Energy Efficiency

USA: ‘Greening Advisor’ to all American theatres

This post comes to you from Culture|Futures

In 2009, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that “Broadway was turning green”. Now the Natural Resources Defense Council has teamed up with the Broadway Green Alliance and created the ‘NRDC Theatre Greening Advisor’ – a guide to help theatres across the country implement similar eco-intelligent practices as the Broadway theatres successfully have been implementing.


“If you had the pleasure of taking in a Broadway performance in the past five years, you also witnessed sustainability taking center stage,” wrote Brandon Baker in Ecowatch as the Broadway Green Alliance celebrated five years of greening productions in January 2014.

They used the occation to launch an initiative to bring sustainable practices to theaters across the country. In collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the alliance says its new online Theatre Greening Advisor is the most comprehensive theater greening information database available.

The Greening Advisor provides resources allowing theaters to embrace sustainability at all times.

Greener lighting
The alliance also launched the BGA Greener Lighting Guide, in partnership with the Professional Lighting and Sound Association. This online tool will help designers and technicians alike make greener choices in lighting instruments from some of the biggest brands.

The Broadway Green Alliance helped bring energy efficient lighting throughout the Great White Way and now hopes to do the same at theaters all over the nation.

“Theatre and the environment are inextricably linked. Without clean air, clean water and a healthy climate, our enjoyment of most productions–indoor or outdoor–would not be possible. In fact, nature is the ultimate source of all economic value. No commerce or culture is possible without clean air and water; fertile topsoil; a chemically stable atmosphere; raw materials for food, energy and medicine; or the natural processing of waste by the millions of species inhabiting our soil, water and air.”

“By promoting energy efficiency, recycling programs, waste reduction, water conservation and other smart operations, theatres and productions will help keep our nation’s air and water clean, reduce their contribution to global warming and see cost saving benefits.”
Quote from the guide.

Change cultural assumptions
“The single most important thing we can do to help save the planet is to change cultural assumptions and attitudes about how we should relate to Planet Earth,” Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the NRDC who helped to co-found the Broadway Green Alliance, told Ecowatch:

“By promoting energy efficiency, recycling programs, waste reduction, water conservation and other smart operations, theaters and productions will help keep our nation’s air and water clean, reduce their contribution to global warming and achieve cost saving benefits at the same time.”

From Broadway to the rest of the U.S.
The organisations want to provide environmentally preferable options to producers, theater owners, designers, managers and design shops in the same way that the Broadway Green Alliance brought them to Broadway in New York City.

Here are some of the green achievements made to date on Broadway:

• Broadway theaters have replaced all their marquee and outside lighting with more than 10,000 energy-efficient bulbs, saving about 700 tons of carbon emissions per year.

• Theaters switched to greener cleaning products, appliances, recycling, water filtration and energy efficiency programs.

• Broadway shows now have a BGA liaison, or ‘Green Captain’, at nearly all shows, bringing greener practices backstage.  Green Captains come from all aspects of productions, and sometimes even the star of the show participates in this important role. Bryan Cranston, Alan Cumming, Hugh Dancy, Montego Glover, Harriet Harris and Carol Kane have all served as Green Captains.

• Shows are saving money through reduced waste. Many now use rechargeable batteries in microphones and flashlights, keeping thousands of toxic disposable batteries from the waste stream every month. Wicked went from using 38 batteries every performance to using only 96 rechargeable batteries in a year.   Many shows also print their own cast-change stuffers on recycled paper, saving reams of paper as well as money.

• Over the last five years, the Broadway Green Alliance has collected over 15 tons or 31,000 pounds of e-waste and nearly 10,000 pounds of textiles.

Broadway Green Alliance has also participated in outreach programs with colleges, off-Broadway and regional and touring venues.

The guide provides information for all six of the Broadway Green Alliance’s committees: Pre/Post Production, Production, Venues, Touring, Education and Outreach.

Each of the sections in this menu bar, starting with “Why Be Green”, includes a variety of subsections that appear in the lower turquoise menu bar. Use your cursor to explore the dropdown menus of content available for these subsections and click items to open pages on the different topics to learn more.

» Explore NRDC Theatre Greening Advisor

Ecowatch – 28 January 2014:
Broadway Expands Its Green Practices to Theaters Across the U.S.

