Port Townsend City Hall

With a LEED silver rating, the historic City Hall in Port Townsend, Wash., is now used for city council offices and as a town museum.

Credit: David Rutherford, ARC Architects

In Port Townsend, Wash., the City Hall buildings include both a 114-year-old National Historic Landmark and a new, green structure that earned a LEED silver rating.

Built in 1892 of red brick, sandstone details, and decorative sheet metal, the Victorian City Hall was the small town's catch-all civic building, housing a fire hall, jail, court, and city council chambers. But by 1990, the city's population growth, combined with the City Hall's slow deterioration in the face of Port Townsend's harsh weather, prompted city officials to make plans to rehabilitate the building and build a new city building nearby for more offices.

While the two projects began as separate endeavors (both headed by ARC Architects), it soon became clear that combining the two projects proved to be more economical—and ecological—than separately rehabilitating the historic City Hall and constructing a new city building nearby. City officials said that during the planning process, it became clear that it was important to set an example to the community to conserve energy, so they decided to go for a LEED rating. "It was one of those things that, as we were working on it, the idea of eco-friendly building kept creeping into the discussion," says David Peterson, Port Townsend city engineer.

Additionally, the new city hall, located at the north end of downtown, helped revitalize Port Townsend's historic Main Street. "This was seen as a way of reinforcing that end of the Main Street," says Peterson, who adds that major new projects near the City Hall, such as a maritime center, have since begun.

Perhaps the most creative aspect of the project is that the new building, called the City Hall Annex, was designed so that it would reinforce the historic City Hall's south and west walls, providing the seismic upgrade that the 120-year-old building desperately needed. Additionally, the historic City Hall was updated to include low-flow fixtures, the brick was repointed, and its windows were restored (but not replaced) to be more energy efficient. The new annex was constructed with FSC-certified wood, and energy-saving elements, such as a highly reflective roof, helped the new building to earn a LEED Silver rating. Construction was completed in late 2006.

"There were challenges, but it wasn't because it was a green project. It was more a question of how to put a modern building next to an older building," Peterson says. "And we had our green hats on anyway, so it just became green."

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