One of Galveston's Ike-Damaged Cottages Wins LEED Platinum

In September 2008, Hurricane Ike struck Galveston, Texas, flooding its historic downtown and ripping century-old houses off their wood piers. One raised cottage built in 1891 was knocked to the ground and slated for demolition, but the Galveston Historical Foundation stepped in, saving and renovating the structure.

Last month, the foundation learned that the renovated house had achieved LEED for Homes platinum certification, the program's highest honor. It's the country's first historically designated private residence to achieve that status.

Three years ago, when the foundation learned that the city had issued a demolition permit for the house, it contacted the property owner, who agreed to donate the structure to the nonprofit if it could move the damaged cottage. The foundation moved it 17 blocks to a new site and began a meticulous renovation in the spring of 2010, hoping to demonstrate that historic houses can be energy efficient. The National Trust for Historic Preservation supported the $158,000 renovation with a Partners in the Field Challenge Grant.

"The main goal was to experiment with green techniques in a coastal environment with a historic building," says Dwayne Jones, executive director of the Galveston Historical Foundation. "We've had so many people come to us over the years and say, 'I'd love an old house, but the utilities are so expensive.' … We wanted to make it something that we could use as a model for everyone."

Dubbing the 1,000-square-foot house the Green Revival Show House, the foundation reused 90 percent of the house's original materials, including cypress walls. The house has a new rainwater collection system—crucial on an island without a natural water source.

More than 1,000 people visited the house last fall, when the "show house" was open to the public.

"They aren't just coming in; they're taking it home and thinking about which [materials] are nice fits for their own houses," says Matthew Pelz, project coordinator at the Galveston Historical Foundation. "And that was the point."

The Galveston Historical Foundation sold the Green Revival Show House last month, and its new owners have already moved into the renovated cottage.


The National Trust named Galveston's cast-iron architecture one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2009. Read more >>

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