The Latest on LEED

How the Points System Is Changing

Inside what could be New Orleans' first LEED-certified project, ICINola. "We don't want to lose historic homes in the rush for green building," says Walter Gallas of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's New Orleans Field Office.

Credit: ICINola

Exclusive Excerpt from Forum Journal: How Changes to LEED Will Benefit Historic Buildings (PDF)

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You've probably seen the word LEED, but do you know what it means? It stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a rating system created by the U.S. Green Building Council to recognize a building's green credentials. The projects that earn the most credits receive a platinum rating. Projects with fewer credits are gold, silver, or LEED-certified.

Preservationists often lamented earlier versions of the LEED rating system, noting that it did not adequately recognize the inherently green nature of restoration and preservation. Now, that's starting to change.

In the 2009 version, the building council affords more credits to existing buildings. The most significant change: the rating system will now incorporate "life-cycle assessment criteria" and better recognize the durability of historic and older materials in an existing building.

"We're excited about the potential for this type of analysis to show that many preservation activities are inherently green," says Brendan Owens, vice president of LEED Technical Development.

Other changes include additional credits for projects near public transportation, as well as for projects in dense urban areas. The new credits will give developers incentive to build in existing communities rather than breaking ground in ­far-distant exurbs.

And that's just the beginning, says Barbara Campagna, Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust, who has helped the building council revise LEED. She says, "One of the strongest arguments for historic buildings is that they were built with materials that are much more durable."

Future versions of LEED (which is scheduled to be updated every two years) will incorporate more preservation metrics, further benefiting sites of architectural and cultural significance.

2009 LEED changes at a glance
•  Platinum, gold, and silver LEED ratings were previously based on a 69-point scale, with points awarded in various categories such as water efficiency, indoor environment, and building materials. Now there is a 100-point scale, affording more recognition to existing buildings.

•  The method for allocating points has also changed. The density credit, which rewards projects in urban settings, has increased from one to five points. And the public transportation credit, which rewards projects close to mass transit, has increased from one to six points.

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Looking for more articles on cutting-edge issues in historic preservation? Consider joining National Trust Forum, the membership program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation geared to professional and volunteer preservation leaders and organizations. When you join Forum, you and your staff and board become part of a national network with the knowledge and experience of thousands of people and organizations to assist you.  Membership also  provides access to valuable resources, such as publications like Forum Journal, an online discussion group, financial assistance, members-only discounts and training programs. To join, please go to

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