By Brandon Baker


Culture|Futures is an international collaboration of organizations and individuals who are concerned with shaping and delivering a proactive cultural agenda to support the necessary transition towards an Ecological Age by 2050.

The Cultural sector that we refer to is an interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral, inter-genre collaboration, which encompasses policy-making, intercultural dialogue/cultural relations, creative cities/cultural planning, creative industries and research and development. It is those decision-makers and practitioners who can reach people in a direct way, through diverse messages and mediums.

Affecting the thinking and behaviour of people and communities is about the dissemination of stories which will profoundly impact cultural values, beliefs and thereby actions. The stories can open people’s eyes to a way of thinking that has not been considered before, challenge a preconceived notion of the past, or a vision of the future that had not been envisioned as possible. As a sector which is viewed as imbued with creativity and cultural values, rather than purely financial motivations, the cultural sector’s stories maintain the trust of people and society.

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Jean-Claude Carrière Theater at the domaine d’O

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The Jean-Claude Carrière theatre is a unique «environmentally friendly» project, based on a global environmental approach aiming for general energy efficiency and for environmental quality standards.

Other than the slab that supports it, the entire structure could be dismantled and rebuilt on a different site. Just like the similar project at the Comédie Française (the «théâtre éphémère»), the structure is entirely built out of wood panels (KLH). The unique design is enhanced by a light wooden lozenge structure recovering the entire building.

MGB_3838 copieThe renowned Montpellier architect firm A+ architecture has been entrusted with this project, which from the very beginning has been designed taking the natural environment of the location into account : a construction which can be entirely dismantled, the use of wood, a light architectural expression, respecting the surrounding wooded zone. The building is entirely built of recyclable material, using for instance PECF labelled wood, providing an outstanding carbon footprint for this project.

The theatre is more than remarkable in terms of energy efficiency, including the innovative heating system, an excellent insulation system and the exclusive use of LED for the lightning systems. The acoustic insulation system has been optimised in order to avoid neighbourhood sound pollution and to create perfect interior acoustic settings for the stage. Retractable seating solutions, a modular stage frame, a construction that can entirely be dismantled, optimised technical  zones, a bright and welcoming hallway…

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picture credits, following pictures : Jean-Yves GILBERT


Yon Light is Not Daylight, I Know It: Findings from a Sustainability Study with Katie Oman at WSD2013

Lighting_KO-harvey-night1Wed 11 Sept 14.30 – 16.00

Simon Gibson Studio

Stage lighting has been characterised as an intractable problem for sustainability in theatre. Attention has been focused on reducing loads by switching to other sources, even as many high-efficiency technologies remain prohibitively expensive. This has worried lighting designers who rely on tungsten in their work, fearing that addressing energy efficiency may affect the work on-stage.

Findings from the first season-long analysis of stage lighting energy use suggest that these fears are unfounded.

We’ll review the findings and relevant critical issues.

Who should attend?

Open to all: especially lighting designers, technicians, facilities managers.

Price: £6


Key contributors

Katie Oman - Senior Consultant, Arts Consulting Group

Arts for a safe climate – in Australia

This post comes to you from Culture|Futures

climarte-frontdumpWhat are the Australians doing in the field of arts and sustainability? CLIMARTE is an Australian organisation which has set out to “harness the creative power of the arts to inform, engage and inspire action on climate change”, and their April 2013 newsletter gives you a good introduction to the numerous arts activities in the country which are dealing with issues of sustainability or climate change:


Newsletter from Climarte – Arts for a Safe Climate

Fiona Hall: Big Game Hunting
One of Australia’s most prominent contemporary artists, Fiona Hall is best known for extraordinary works that transform commonplace materials into vital organic forms with both contemporary and historical resonances. This trans-disciplinary survey exhibition at Heide Museum of Modern Art highlights her recent practice and her continuing focus on the relationship between nature and culture.

The exhibition includes trophy-style sculptures of endangered species from the International Conservation Union’s ‘Red List’, rendered in military camouflage and embellished with recycled items from contemporary culture, and a series of stunning bark-cloths, video and sculptural pieces inspired by a 2011 expedition to the unique marine environment of the Kermadec Trench on the Pacific Rim of Fire. This is a thought provoking and eerily beautiful exhibition — not to be missed!
At Heide Museum of Modern Art until 21 July 2013.


