Sustainable Architecture – A New Kind of Historic Legacy

In May, The Filson is holding a Public Conference centered on architecture and what we can learn from historic structures, including the topics of architectural conservation and building within the historic context of a local neighborhood.

Having worked at architecture firms in the past, I know that sustainable architecture is a growing area of expertise for many firms. Sustainability itself is defined as the capacity to endure – when a building is built using sustainable techniques, this definition of sustainability becomes transmuted into the idea of meeting the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. A sustainable, or green, building endures and becomes “historic” without impinging upon the requirements and needs of people in the future – which sounds like the best way to become historic to me.

So, let’s look into this a little more deeply. How is it determined that a building is green?

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) developed a system called LEED that verifies how and in what precise ways a building can be defined as green according to five environmental categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality. There is also an additional category, Innovation in Design, which addresses sustainable building expertise. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, was launched in March 2000.

One example of a sustainable building is the aptly named Green Building here in Louisville, which opened in 2008. In 1774, the site of this building was part of a 1,000-acre royal land grant to Colonel William Preston of Virginia for his service in the French and Indian War. Preston's son, Major William Preston, inherited the property and moved from Virginia to Louisville in 1815. In 1827, the city of Louisville annexed the property, known at the time as “Uptown.”

Current owners Augusta and Gill Holland decided to renovate the 110-year-old mixed-use structure, which has housed a dry goods store, mill supply, and a Goodwill store. In this renovation process, the Green Building became the first commercial building in Louisville to attempt LEED Platinum certification. This certification was awarded last December.

Some of the features that make the Green Building sustainable include:

  • The atrium's floor is made of wood salvaged from a barn in Georgia.
  • The entire building is insulated using recycled denim.
  • Most of the new wood that was brought into the building is Forest Stewardship Council-certified – collected only from sustainable forests.
  • The building is powered by 81 solar panels: a photovoltaic 15-kilowatt solar power system. On sunny days the building collects more than enough energy to sustain itself.
  • The cinder blocks throughout the building's structure are “mineshaft” cinder blocks: solid masonry blocks made of slag and fly-ash, byproducts of coal production and steel making.

This 15,000 square foot facility now houses the 732 Social café, the Green Building Gallery, event spaces, and office studios for SonaBLAST! Records, Holland Brown Books and The Group Entertainment.

Another green building in Kentucky is located at my alma mater, Centre College. Centre was founded in 1819 by Presbyterian leaders. The first building on campus, Old Centre, served as a Civil  War Hospital during the Battle of Perryville in 1862.

Centre’s new Pearl Hall was certified LEED Gold in 2009, making it Kentucky’s first LEED Gold certified building. This three-floor residence hall, which houses 146 students, makes use of a variable irrigation system, which eliminates the need for permanent and constant use of water for irrigation. The building also uses low-flow shower heads, lavatories, and sinks, as well as dual-flush toilets. All of the hall’s paints, adhesives and sealants contain no harmful ingredients, and the carpeting meets the requirements of Green Label Plus carpeting. Throughout the building, recycling containers are prominently displayed, and students use efficient, front-loading washing machines.

Utilizing a geothermal heating and cooling system, Pearl Hall takes advantage of the more constant temperature underground (warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer) to reduce energy consumption. The system employs 65 wells that are drilled 300 feet deep and utilize 7.3 miles of piping. Water is pumped through the pipes and absorbs, retains and radiates the desired temperature depending on the season.

The Green Building and Pearl Hall are just two of many examples of green buildings in Kentucky, integrating history and sustainability into structures designed both to endure and to keep the needs of future generations in mind.

The Filson Institute Public Conference Spring 2011 runs from May 12-14, and includes various lectures and a field trip. Click this link for more information.

Filson Historical

One comment for “Sustainable Architecture – A New Kind of Historic Legacy

  1. sustainable architects

    Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design or also known as LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system. It is a providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies intended to improve performance in metrics.


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