The Role of LEED Certification in Historic Preservation

Stretch Codes

Balancing preservation and energy efficiency

US Green Building Council, July 5, 2013

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study recently achieved LEED-NC v3 Gold certification for its renovation of the historic Fay House, making it the oldest LEED certified building in the United States (the oldest LEED building in the world was built in 1453 and is located in Venice, Italy). Since its construction in 1807, the building’s lifespan has included use as a private residence for a succession of families, a girl’s boarding school, the beginning of Radcliffe College and its current use as the administrative center of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Since this was a major renovation to modify the interior to meet programmatic needs, current code and energy goals, the project provided a prime opportunity to closely evaluate the often synergistic, but occasionally competing priorities of historic preservation and sustainability. While Fay House has not undergone a major renovation since the 1890s, the building’s surroundings have developed and changed dramatically – from farmland and apple orchards to bustling Harvard Square. Similarly, design and construction priorities have expanded – the importance of maintaining historic architectural fabric and the imperative to address a building’s contributions to climate change are prominent topics of discussion.

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