Carbon Arts at Sydney Windmill
The Rocks Windmill will be host to the ElectriCITY Sparks program, which sees a windmill as the platform for exploring creative responses to our collective energy future, demanding an examination of history, community, and sustainability.

ElectriCITY Sparks focuses on energy efficiency, a journey that everyone of us can embark upon, and calls upon the creative sector and the creative in all of us to make this journey fun, rewarding and effective.

Over a week from 6-12 May, Carbon Arts will be putting on a film night, an exhibition, a panel session with leading industry, government, artist and community members, a gadget demo of all manner of home energy management devices from the kooky to the collaborative and a Hacker workshop for DIY and energy enthusiasts.

Most events are free, but need to be booked. Visit or click on the links below for details on each event.

May 6-12 (9am-5pm): ElectriCITY Sparks Community Eco-Viz Exhibition
May 8 (5.30-8pm): ElectriCITY Sparks Panel Discussion
May 11 and 12 (2-4pm): ElectriCITY Sparks Gadget Demo
May 11 (3.30-6.30pm): ElectriCITY Sparks Maker Workshop
May 12 (6-8pm): ElectriCITY Sparks Film Night

Location: The Rocks Square, Sydney
Start date: 6 May 2013
End date: 12 May 2013
Price: mostly free

Presented by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, Media Lab and Carbon Arts. Most events FREE, but places are limited so book to avoid disappointment.


Climate Guardians
Climate Guardians are a political theatre troupe formed in response to insufficient Government action on increasingly alarming findings by climate scientists that we are fast approaching a ‘tipping point’ after which we will not be able to avert catastrophic climate change.

“We follow the practice of civil disobedience and all our actions and interventions are non-violent.” Check out some of the Climate Guardian’s latest actions


Thin Ice
Visit researchers on four continents and the ocean as they study the changes in the atmosphere, oceans and ice sheets through measurements (from instruments, satellites, ice and rock) and computer modelling.

They talk about their work, and their hopes and fears, with a rare candour and directness, creating an intimate portrait of the global community of researchers racing to understand our planet’s changing climate.  View on-line, or arrange a public screening.
Film Search
Environmental Film Festival Melbourne 2013 is looking for films highlighting the impacts of society on the environment, or the impacts of the environment on society. EFFM will consider all submissions and select films for presentation at EFFM 2013. Entries close 31 May 2013. You can get the submission form here.

Petition: Paid to Pollute
Australians are encouraged to tell the Federal Treasurer and their local MPs to stop Australia’s $10 billion annual handout to big fossil fuel polluters.

Money to Australian arts student’s study in the US
The American Friends of the National Gallery of Australia Inc., in conjunction with the American Australian Association, is offering a scholarship for an Australian graduate or post graduate student of the Fine Arts or Curatorial Studies wishing to further their studies in the United States. The AusArt Fellowship is for up to US$ 30,000 a year. More information here.


Digital Change Makers
The Collaboratory are looking for four passionate change makers to undergo an eight week intensive training program provided by some of Australia’s leading digital change makers.

Gain skills and experience in order to co-create strategy, build websites, communicate online and use social media to build movements of positive change.

Apprenticeships start on 13 May 2013. Applications close: 3 May 2013.


“We need a big movement, and big movements come from beauty and meaning, not columns of statistics.”
Bill McKibben

Climarte writes on their home page:
“The arts can be a catalyst for change. Those who work, live and play in the arts represent all that is creative, imaginative and hopeful in humanity. It is time for us to engage with our communities and our leaders, our peers and our audiences. It is time to let them know that we will act, and that we expect them to act on this threat to humanity and our world. It is time to have our voices heard on climate change.”

You can subscribe to CLIMARTE’s newsletter here:

CLIMARTE’s postal address is:
P.O.Box 2429 Richmond South
Victoria 3121 AUSTRALIA


Culture|Futures is an international collaboration of organizations and individuals who are concerned with shaping and delivering a proactive cultural agenda to support the necessary transition towards an Ecological Age by 2050.

The Cultural sector that we refer to is an interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral, inter-genre collaboration, which encompasses policy-making, intercultural dialogue/cultural relations, creative cities/cultural planning, creative industries and research and development. It is those decision-makers and practitioners who can reach people in a direct way, through diverse messages and mediums.

