Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Do you normally associate Earth Day and historic preservation? By now you’ve probably heard the buzzword combination of sustainability + historic preservation. The greenest building is one that’s already built. (This is credited to Carl Elefante, if you’re wondering.) Read his article  in the Summer 2007 National Trust Forum.

Think about it. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that an existing structure does not demolition, removal of materials, manufacturing and delivery of new materials. That’s why an existing building is a money saver, generally.

Would you like to proof for yourself or to convince others of this? Check out The Greenest Building created by the May T. Watts Appreciation Society.  On this site you can use an energy calculator to determine the embodied energy in a building and the energy used and lost by demolition. Compare existing energy v. new energy.

Also check out the May T. Watts blog, The Greenest Building is the one Already Built, which has relevant information, despite its lack of updates. The blog talks mostly about embodied energy and how to calculate it.

“Preservation saves energy by taking advantage of the nonrecoverable energy embodied in an existing building and extending the use of it.”

– ASSESSING the ENERGY CONSERVATION BENEFITS of HISTORIC PRESERVATION: Methods and Examples, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

Have you read the National Trust’s position on sustainability? In a nutshell it is this:

Historic preservation can – and should – be an important component of any effort to promote sustainable development. The conservation and improvement of our existing built resources, including re-use of historic and older buildings, greening the existing building stock, and reinvestment in older and historic communities, is crucial to combating climate change.

Browse through the National Trust’s Flickr set called Reuse It! — some images are more heartbreaking than others (like an abandoned school in Montana or an abandoned train depot in Texas), but some are fun (art deco buildings in Iowa). A lot of pictures show buildings just dying for a new use; they are in still sound and in cities and just need a vision.

Aside from the actual building materials, existing structures are already sited with infrastructure and opting for new development means new roads, utility lines, further trips for emergency services and so much more.

Earth Day is about making the earth a better, healthier planet and taking care of our environment. Historic preservation wants to do the same thing. While the environmental and preservation approaches may have differences, they share the overall vision. So this combined movement of sustainability and preservation may be complicated in instances when “green” methods interfere with historic features, but it’s a learning process and we’re on the right track. Like all of the best ideas, it’s a combined effort to see it through.

SAVE ENERGY. SAVE HISTORY.

Let’s not keep repeating the fate of Land’s End.

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