Kaid Benfield on The Greenest Building Is The One In The Right Context

Kaid Benfield of the NRDC was in Wilmington for the Greening Historic Communities Symposium to speak about how The greenest (historic) building is the one that's in the right context. He writes:

If you care about green preservation, you also have to take into account that households in centrally located properties and neighborhoods use far less energy and emit far less carbon for transportation than their counterparts in sprawl. And you have to take into account that, for many households and office buildings, carbon emissions from transportation exceed those emitted by operation of the building.

When it comes to green, whether a new or old or historic, context matters most.Benfield raised a number of points that I think are important among his " six neighborhood factors that affect the environmental performance of buildings, including historic ones. These are all backed by research:"


  • Location. The centers of regions and older suburbs perform better than the fringe, even if other factors are held constant.

  • Connected streets. A well-connected street network (featuring smaller blocks and lots of intersections) shortens travel distances and makes walking more feasible and pleasant. It is the single most important determinant of how much walking will take place in a neighborhood and the second most important determinant (after location) of how much driving will take place.

  • Ways to get around. The more transportation choices, the better. If you're lucky enough to be within walking distance of rail transit, for example, the number of automobile trips during rush hours can be up to 50 percent lower than what would otherwise be expected under standard engineering forecasts.

  • Density. As I have said before, it doesn't necessarily have to be high density to reduce driving and watershed-damaging pavement per household. We see substantial improvements in performance as we move from large-lot sprawl even to ten homes per acre; beyond 40 to 50 homes per acre, we continue to see improvements, but at reduced increments. Moderate density helps a lot.

Read the rest of another important Benfield post here.

Kaid is making many of the same points I made in my post Heritage Is Green: Lessons From The Architectural Conservancy
For Saving Energy, Like Real Estate, The Three Most Important Things Are Location, Location and Location
Minus Oil: Forget Hybrids And Solar Panels, We Need Active, Exciting and Vibrant Cities

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Tags: Green Building | Urban Life