“A good example of state-level antipathy can be found in Texas where Governor/ersatz-presidential aspirant Rick plans to eliminate the Texas Historical Commission. According to the non-profit Texas Public Policy Foundation’s recommendation: “at a time when we are trying to make difficult decisions about preserving certain services to Texans, funding for programs like courthouse preservation is not the state’s top priority.” Perhaps the greatest irony in all of this is that these recent cuts are due in part to the Tea Party Movement’s success in the last election - the same folks parading around in tricorn hats waxing nostalgically and loudly, about the Founding Fathers and America’s roots.”—Nostalgia 2.0: Has Historic Preservation Become a Spectator Sport? | The Cultural Landscape Foundation
Avinash Rajagopal questions the philosophy of envelope-only preservation, comparing it to mummification, and writing that “in most cases a building’s aesthetics are intimately linked to its interior life… where the aesthetics, the function, the interior and exterior were so intricately woven together… to truly preserve the spirit of the building would be to freeze it in its entirety.”
This article brings up some uncomfortable questions. Would it really be better to lose the building entirely rather than just the interior? - I don’t think so. But the philosophy and practice of preserving the envelope of a building is something that comes up frequently when trying to integrate preservation strategies and green technologies.
How often do we hear (and I’m guilty of saying this myself) “do whatever you want to the back, just leave the street facade intact!”
Should this approach guide our practice? Should the “green stuff” really be hidden from view, kept only to new additions, in the philosophy of separating old from new? Should it be celebrated prominently on the site — but not on the building? Do we just need to draw more attention to historical strategies for sustainability? Is it still preservation if new technologies and uses change the configuration of the interior or the way the building as a system functions, but the shell remains visually the same?
In order to tackle any of those questions for a particular building or district, I think we have to ask what it is, precisely, that we’re trying to preserve - and why.
Interesting article, and a good reminder that sustainability is more than just energy and water consumption statistics, and should include community sustainability. I’m curious, though, whether foreign tourism is really a long-term sustainable choice for many communities with archeological sites.
In central TX? This lecture is free and open to the public! “Sustainability & Preservation: The Perfect Match” Lecture by Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP May 10, 2011, 6:30pm Jones Hall, University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas Presented by U. S. Green Building Council (USGBC) – Texas Gulf Coast Chapter Greater Houston Preservation Alliance (GHPA), AIA Houston & Houston Mod. With additional support from The Association for Preservation Technology International (APT)-Texas Chapter & Preservation Texas.
Includes case studies, resources, workshops, and Portland green preservation home tours. The general info is a great introduction, and the personalized information for Portland residents (who to contact at what city department, how Portland zoning code relates, etc.) seems really helpful for anyone planning a project - it would be great to see similar pages offered by other cities.
“Historic preservation and sustainable design are two disciplines that no longer need to be at odds but can actually join together to improve the sustainability of buildings, argued Maria Casarella, an architect with Cunningham | Quill Architects, Brendan Owens, Vice President of LEED Technical Development, and Eleni Reed, chief greening officer at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). These experts explored all angles of the raging ‘historic preservation vs. sustainable design’ debate during a lecture at the National Building Museum (NBM).”—Aligning Historic Preservation and Sustainable Design | Sustainable Cities Collective
Hotel Excelsior, Dubrovnik, Croatia, from the 6th to the 8th of April, 2011.
Can’t make it to Croatia? A selected few of the conference papers will be published in the Best Practice Guidebook for Energy Management in Cultural Heritage, which is to be published shortly after the conference.
March 23rd, 7:00 pm at Trinity Church, Boston. Co-sponsored by Trinity Church and the Boston Society of Architects
Buildings account for nearly 40% of all U.S. energy use and carbon emissions. With one of the country’s leading preservation architects as your guide, the lecture will explore the power of adaptive reuse to reduce those numbers and move us toward sustainability. Sustainable Preservation makes a compelling argument that preservation and sustainability don’t just protect the environment, but deliver a full range of societal benefits, from job creation to stronger social connection.
Hear Carroon present a nuanced look at preservation and sustainability while she discusses her new book Sustainable Preservation: Greening Existing Buildings at the Virginia Center for Architecture. Presented in cooperation with the Virginia Society AIA, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and Sweet Briar College’s Tusculum Institute. Admission is $5; free for students and members of the Virginia Center for Architecture and the American Institute of Architects. Spaces are limited and reservations are requested. Call (804) 644‐3041, ext. 100 to secure your space.
This is the sort of story that’s just heartbreaking - new homeowners deciding to tear down a historic home all in the name of energy efficiency and “green building”.
(And this one’s personal. My husband and I lived in Cleveland Heights for two years, and I loved walking to the grocery store along wide stone sidewalks lined with trees and beautiful homes - including this one, which I remember well. My first exposure to green building back in 2003 was also in the context of a historic and LEED Gold Certified building - the Cleveland Environmental Center - which forever convinced me that preservation and sustainable design should go hand-in-hand.)
Besides the fact that creating a huge amount of demolition waste and consuming an equally huge amount of new materials in the construction of a new home isn’t exactly ‘sustainable’, what I find most disturbing about this story is the lack of a public process surrounding the demolition of this 1920 home.
