Case Studies

The use of green design in the rehabilitation of historic structures is becoming a more common practice in the United States. Over forty rehabilitations of historic structures have earned U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification since 2001. While not all rehabilitations involving both preservation and sustainable elements earn LEED certification, there is a growing consciousness about the natural relationship between the two. The following case studies explore how some green-designed rehabilitation projects came to be.

LEED Certification

In 2008, the Christman Company Building-formerly the Mutual Building-in Lansing, Michigan, became the world’s first LEED double-platinum-rated building, earning the platinum rating in LEED Core and Shell and LEED Commercial Interiors. Built in 1928, this historic, National Register-listed building sat on a brownfield site in Lansing in a state of disrepair when SmithGroup developers decided to rehabilitate the structure as an example of how historic preservation and sustainable building form a natural relationship.

Further reading on the Christman Company Building project.

The State and City Building in downtown Roanoke, Virginia, underwent a rehabilitation that not only earned Roanoke its first LEED certification, but also qualified for Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits. Completed in the 1920s, the former State and City Bank now houses a jewelry store, one floor of commercial office space, seven condominiums, and one penthouse suite.

Further reading on the State and City Building project.

The use of sustainable design and historic preservation principles in the rehabilitation of the c. 1899 Cambridge City Hall Annex in Cambridge, MA, earned the project a Gold rating from LEED.

Further reading on the Cambridge City Hall Annex project.

Affordable Housing

The S.F. Holland Building in Danville, Illinois, was recently rehabilitated by Crosspoint Human Services, a non-profit organization that strives to provide safe, affordable housing for people with developmental disabilities and mental illness. Completed in 1927, the Holland building initially served as an apartment building with additional retail store and restaurant space. The rehabilitation focused on respecting the National Register-listed building’s architectural character while incorporating sustainable principles that earned the project a LEED Gold rating in November 2007.

Further reading on the S.F. Holland Building project.

A National Register of Historic Places-listed former hotel and theater built in 1911, the Acme Building in downtown Billings, Montana, has been rehabilitated by homeWORD, a nonprofit organization that develops sustainable and aesthetically-pleasing affordable housing. Finished in the fall of 2004, the Acme Building project provides an example of a relatively inexpensive ($3.4 M) historic preservation/green building project that also incorporates both affordable and fair market value rental space.

Further reading on the Acme Building and homeWORD.

The Acme Building rehabilitation is not the first time homeWORD has incorporated green design and preservation into an affordable housing project. Somewhat smaller in scale than the Acme Building project, their Lenox Flats project in Missoula, Montana, also involved a National Register property and was fairly inexpensive ($1.7M).

Green Lodging

The c. 1853 Plough Inn in Madison, Wisconsin, was rehabilitated to become the Arbor House Inn, a green-minded bed and breakfast. The rehabilitation emphasized the building’s existing sustainable features, like the twelve-inch-thick walls and windows, and the b&b’s green features include organic bedding, energy-saving appliances, and native plant landscaping.

In its recent rehabilitation of its 155 restrooms, the Heathman Hotel in Portland, Oregon, mixed green building with historic preservation by maintaining existing teak trim, mirrors, stone vanities and tubs, using Forest Stewardship Council certified wood, and 40% recycled content tile on the walls and floors, among other features. In addition, the Heathman used local artists, businesses, and vendors, thereby investing in the local economy and minimizing the energy use involved in transporting goods to the hotel and shipping debris out.

Further reading on the Heathman Hotel project.