Most architects and designers who are familiar with "green design" have heard about the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system. LEED is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. It promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
The LEED system is making a powerful impact on new construction. But what about the issue of razing an old, seemingly energy-inefficient building to put a new green one in its place? There are those who would ask: Will the new efficiencies outweigh the costs – of both what's lost and what it takes to rebuild?
Before sustainability even had a name, traditional builders incorporated sustainable elements into buildings. Working in sync with the environment was the norm, including siting, local materials, natural ventilation, shading, clean energy (via mills), reflective roofing, cisterns and indigenous plantings. Because of these practices, many historic buildings are inherently energy- efficient and already meet current sustainable-design criteria.
That's why historic preservation advocates believe the retention and careful reuse of existing buildings play a very important role in sustainable development. By taking into account historic buildings' original sustainable features, and supplementing them with today's sustainable technology, these buildings can be effectively rehabilitated without losing their historical character.
Following are some views from experts in the field.