Affecting the thinking and behaviour of people and communities is about the dissemination of stories which will profoundly impact cultural values, beliefs and thereby actions. The stories can open people’s eyes to a way of thinking that has not been considered before, challenge a preconceived notion of the past, or a vision of the future that had not been envisioned as possible. As a sector which is viewed as imbued with creativity and cultural values, rather than purely financial motivations, the cultural sector’s stories maintain the trust of people and society.
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McDonalds and Sustainability

This post comes to you from Cultura21

– come to think of it…

McDonalds and Sustainability. Sounds extremly logical, doesn´t it? These days, the construction of the first sustainable McDonalds store, comes to an end in London. Does that mean, that in the future the well known Fast Food Chain won´t be the place anymore where uncritical and environmentunfriendly voices are still welcome? Probably not. It does sound great at first, but in no way believable. The ¨green¨ turn is placed in the context of the Olympic Summer Games in London this year. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) had the vision of an all-around effective event, not to miss out on the offered food. Luckily McDonalds is one of the main sponsors of the Games, besides well known cola and beer brands, and announced to make the vision real and serve high quality British food.

To put that to effect, the group built four supersize stores in the Olympic quarter. Needless to say, that part of the furniture can be recycled and reused later in one of the 15 new planned stores around the island. Pointed out very clearly is the dedication to energy efficiency, apparently something new for the chain. All these arrangements are in the spirit of sustainable development, which means there is nothing keeping the event from being anything else but sustainable… Except for the usual menu, rich on meat and fat, just as in every other such restaurant. But why not overlook this fact? After all the chocolate is going to be fair trade and the menu extended to fruit smoothies. That is all you need for being sustainable: Healthy, diverse food, the creation of 2000 jobs during the summer…

But wait a minute: 2000 employees selected from all over the world will get the chance to take part in making the world a better place. Certainly every single one of them is willing to charter their own plane to get to London; who cares about the environment more? At long sight, the most sustainable action of this Green Washing Campaign will be the dismantling of the four restaurants in Fall. And then, maybe, there will be some room for slowing down.

Elisabeth Lena Aubrecht - Elisabeth Lena is studying Cultural Studies (B.A.) at Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany. She is doing an internship at Cultura21. / Elisabeth Lena ist Studentin der Kulturwissenschaften an der Leuphana Universität Lüneburg und Praktikantin bei Cultura21.

Cultura21 is a transversal, translocal network, constituted of an international level grounded in several Cultura21 organizations around the world.

Cultura21′s international network, launched in April 2007, offers the online and offline platform for exchanges and mutual learning among its members.

The activities of Cultura21 at the international level are coordinated by a team representing the different Cultura21 organizations worldwide, and currently constituted of:

– Sacha Kagan (based in Lüneburg, Germany) and Rana Öztürk (based in Berlin, Germany)
– Oleg Koefoed and Kajsa Paludan (both based in Copenhagen, Denmark)
– Hans Dieleman (based in Mexico-City, Mexico)
– Francesca Cozzolino and David Knaute (both based in Paris, France)

Cultura21 is not only an informal network. Its strength and vitality relies upon the activities of several organizations around the world which are sharing the vision and mission of Cultura21

Go to Cultura21

Just released! Energy Conservation Audits for Six Performing Arts Facilities

Between May and October 2011, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Factory Theatre, Tafelmusik, Tarragon Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, and Toronto Dance Theatre/STDT provided a year’s worth of utilities bills for analysis. The Energy Conservation Audits report is the first step in Toronto’s Green Theatres,  a concerted approach to greening performing facilities in Toronto.

Measures taken to green Toronto theatres will result in improved working and public environments – along with significant energy savings over time. Each of the participating companies received detailed, practical recommendations that will help them integrate greening into their facility upkeep and repair and renovation plans.

 Toronto’s Green Theatres is the first arts sector initiative of its kind in Canada and a possible model for other communities. Like all Creative Trust’s work, it was developed collaboratively and will rely on our collective muscle for its success. We thank both Toronto’s Cultural Services and Energy Efficiency Offices, which have been wonderfully supportive of our plans to work across our sector to reduce theatres’ carbon footprints. We hope that our results will act as a catalyst for changing awareness and behavior around one of the most compelling issues of our day.


The Green Deal: a new revolution in energy efficiency

The Green Deal: a new revolution in energy efficiency

As part of its sustainability, Arcola Theatre continuously strives to improve its energy efficiency. In this post, we take a closer look at the Green Deal initiative being set up by the government to increase energy efficient efforts in the UK.

