'Sustainability Has Taken the Moral High Ground From Preservation'


This TreeHugger has previously expressed concern about demolition, suggesting that 'Every brick in building required the burning of fossil fuel in its manufacture, and every piece of lumber was cut and transported using energy. As long as the building stands, that energy is there, serving a useful purpose. Trash a building and you trash its embodied energy too."

Architect Henry Moss of Bruner/Cott, responsible for turning an old generating station at Harvard into a LEED platinum office building, told the Boston Preservation Alliance that "sustainability has taken the moral high ground from preservation," and that some preservation advocates spend too much time griping about their waning influence and not enough figuring out how to make historic structures practical in an era of higher energy costs and lower carbon footprints.


From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Mr. Moss said the influential LEED standards for sustainability are "weak on historic structures," in part because they don't do a good job of accounting for what's known as "embodied energy" — energy expended in the past to construct existing buildings. "In fact nobody knows anything about embodied energy," said Mr. Moss, adding that it was amazing how little research had been done to figure out how much embodied energy is squandered when an existing building is demolished so a new one can be built in its place.

He also warned that as buildings' sustainable systems become more complex, they will present additional challenges. "The competence of the professionals that are now working on these projects is really being stretched — it's being stretched right along with the competence and knowledge of the project managers," Mr. Moss said. "Where we used to do one or two new things in a project, we're now doing 10 or 15. With that level of innovation, the risk in these projects is definitely increasing."

For instance, he said Harvard University now has at least a half-dozen buildings with geothermal heating and cooling systems, and "each one of those has generated new lessons — I'm avoiding the term 'head-banging problems.' ::Chronicle of Higher Education