Southface creates green building certification program for historic buildings

 Southface creates green building certification program for historic buildings

Preservation of historic buildings across the southeast will be eligible for the new green building certification program launched with the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and Southface.

The Atlanta-based organizations partnered to create the nation’s first green building certification program for historic buildings.
Southface administers the Earthcraft certification for residential and commercial buildings, and the EarthCraft Sustainable Preservation program is a third-party green building certification program created specifically for historic buildings in the Southeast. It is designed to evaluate and highlight what is inherently sustainable about historic buildings while providing guidance on appropriate alterations to make them more energy- and water-efficient.

The ECSP targets historic buildings 50,000 square feet or less in size located in the Southeastern U.S. climate zones 2a (hot-humid), 3a (warm-humid), and 4a (mixed-humid).

Projects will receive technical guidance from green building and preservation experts helping to achieve customized solutions for more sustainable historic buildings.

After registering for the program, projects are assigned a project manager who will conduct an initial site assessment to determine the condition of the historic building's existing sustainable features and diagnose building envelope and system baseline performance. Three additional site visits are conducted during construction inspect the building's air sealing, examine the building's thermal envelope, and a final visit to conduct leakage tests and verify documentation and worksheet completion. Certification will be available in three levels: certified, gold, and platinum. Certification costs include a $6,500 base fee for projects up to 3,00 square feet plus an additional $0.50 per each square foot over 3,000 square feet.

EarthCraft is specifically intended for smaller historic building projects of 50,000 square feet or less. However, larger projects may be considered.
One of the most important benefits of rehabilitation is its role in retaining the embodied energy contained in the materials of buildings which are already constructed. This embodied energy represents the energy costs inherent in durable building materials such as brick, concrete, wood, slate, plaster and other materials that have been previously extracted and manufactured, transported to the building site and installed.
“To demolish historic buildings and haul these materials to a landfill is to also throw away all the work that went in to the original construction and shows a lack of recognition of conservation principles,” said Southface’s Bourke Reeve, program manager for EarthCraft, according to

Another advantage of rehabilitating existing buildings is their location. Historic buildings are predominantly located in the older and more centralized areas of cities and communities and are therefore more likely to be adjacent to urban transit systems or are walkable to employment, shopping, entertainment and schools.
“The energy savings represented by the conservation of these walkable neighborhoods is incalculable and often overlooked,” trust President and CEO Mark McDonald said in publishes reports.

The first building preserved under the program is the Trust’s headquarters, historic Rhodes Hall. Rhodes Hall is located was built in 1904 for furniture magnate Amos Giles Rhodes and his family.

The first phase of the Hall’s $1.7-million rehabilitation is complete: more efficient HVAC systems have been installed on the main and second floors, more effective insulation systems were placed in the basement and attic, roofs have been inspected and repaired, the enclosed sleeping porch has been restored, the fourth floor tower has been rehabilitated into office space and the original decorative pressed tin ceiling panels on the front and side porches have been restored or replaced in kind.

Next on the agenda is restoring Rhodes Hall’s 111 historic wood windows. Then, plans developing a sustainable grounds use and maintenance plan that considers sustainability as well as Rhodes Hall’s historic landscape plan. The project will take into account the functional needs of the facility and upgrading bathrooms, the catering kitchen and work stations.

For more information visit or

Rhodes Hall photo by Diane Kirkland

Topics: Building Green, Certification / LEED, Remodeling

Companies: Southface Energy Institute

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