The Visitor Center at Lincoln’s Cottage
Most people would not expect a hundred year old building attached to a historic home to see value in being ‘green.’ On first glance a historic house’s mission would not appear to have any correlation to environmental sustainability, but the Visitor Center at Lincoln’s Cottage, in the Old Soldier’s Home in Washington D.C. has LEED Gold certification and is proud of all the hard work it has put in to reaching this achievement. “Today, the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center at President Lincoln’s Cottage stands as a model for the important role historic buildings play in environmental stewardship.”
In keeping the existing visitor center building during renovations, 98% of the walls, roof and floors were saved, and all building supplied were recycled or local. Strict recycling and donating diverted 70% of construction and demolition waste from landfills.
Taking advantage of the nearby Metro and bus lines has allowed the Cottage to limit the amount of parking needed (and thus the amount of runoff caused) and encourage the use of public transportation for its approximate annual attendance of 25,000 (2008). Staff are encouraged to walk, jog or bike to work, with bike racks and low flow showers provided onsite. Low flow plumbing and native landscaping has reduced water use by 44%.
Thanks to the reinstallation of the original windows and skylights, 75% of the office space receives direct natural light. Decentralisation of HVAC and manual windows have allowed for control by occupants meaning there are less demands on the HVAC system. Traditional brass weather-stripping retained historic integrity, increased efficiency and contributed to LEED ‘energy and atmosphere’ credits.
This ‘sustainable rehabilitation’ (as it is called by the curator) is an inspiring example of historic preservation achieving a fine balance with sustainable design, maintaining awareness of unique original features made to take advantage of climate and positioning. The passive design features originally embedded in the house have been embraced- including passive heating from retentive insulation and south facing windows, passive cooling thanks to shutters and covered porches in summer, and passive ventilation as a result of sash windows and dual-function shutters.
The first National Trust for Historic Preservation site to achieve LEED certification, the National Trust hopes to use this example as a springboard for the conversion of many more of its sites. For more information, follow the Preservation Green Lab’s explorations and discoveries.