Conserve Resources in Historic Buildings

Posted on: July 16th, 2007 by Barbara Campagna
  1. Seal the Cracks, Block the Openings
    Every degree of difference in the temperature between the inside and outside of a building can add as much as 10% to your heating and cooling bills. You can cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1,000 pounds per year per building by making sure that gaps at windows and doors are properly caulked, fit dampers to fireplaces, block unnecessary vents, and weatherstrip all seams.
  2. Buy Laptops, Not Desktops
    As your computers need to be updated, buy laptops instead of desktops which can save up to 90% energy per unit! And make sure you recycle your old computers.
  3. Buy FSC Certified Timber
    Wood is a perfect renewable and sustainable resource, provided it isn’t being clearcut or harvested in an unsustainable fashion. To ensure the wood you are buying has come from a forest managed according to internationally agreed-upon ethical, social and environmental standards, look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified timber label.
  4. Grow Native Plants
    If you’re choosing flowers or plantings for a non-historic landscape feature, buy native plants. They will not only attract birds and butterflies but also save the time and expense of daily watering. Growing indigenous plants can save 50% of the water used to maintain outdoor plants. Check with your local nursery or garden club for advice.
  5. Use Natural Products
    Indoor air is 3 times more polluted than outdoor air, and conventional paints, varnishes and paint strippers are the main culprits. Because fossil fuels are the primary ingredients,they give off greenhouse gases, toxic waste and pollutants knows as volatileorganic compounds (VOCs). Buy natural paints and finishes, or water-based (latex) paints with low- or zero-VOC that carry little or no petroleum-based solvents.
  6. Use Recycled Paper
    Make sure your printer paper is 100% post-consumer recycled paper. Save 5 lbs of carbon dioxide per ream of paper.
  7. Go Green in Your Landscapes
    Go eco-efficient by using brooms or rakes anytime you can instead of using gas-powered equipment. And hosing the leaves off the driveways with water can consume 50 gallons of water every five minutes! So use a little elbow-grease the next time you go to fill up the weed-wacker or turn on the hose.
  8. Start A Recycling Program
    If you don’t already have a recycling program, now is the time to start. Recycling reduces landfill and saves resources. Throwing the wrong trash in the recycling bin can contaminate the collection and undermine the viability of recycling efforts. Every piece of trash counts. Go to for advice.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at