What is it?

The Green Deal is a new government initiative, which is intended to revolutionise the energy efficiency of British properties. It is anticipated the Green Deal will be launched in autumn 2012.

Through the Green Deal, many households and businesses can improve their energy efficiency and reduce their fuel bills through better insulation and installing energy efficient boilers. The Deal is hailed as an innovative financing mechanism which allows consumers to pay back through their energy bills. Thus, the crucial aspect is that there are no upfront costs whatsoever. Therefore, consumers can see the Green Deal charge alongside the reductions in energy use which generate savings on their bill. It also means that if they move out and cease to be the bill-payer at that property, the financial obligation doesnt move with them but moves to the next bill payer: the charge is only paid whilst the benefits are enjoyed.

Why is it needed?

At a local level, the Green Deal will enable many households and businesses to improve the energy efficiency of their properties and thus generate economic gains. At a national level, the UK needs to become more energy efficient to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

Break down of the consumer journey

1. Advice
All businesses and households will be permitted to an energy efficiency assessment, undertaken by an accredited assessor.

2. Finance
A new finance mechanism is introduced, whereby the cost of energy efficient installations is paid back through the energy bill.

3. Installations
Accredited installer will install the measures, subject to the highest standard and to ensure that genuine energy bill and carbon savings are met.

4. Repayments and follow up
After the energy efficiency measures have been installed, a charge will be added to the energy meter at the property and will enable repayments through their energy bills for any Green Deal charges taken out. Repayment obligations belong to the occupier of the property.

Go to Arcola Energy

Greening Western Queens Fund | North Star Fund

Greening Western Queens Fund

In the fall of 2009, North Star Fund launched the “Greening Western Queens Fund,” a new $7.9 million initiative to invest in energy-efficiency and environmental projects in the Western Queens community affected by a July 2006 electric power outage. This program is supported by funds from the community’s settlement with Con Edison. The Public Service Commission of the State of New York selected North Star Fund to administer the project because of our expertise in facilitating community led grantmaking processes.

According to Hugh Hogan, Executive Director of North Star Fund, “This is a story of a community that stood up to demand public accountability from a public utility that failed them. It’s provided an opportunity unique in the history of New York City to invest in an environmentally conscious and economically robust future of the affected neighborhoods. The community-driven process will serve as a model for the next generation of urban neighborhoods.”

Funded Projects

Western Queens will soon see an infusion of trees, green jobs and youth environmental programs thanks to $3.39 million in grants distributed by North Star Fund. Fifteen projects have been funded with one- to three-year grants that will result in up to 850 trees, support environmental education and recycling programs, and help fund community gardens and green jobs training programs. Click here to download a pdf of the projects.

Request For Proposals (RFP)

The Greening Western Queens Fund seeks to support projects that will result in tangible, physical and visible improvements to the Long Island City, Woodside, Sunnyside, and Astoria areas. We are not currently accepting applications for the Greening Western Queens Fund. The next RFP will be released in July 2011 and the deadline will be in September 2011.

Click here for common questions about applying for a grant from the Greening Western Queens Fund.

Advisory Board

We have developed a Greening Western Queens Fund Advisory Board of local stakeholders and environmental experts to distribute grants to local groups for tree planting, energy efficiency, job training and open space enhancement projects. The projects will incorporate conservation education and replicable models that will have a lasting impact in the neighborhood and beyond. All of the advisory board members provide unique and important expertise which will be utilized throughout the grant program. Please click here for more information about the Greening Western Queens Fund Advisory Board.

Visioning Sessions

In March 2010, North Star Fund hosted two community visioning sessions for residents of Sunnyside, Astoria, Woodside, and Long Island City. Over 120 residents, organizers, community members, and experts came together to share their vision, goals, and ideas for a greener Western Queens. Visioning Session participants actively engaged in large group and small group conversations and shared their ideas for the outcomes of the three-year grants.

The outcomes of the informative visioning sessions, as well as additional outreach and landscape research and scans of current greening programs and projects in the area were used by the Advisory Board to finalize the overall vision, grant criteria, priorities, and guidelines for the Fund.

Impacted Area

Click here for an interactive map indicating the boundaries of the prioritized areas impacted by the blackout.

via Greening Western Queens Fund | North Star Fund.

