite 1 and Credit 1: Walkable Streets
  • NPD Prerequisite 2 and Credit 2: Compact Development
  • NPD Credit 3: Mixed-Use Neighborhood Centers
  • NPD Credit 14: Tree-Lined and Shaded Streets

Whether you are a planning or development professional considering incorporating existing buildings into your project or a member of the preservation community interested in a comprehensive look at the green characteristics of older buildings, this resource will highlight how green building and preservation can work together to create vibrant places.

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The Presidio Trust has taken a leadership role in green building. Pictured here are rehabilitated homes in the Public Health Service District which once housed physicians and their families. | Credit: Brian Vahey

An Innovative Approach to Preservation and Green Building

The Public Health Service District in San Francisco was developed more than a century ago to provide care for mariners from around the world. It is located in the Presidio, a former Spanish military outpost and U.S. Army base which was transferred to the National Park Service in 1994. This urban national park is home to more than 433 individually significant historic buildings. The Presidio Trust, the steward of this 1,491-acre network of parks, forest, recreation trails, and Spanish-influenced architecture, is committed to green building and historic preservation in its incremental revitalization of the site.

Nowhere is this more evident than at the Public Health Service District, which last month became the first LEED-ND 2009 project to certify at Stage 3. It was also the first project to earn GIB Credit 6: Historic Resource Preservation and Adaptive Reuse, incorporating 13 historic buildings and three cultural landscapes in its development, with the Presidio’s largest historic building, a Georgian-revival style hospital, also earning LEED-NC Gold certification. Overall, the project scored well on SLLc1: Preferred Locations, NPDc2: Compact Development, and GIBc1: Certified Green Buildings, three of the credits identified by the guidance document.

Adam Maynard is a neighborhood development associate at the U.S. Green Building Council, where he coordinates new market development for the LEED-ND rating system.