It is nice to see that Al Gore's We Can Solve It people get the benefits of renovation and upgrading as well as new green building. Not only does it reduce our carbon footprint, but creates more jobs- as Donovan Rypkema pointed our earlier, new construction is about 50-50 labour and materials, whereas restoration and renovation can be as much as 75% labour- for every dollar spent you get twice as much local employment, and use about half the resources.
Over at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, they also remind us that
Rehabbing our older and historic buildings to be more energy efficient offers two major environmental benefits. First, it directly reduces the energy needed to operate our buildings. Second, when we retrofit our existing buildings rather that constructing anew, we avoid the negative environmental impacts associated with new construction — e.g. all that carbon that we send up into the atmosphere when we extract resources from the earth's surface and turn them into building materials.
As they note on the We can solve it website,
In the United States alone, buildings are responsible for 25-35% of greenhouse gas emissions. By making simple changes, like using the proper amount of insulation, we can save half of the energy it takes to heat, cool, light, and otherwise provide power to buildings. And, with buildings lasting for 40-50 years or more, efficiency choices we make now will last at least a generation.
And don't forget what Van Jones says:
"The main piece of technology in the green economy is a caulk gun."
More on TreeHugger:
Renovation Uses Twice As Much Labor, Half as Much Material as New Construction
The Greenest Brick is the One That's Already in the Wall
GreenBuild: Richard Moe Has a Tough Row to Hoe
Diane Keaton on How We Treat Old Buildings Like Plastic Bags
Big Steps in Building: Ban Demolition