The National Trust for Historic Preservation keeps saying that the greenest building is the one that is already built, and they are building a lab to prove it. Its goal is to to find ways to promote green development by re-using and retrofitting existing structures and to encourage the integration of new structures into neighbourhoods without destroying the local character, a very big issue in historic districts around North America.
Green and sustainable: J.W. McCormack Federal Courthouse
The first challenge: develop good policies. Right now, old buildings don't fit into some intensification programs, energy programs, probably a number of new stimulus programs. People just don't think of existing buildings as resources when they write them.
The greenest building is often the one that is already built, which is precisely why the Preservation Green Lab will work in various cities and states to develop and implement policies that support green retrofits and adaptive reuse, as well as reinvestment in existing communities.
U.S. Naval Academy
Another challenge: to convince government and industry that older buildings shouldn't just be preserved for sentimental or historic reasons, but because they are actually using less energy and are easier and cheaper to upgrade than building new. The lab's goals:
To demonstrate that older and historic buildings can, in fact, be retrofitted to achieve high levels of energy efficiency, the Preservation Green Lab will launch a number of green retrofit projects in pilot cities across the country.
William Kerr Building in Jetson Green
Yet another challenge is that there is no established "best practices" for building restoration and upgrades, particularly with the new concern about energy and greenhouse gases. You bring in an energy consultant and the first thing they say is "change the windows."
The Preservation Green Lab will lead the conversation on best practices and model policies for greening our country's prized older and historic buildings, functioning as the go-to resource for those navigating the intersection of historic preservation and sustainability.
Let's hope the lab hits the ground running, as a lot of great buildings are being ruined or sacrificed on the altar of energy efficiency, when in fact they can be the most efficient buildings of them all.