Architect Carl Elefante summed up the connection between historic preservation and sustainability in this simple sentiment: “The greenest building is one that is already built.” The relationship and similarity between preservation and sustainability is clear. Both hold common values including stewardship, conservation, placemaking and most of all considering future generations as we make decisions about meeting our current generation’s needs.
Sustainability encompasses a wide and diverse range of environmental, social and economic practices, from green building and smart growth to recycling and family farming (just to name a few), however historic preservation is seldom found in the vocabulary or core strategies of sustainability. The two practices are even perceived at times to be in conflict with one another. Yet when it comes to the real numbers of energy and environmental costs for building and development, reusing and adapting our existing building stock is the easy answer.
Issues to Explore
- Preservation and sustainability are natural allies; yet there is not formal partnership and even a perception of conflict between the two
- Lack of information about the efficiencies of historic building materials; building owners automatically think new, “green” technologies are superior, yet this is often not the case
- Lack of information on how to use green building technologies and materials in a compatible manner with historic buildings
- Need for historic preservation to be better integrated into LEED standards and certification, including LEED for neighborhood development
- Respondents ranked preservation as helping their community develop in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner in their top 6 benefits
- People felt the connection between preservation and sustainability was not effective in their community
The Preserve America Summit in 2006 promoted Supporting Sustainability as one of the primary recommendations for preservation across the country.
- Promoting mutual understanding across borders and so empower US communities to make preservation an integral aspect of sustainable development.
- Community vitality will be nourished by developing preservation cost versus benefit data and by enhancing technical assistance.
- Historic Preservation can and should be an important component of any effort to promote sustainable development.
- Guiding Principles: Reuse existing buildings, Reinvest in our older and historic communities, Retrofit our existing building stock.
The Preservation Texas Summit, in 2008 and 2010, focused on sustainability and its relationship with historic preservation in Texas:
- Sustainability and Historic Preservation, National Trust for Historic Preservation
- Historic Preservation and Sustainability, Texas Historical Commission
- Sustainable Historic Preservation, Whole Building Design Guide
- Tree Hugger: leading media outlet dedicated to driving sustainability mainstream
- The Greenest Brick is the One That’s Already in the Wall
- Embodied Energy Calculator, May T. Watts Appreciation Society
- NPR: Green Building vs. Sustainability
- The Real Scoop on LEED vs. Preservation
- Commentary on LEED vs. Preservation
- US Green Building Council LEED Program
- The Greenest Buildings Is…One That Is Already Built, Forum Journal