Monday, January 10, 2011

Changes to LEED Certification Promote Preservation!

LEED-certified new construction

Rehab in process, exact certification not yet determined.
Post and second photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.  First photo from

Regarding that title, I'll admit I'm one of the few people who would deem something that wonkish to be worthy of an exclamation point.  Still, this is a potential game-changer for how "green" housing development is viewed.  Among other preservationist friends, we've often lamented that many green standards for construction fail to take into account the environmental costs of a demolition putting tons of waste into a landfill, or the energy costs of creating new (or recycled/reused) raw material, transporting it, and building anew.  This isn't to devalue groundbreaking new kinds of construction such as what was used in the first LEED-certified home built in the Hawthorne EcoVillage (top photo).  Instead, we wondered how green construction might be evaluated when taking such things into consideration.

Thanks to some proposed changes by the US Green Building Council, it looks like things are heading in that direction.  These changes are only proposed at this time, and there is an initial public comment period through January 14, 2011.  Click here to submit comments you might have.  The most important change has to do with giving credit for the preservation of historic buildings.  Tell the USGBC that you absolutely LOVE this credit.  And it gets better!  According to the Preservation Nation website, there is a credit "directly encouraging users to save historic windows and they are specifically looking for feedback that confirms this is a good thing."  (emphasis mine, but I feel rather strongly about this issue)

The new LEED standards do need some tweaking though.  For instance...

...historic housing stock is lumped in with blighted housing in terms of points for preservation.  It's quite possible for a house worthy of preservation/rehab to be either historic or blighted, but not necessarily both.  The LEED guidelines and scoring systems should reflect that.

Note:  I'm having some technical difficulties in downloading the full documents from USGBC to draw directly from them, so most information is coming from the Preservation Nation site linked above, and the Preserve Green blog.  That blog's author points out that the points system for percentage of buildings saved in a LEED-certified development is still, in her opinion, not weighed enough towards preservation.  And that instead of merely getting credits for preservation of historic housing/landmarks, such steps should be a prerequisite.

Once again, I have to emphasize how significant even these changes are.  Granted, there are other types of green certification, such as the Green Communities criteria.  Even so, the LEED standards are blazing a trail and others are expected to follow. 


  1. bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


  2. Yeah, this is dry stuff. But it does have an impact on NoMi. In many cases, the greenest house is the one you don't have to tear down. Finally the entities that certify green standards are starting to understand that, and it will start to skewer development efforts towards more preservation and less demolition.

    But fear not, anon 12:37. I've got other juicier posts up my sleeve for this week, if things go according to plan.

  3. Great news. Steps in the right direction.

    What many people don't realize is that Preservation Tax Credits can only be used against corporate profits. So they do very little for residential housing.

    They are transferable - but few corporations are interested in purchasing them if they amount to less than $30,000 and if purchased they will only bring a fraction of their face value.

    So Historic Tax Credits, while great for huge commercial properties; are pretty much useless for the average older home.

  4. good news! this should make affordability and green a better match, too.


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