The loss of historic homes, whether they are individual landmarks or not, erodes the fabric of a historic district. I’m shocked that Cleveland Heights City Council (or the Cleveland Heights Landmarks Commission) does not review demolition permits within the district — the owners need only a “basic demolition permit” to remove the mansion because it is not a designated landmark. But just because it isn’t a Landmark doesn’t mean that it isn’t eligible or wouldn’t qualify as one - it just means no one has nominated it. Certainly its age and architectural pedigree would make it a ‘potential landmark’ or at least a ‘building of interest’ and warrant a simple review before a demo permit is released and the building is lost forever?
The fact that the owners and their architect are using the construction of a new green building as justification for tearing down the historic building is also a disturbing portrait of how we’re defining “green building” and “sustainability” as building professionals. We talk so often about sustainability striving to balance concern for the environment, the economy, and society - and yet we are increasingly concerned only with environmental and economic impacts. Social and cultural aspects of sustainability are often lost. Questions of cultural value and choice have disappeared in talk about BTUs and greenhouse gas emissions - things that are easily quantified. Environmental impacts are critically important, but they aren’t the only things we should be talking about when we talk about buildings and infrastructure. We’re using ‘green building’ as a trump card to avoid substantive discussions about what we value in our built environment. If it can be “heated with the energy used by two hand-held hair dryers” well, then it must be a superior building!
I live in Texas now (land of property rights) and I’m very sensitive to accusations that historic preservation “tells people how to spend their money” or “what they can do with their property”. But the thing is - we have these things called city ordinances and codes that already do this all the time. It’s not a new concept that we would come together as a community and set rules about, say, storm water management or maintenance or fences or building codes. All of these ordinances regulate what someone is able to do on their property, so why is it so strange that we would come together as a community to discuss what someone is able to do with historic buildings on their property?
Maybe in the end, this house really is, as the owner says, “an albatross, a dinosaur, a remnant of our history… [not] worth the kind of money it would take to save it.” Maybe not. But don’t these houses at least deserve a public discussion before the demolition permit is released?
“Data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency indicates that structures built prior to 1920 are more energy-efficient than those built through the year 2000, when the concept of sustainability began to take hold.”
"The intersection of historic preservation and green building does not have a prescribed set of rules. There are many different levels where the two can meet to achieve the aims of each movement. The key is to implement an integrated process from the outset."
“Overall operating costs per rentable square foot for historic buildings were 10 percent less than for nonhistoric buildings. Cleaning costs were 9 percent less, maintenance costs were 10 percent less, and utility costs were 27 percent less”—from “The Economics of Preserving Historic Federal Buildings,” available in the GSA’s helpful Historic Preservation Library.
A few months ago, I was a guest blogger on the National Trust for Historic Preservation‘s PreservationNation blog. The National Trust has been working tirelessly to advocate preservation as a key component of sustainable development, and they have great sustainable preservation resources available (free of charge!) on their website, including case studies, fact sheets, and research reports.
The topic of my post comes directly from some of my research on sustainable design and historic preservation. In talking with both preservationists and sustainable design professionals, I’ve found that the two fields often use different words to describe and attribute value to buildings, which can cause conflict over how to treat a historic property. But to make matters more complicated, we sometimes use the same words in preservation and sustainable design but define them differently depending on what field we’re in.
Have you had this experience? Have you ever found yourself working on a project that sought to integrate sustainability and preservation, and found yourself lost in translation? How did you create common definitions?
Do single utility meters on buildings encourage occupants to waste energy?
According to a recent NY Times article, “Air-Conditioners That Run When Nobody’s Home” the answer is a resounding yes. The single meter system used in many older and historic buildings can make occupants feel like the electricity (and the water, and the heat and the air conditioning) is “free” – not just economically, but also environmentally.
From the article:
This sweltering summer, the most coveted New York real estate amenity is two little words that in other times can go unnoticed: “utilities included.” Mr. Perlo and his neighbors live in a building where not just heat and hot water, but electricity, is part of their monthly rent — a more-common-than-you’d-think arrangement caused by old-fashioned wiring in which a building has a single “master meter” tracking power use rather than individual meters tied to each tenant. They can blast their air-conditioners all summer long without paying a dollar extra.
I have to confess I’ve been guilty of this in the past. Living in a historic apartment building in Cleveland a few years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see the windows of the second and third floor apartments (including mine!) flung open wide… in February, when it was snowing outside. Tenants didn’t pay for heat directly, and it sometimes seemed easier to just open a window than to fiddle with the quirky heating system.
But of course, running the A/C while you’re out of the country, or opening the windows in the middle of winter, has more than an economic cost for the landlord or whoever is ultimately footing the energy bill. The environmental impacts are substantial, too.
Again, from the NY Times:
Regardless of who pays the electric bills, there is a considerable environmental cost: a 2009 report said that residential buildings account for 39 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, and 40 percent of the energy that buildings use is spent on heating and cooling.
Some of that could be easily saved simply by installing programmable thermostats, and being more responsible in our energy use. And the article suggests that sub-meters are critical in getting occupants to change their consumption. (Cooper Square, one of the management companies interviewed in the article, reported that their single-meter buildings have energy costs 14-24% higher than sub-metered buildings.)
What do you think? Do we only adjust our habits when it hits us in the pocketbook? Have you recently worked on a project where you switched out a single meter for sub-meters? Did it impact overall energy consumption?