Arcola Recieves Green Tourism Gold Award

Arcola Theatre is delighted to announce that it has achieved Green Tourism Award Gold standard. Sustainability Projects Manager, Rachel Carless, and the rest of the sustainability team worked hard to fulfil the rigorous set of criteria set out by the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS), who came to carry out an audit at the end of April. Arcola is now the first theatre in the UK to achieve a Gold award in Green Tourism and is proud to be recognised as ‘a strong local catalyst in greening North East London (Hackney and surrounding districts)’.

The GTBS, developed by the International Centre for Responsible Tourism and validated by Visit Britain, is the largest of its type in the world, and since 1997 has worked to make tourism and the hospitality industry in the UK more sustainable. The audit covers areas such as energy efficiency, waste minimisation and recycling, use of local produce, and support of public transport, its overall aim to encourage sustainability in business and provide the consumer with a ‘green’ choice.

Attempting to improve on the Bronze Award, received in 2008, the sustainability team had a number of issues to address including improving links with other GTBS members (e.g. Arts Admin), developing better systems for measuring the theatre’s energy use, and sourcing greener cleaning products. In the GTBS’ audit report, special mention was given to Arcola’s success in communicating the green message, in particular through the Green Sundays events and the green notice board up in the café/bar. Reaching the GTBS’ Gold standard is recognition of Arcola Theatre’s ongoing commitment to sustainability and its goal of becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral theatre.

The Green Tourism audit report can be viewed here.

Go to Arcola Energy

Historic preservation and sustainability go hand in hand

Reprinted from Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits: “Historic Preservation and Going Green” by John M. Tess, April 2010

Historic preservation and sustainability go hand in hand. There is a misconception that historic preservation tax credit (HTC) projects and LEED certified projects are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, green development and preservation can both be achieved when rehabilitating a historic building; thus, opening the door for developers and property owners to benefit from using federal, state and local historic incentives while meeting green building standards.

At present, the federal government offers a 20 percent investment tax credit for the rehabilitation of certified historic buildings. The rehabilitation of a historic building must meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. These standards provide guidance on the appropriateness of work on a historic building, through the preservation of the building’s significant historic features. The program is administered by the State Historic Preservation Offices and the National Park Service.

The most recognizable program in green building certification is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). LEED is a green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving a building’s performance. LEED certification is based on seven credit categories including: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in Design/Regional Priority. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED provides building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

The most common concern when performing a green rehabilitation of a historic building is energy efficiency. There is a bias throughout the green building community that if you want to achieve energy efficiency in a building you need to start from scratch. Historic buildings have embodied energy that can balance the goal in the green building community for energy efficiency improvements that may be difficult to achieve otherwise. The LEED certification system does award points for building and materials reuse. Making the LEED system work within the standards can be a challenge, as the standards have clear guidelines on retaining historic materials during rehabilitation. These challenges are illustrated through two successful LEED certified historic preservation tax credit projects: The Oregon National Guard Armory Annex and the Meier & Frank Department Store Building both located in Portland, Oregon. These projects demonstrate the amount of flexibility available for greening buildings utilizing the federal historic tax credits.

The Oregon National Guard Armory Annex, built in 1891, has thick masonry walls and a fortress-like appearance, and with more gun slits than windows it might not seem like an obvious candidate for a green rehabilitation. But the Gerding Edlen Development Company had a vision to rehabilitate this historic building into a state-of-the-art theatre while meeting the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and achieving LEED Platinum certification, the highest level in the LEED program.

The Armory is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is significant as the first armory built in Oregon for the newly organized Oregon National Guard. It is also significant as an excellent example of the Castellated architectural style. Throughout the building’s history it has been utilized for various functions including arms storage, shooting range, drill hall, event hall and, prior to its rehab, beer warehouse.

In 2006 the building was rehabilitated as the home of Portland Center Stage. The primary challenge of rehabilitating what was essentially a warehouse into a theatre, was to fit 55,000 square feet of program space within a 20,000-square-foot footprint while preserving and exposing the Douglas fir truss ceiling. The masonry structure also had to be braced seismically and the two performance spaces had to be isolated acoustically. The solution involved excavating 30 feet below the level of the original basement and building a concrete box inside the existing shell with access via two 14-foot-wide doors.

