August 5, 2013

20 Historic Buildings You Didn't Know Were Green

  • By: Guest Writer

Written by Christopher Davis, LEEDAP BD+C, ND, US Green Building Council

1894: Colorado State Capitol, Denver, CO. Credit: Photo Phiend, Flickr
Built in 1894, Colorado State Capitol, Denver, Colo. is now LEED certified.

You can read the full, original post at

Here at USGBC we may be celebrating our 20th anniversary, but the buildings that have achieved LEED certification embody a history that stretches far deeper into the past than 1993. In fact, we recently certified the oldest LEED buildings both in the United States (Fay House at Harvard University, built in 1807) and in the world (a Venetian Gothic palazzo from 1453!).

These remarkable historic green buildings are not alone. Dozens of historic buildings have become LEED certified, and some of them are already well-known, like the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. These projects are incredible examples of how historic preservation and environmental sustainability can work hand in hand, and how saving the past can enrich the future.

Below we present 20 green historic buildings, one constructed in each decade of the last 200 years:

1821: Pavilion IX, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

LEED Certified, New Construction

Designed by Thomas Jefferson as part of the University of Virginia's iconic lawn, Pavilion IX is the only LEED certified building located within a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The building was renovated to LEED guidelines in 2011 and is currently home to the Dean of the School of Nursing.

Pavilion IX. Credit: Tim Jarrett, Flickr.

1839: St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (United Teen Equality Center), Lowell, Mass.

LEED Platinum, New Construction

The United Teen Equality Center is dedicated to social and economic development for at-risk youth in Lowell. In 2006, needing more space, they purchased the historic St. Paul's Church downtown, and then renovated and expanded it into the oldest LEED Platinum building in the world.

St. Paul's Church. Credit: Lewis Hine Fellowship Blog.

1842: U.S. Treasury Building, Washington, D.C.

LEED Gold, Existing Buildings

At the depths of the Great Recession, the U.S. Treasury made a bold, forward-thinking decision, achieving LEED Gold and helping save American taxpayers $3.5 million per year in energy, water, and leasing costs. The Treasury Building is the only known LEED certified building on a unit of currency.

U.S. Treasury. Credit: Wikimedia

1856: New York State Executive Mansion, Albany, NY

LEED Gold, Existing Buildings

Previously a private home, the mansion has served as the official residence of 31 New York governors since 1875, including Al Smith, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Nelson Rockefeller. A comprehensive greening effort was launched in 2007 by former First Lady Silda Wall Spitzer.

New York State Executive Mansion. Credit: Wikimedia.

1869: Westinghouse Air Brake Factory (Pittsburgh Opera), Pittsburgh, Pa.

LEED Silver, Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance

Before H.J. Heinz and U.S. Steel moved into the manufacturing district that became Pittsburgh's economic engine, George Westinghouse built a factory to make railway air brakes. The Strip District is now home to markets, art studios and loft apartments, and Westinghouse's historic factory is the green headquarters for the Pittsburgh Opera.

Westinghouse Air Brake Factory. Credit: Adaptive Reuse.


To see the complete list of 20 green historic buildings, click over to the full blog post on USGBC.

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The National Trust's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund has awarded $3 million in grants to 33 places preserving Black history.

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