Sustainability

“The Greenest Building is the One Already Built.”
-Attributed to architect Carl Elefante

On a local, regional, national, and global level, the word “green” is becoming synonymous with a thoughtful approach to our everyday decisions and how they may impact our community, our environment, and our economy.  Historic preservation is an inherently green action for its sustainable approach to community reinvestment and construction.

Historic preservation reduces:

  • the need to extract additional raw materials from the environment for the production of new building materials;
  • emissions generated by the extraction, transportation, and manufacture of new building products;
  • building material waste in our landfills.  The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that construction waste accounts for 25% to 40% of solid waste going to landfills each year.  Reusing a 50,000 square foot building prevents an estimated 4,000 tons of construction debris from being wasted.

Historic preservation reuses:

  • existing raw materials originally used to construct the building.  These materials have already been extracted, manufactured, and transported to the site.  The original energy to construct the building is essentially “stored” in its walls, called its “embodied energy.”
  • existing infrastructure.  Reusing existing buildings also reuses the transportation and waste water networks surrounding that resource preventing the need for the costly extension of these systems.

Historic preservation recycles:

  • a building for a new use.  Much like tires turned into running tracks or coffee bags re-purposed as designer handbags, we recycle historic buildings for brand new uses.  Warehouses are reused for housing, breweries are turned into offices, and theaters into bookstores–historic preservation re-purposes an existing resource to extend the life of its material use.

Historic preservation is green economic development:

  • Reusing an historic property creates green jobs.  Historic preservation is not only sustainable design, but it creates more construction jobs per dollar output than new construction and manufacturing.  Why?  Rehabilitating the historic material in an older building is more labor intensive, thereby requiring more person hours than material costs.
  • By reinvesting in existing properties, we catalyze investment in an entire district or neighborhood.  Studies of property values in historic districts around the nation have found that these neighborhoods or commercial areas hold or increase their value despite devaluing in adjacent properties.

The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota will be expanding this page in the future as we prepare to host a symposium on this topic on November 11, 2009.  We would like to thank our Presenting Sponsor, Target, for making the symposium possible.  Please check back in the future for more information as the symposium speakers and schedule unfolds.

Additional informational resources:

Preservation Alliance of Minnesota

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The Greenest Building.org

Whole Building Design Guide

Case Study

  • Kahler Grand Hotel, Rochester, MN – Window R and Infiltration Study, Part I and Part II

Trust for Architectural Easements

  • Reduce, Reuse, Rehab: A series of monthly briefs that discuss various topics connected to the relationship between sustainability and preservation.

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