On the historic preservation side, the exposed roof trusses and exterior of the building were determined to be character defining features that had to be preserved. The roof trusses remained exposed in the building lobby and an oculus opening was created to provide views from the first floor to the roof trusses above. The distinctive masonry exterior was rehabilitated with no major changes.

On the green side, the spaces are distinctly contemporary in appearance and in function. The building has excellent lighting, air quality and energy efficiency with a 30 percent improvement over code standards. To improve water efficiency, rainwater is captured from the roof and used to flush toilets and urinals. The building is also equipped with dual-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads and faucets, reducing the building’s potable water use by 88 percent. Its windows also have advanced glazing to maximize daylighting while minimizing winter heat loss and summer heat gain. Where appropriate, lighting in the building is controlled by photo-sensors, occupancy sensors and dimming switches. These features all contributed to the LEED Platinum rating. Reuse of the existing building conserved not only the embodied energy of the existing materials but also the craftsmanship of the unique façade, preserving this Portland Landmark for future generations. The newly christened Gerding Theater has the distinct honor of being the first building on the National Register of Historic Places to receive federal historic tax credits and to achieve LEED Platinum status.

The Meier & Frank Department Store Building consists of three interconnected structures built over a 23-year period from 1909 to 1932. When completed, it was Oregon’s largest building. Like so many department stores, the building gradually became underutilized in the late 20th century. Sage Hospitality Resources’ renovation included modernization of the lower five floors and basement as a state-of-the-industry retail space and transformation of floors 6 and above into Oregon’s first five-star hotel. The hotel contains 331 rooms, destination atrium restaurant, rooftop lounge, 7,200-square-foot grand ballroom and 13 additional meeting rooms.

Adaptive reuse of this department store into a hotel was not a simple task. The building required seismic, fire, life safety and other code upgrades. The full-block floor plate was unwieldy, and built as three structures, the floor and ceiling levels did not always align.

On the historic preservation side, the white terra cotta exterior, original windows, and ground floor entrances and elevator lobby were determined to be character defining features that had to be preserved. These features were preserved while making way for a state-of-the-art interior that included a new atrium for the hotel.

On the green side, the effective reuse of the Meier & Frank Department Store represents an enormous accomplishment in sustainable design. This accomplishment takes two forms: first, the preservation of embodied energy and materials of one of Oregon’s largest buildings; second, the sustainable initiatives to green the building and its operations. Apart from the eco-savings accomplished through preservation, the project team embraced a number of pro-active steps towards sustainable design. Specifically, during construction the project committed to recycling removed materials, achieving 90 percent recycle rate.

Major work included the use of interior storm windows and high-performance glazing in infill elements, maximizing access to natural light. The installation of high efficiency lighting systems resulted in a savings of 26 percent energy consumption over comparable hotels. Finally, the installation of high efficiency water systems, with low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets, collectively will save a half million gallons of water per year.

In addition to the development aspects of the project, green operations focused on the core tenets of reduce, reuse and recycle. These operations included using 100 percent renewable energy, including wind power and carbon offsets, using only Green Seal-certified products and encouraging employees to bike to work. In total, these eco-actions are anticipated to save the hotel $1 million in operating costs in its first 10 years. The Nines Hotel achieved LEED Silver certification; one of only 10 five-star hotels that are LEED certified projects. More broadly, the project demonstrates that sustainable practices and luxury hotel operations are not mutually exclusive, but that “eco-luxury” is mutually compatible.

Contrary to the misconception that historic and green projects do not work together, our experience proves that it can be done. Other recent historic tax credit projects we have been involved in that either have achieved LEED certification or are in the process of seeking LEED certification include the Palomar Hotel in Philadelphia, Pa., Court Square Center in Memphis, Tenn., Mercy Corps Headquarters in Portland, Ore., the Deco and Barclay Buildings in Milwaukee, Wis., and the IBM Building in Chicago, Ill.

Often, the owners and developers of historic buildings simply assume that their building cannot secure both historic tax credits and LEED certification, believing that the preservation standards will work against the green priorities. In the process, they forego the potential green or financial incentives, benefits that often make the difference in the viability of a project. It is important when contemplating the redevelopment of these resources that all opportunities are explored as historic buildings are often environmentally friendly and contain opportunities for becoming greener.


Go to the Green Theater Initiative