Bringing “Green” To Bear On Historic Structure

“The real challenge for LEED in the future, especially with regards to historic preservation, comes with recognition of the nuances that relate to regional differences in construction and the use of natural energies.” — Whitney Powers, AIA

June 19, 2008 (CHARLESTON, SC) – Whitney Powers, AIA, principal of Studio A Architecture in Charleston, Recently completed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) for Historic Structures Workshop held at the Charleston Maritime Center.

The workshop helped participants understand how they can implement the LEED® High Performance Rating System into historic preservation, restoration and adaptive re-use projects. It identified ways to apply “green” building practices to historic rehabilitation projects within the LEED® framework. It also addressed elements of sustainable design in historic preservation that are not identified by LEED® and may not be quantifiable.

Whitney Powers is a recognized leader in both sustainable design and historic preservation/adaptive re-use. Last year she was instrumental in bringing “green” elements to bear on the renovation of the historic Lance Hall at the Circular Congregational Church on Meeting Street, among other projects.

In fact, combining preservation and sustainability is a key mission for Powers, she said, since the sheer number of older, existing buildings represents a much larger opportunity to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions that contribute to global warming than the comparatively small number of new structures erected each year. (A recent New York Times report entitled “Green Buildings Don’t Have To Be New,” noted that new buildings “represent a small fraction of the nation’s estimated 4.5 million commercial properties, many of which were erected decades ago before sustainable, or green, designs became de rigueur.”)

Powers noted that the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the organization behind LEED, has been slow to acknowledge the inherent sustainability in historic buildings. Only recently has the USGBC opened discussions with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to incorporate preservation goals into the LEED ratings system — a fact she learned when she participated in the seminar “The Sustainability Initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation” at GreenBuild 2007 in Chicago.

An outgrowth of this dialogue includes workshops like the one in Charleston where actual case studies illustrated how the existing LEED system can apply to renovations and adaptive reuse of historic buildings.

“The real challenge for LEED in the future, especially with regards to historic preservation, comes with recognition of the nuances that relate to regional differences in construction and the use of natural energies,” Powers said. “Knowledge of these differences in energy demands, materials and durability will spell the maturing of the LEED system with regards to historic preservation.”

The USGBC has opened the comment period for LEED 3.0, “and this is a real opportunity for architects and engineers working in the preservation field, particularly in the South, to help underscore the regional differences so that the USGBC can effectively address in the new rating system due to be released in 2009,”  she said.
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Whitney Power’s work in sustainable design and historic preservation/restoration at Studio A Architecture has received numerous design awards and has been featured in local, regional and national design magazines and journals. For more information, visit http://www.studioa-architecture.com.

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