Christopher Davis: 200 years of LEED (or 20 historic buildings you probably didn’t know were green)

Christopher Davis was speaking to my tree-hugger heart when he wrote:

These projects are incredible examples of how historic preservation and environmental sustainability can work hand in hand, and how saving the past can enrich the future.

Renovating a historic building to LEED standards isn’t easy, but it is well worth it, in my opinion.

…the buildings that have achieved LEED certification embody a history that stretches far deeper into the past than 1993. In fact, we recently certified the oldest LEED buildings both in the United States (Fay House at Harvard University, built in 1807) and in the world (a Venetian Gothic palazzo from 1453!).

These remarkably historic green buildings are certainly not alone. Dozens of historic buildings have become LEED certified, and some of them are already well known, like the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

Here are a few of my favorites from his article:

1821: Pavilion IX, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

LEED Certified, New Construction

Designed by Thomas Jefferson as part of the University of Virginia’s iconic lawn, Pavilion IX is the only LEED certified building located within a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The building was renovated to LEED guidelines in 2011 and is currently home to the Dean of the School of Nursing.

Photo credit: Flickr user timjarrett
Photo credit: Flickr user timjarrett

1839: St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (United Teen Equality Center), Lowell, MA

LEED Platinum, New Construction

The United Teen Equality Center is dedicated to social and economic development for at-risk youth in Lowell. In 2006, needing more space, they purchased the historic St. Paul’s Church downtown, and then renovated and expanded it into the oldest LEED Platinum building in the world.

Photo credit: Lewishine Fellowship Blog
Photo credit: Lewishine Fellowship Blog

1842: U.S. Treasury Building, Washington, DC

LEED Gold, Existing Buildings

At the depths of the Great Recession, the U.S. Treasury made a bold, forward-thinking decision, achieving LEED Gold and helping save American taxpayers $3.5 million per year in energy, water, and leasing costs. The Treasury Building is the only known LEED certified building on a unit of currency.

Photo credit: Wikimedia
Photo credit: Wikimedia

1856: New York State Executive Mansion, Albany, NY

LEED Gold, Existing Buildings

Previously a private home, the mansion has served as the official residence of 31 New York governors since 1875, including Al Smith, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Nelson Rockefeller. A comprehensive greening effort was launched in 2007 by former First Lady Silda Wall Spitzer.

Photo credit: Wikimedia
Photo credit: Wikimedia

1900: Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building (Sullivan Center), Chicago, IL

LEED Certified, Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance

The last major work of renowned architect Louis Sullivan, the Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company department store and office building represents the climax of the Chicago School, with its use of an innovative steel frame structure, allowing much larger windows than the typical building of the time. Having suffered great disrepair in the mid-20th century, the building was recently returned to its former glory, including restoration of the cornice and iconic ornamental iron work.

Photo credit: Flickr user atelier_tee
Photo credit: Flickr user atelier_tee

For the rest of Christopher Davis’ article and 14 more historic, iconic, LEED-certified buildings, visit USGBC.org/articles

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