Renovating Schools: Good for the Pocketbook & Good for the Soul

Posted on: October 25th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 4 Comments


Buffalo's renovation of 48 older schools created local jobs and incorporated 21st century technology into once-vacant historic buildings like the City Honors School.

Written by Renee Kuhlman

Everyone once in a while, I have to visit a historic building and recharge. Sound familiar? There’s just something about being enveloped in a place that’s seen some history that’s good for my soul.

Last Friday, I got to see several renovated schools in Buffalo, New York courtesy of Conrad Wesolek from LPCiminelli Construction Corp. Did I mention that $1.2 billion (yes, billion) has been invested in renovating old and historic schools in Buffalo?

What fascinated me was the fact that the folks involved couldn’t believe that this wasn’t the norm around the country. They saw these renovations as being good for the school district’s bottom-line.

  • We know that renovation creates more jobs than new construction because it’s more labor intensive.
  • We know that renovation puts more money into the local economy because labor and materials are often produced and acquired locally.
  • We know that public investment in infrastructure increases private investment in surrounding properties.

So like the folks in Buffalo, I struggle to understand why it’s not the norm around the country to reinvest in public school infrastructure.

That’s why we’ve been putting on an educational webinar series with partners such as the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI), the National Center for Safe Routes to School, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

If you missed the webinar series, don’t worry – you can still download them and enjoy them at your leisure.

Additionally, if you have questions about how you can make renovation of older schools a reality in your town, please join our upcoming live chat on November 1 at 2:00 p.m. EST. The live chat will provide you the opportunity to pose questions to experts in many fields, including a representative from the EPA who can answer questions about the first-ever federal school siting guidelines.

Like Buffalo, we at the National Trust believe that renovating older schools shows students, their parents, and other local citizens how historic buildings can be transformed into inspirational, 21st century classrooms. Good for the pocketbook? Yes. But also good for the soul.

Renee Kuhlman directs the Helping Johnny Walk to School project – to help states encourage school siting practices and policy that sustain our communities.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Civic, General

4 Responses

  1. troy peloquin

    October 25, 2011

    that is great… check out Andrew Wilson school in new orleans… we did a crazy renovation job on a 1911ish school… the new structure has cisterns, grey water, bamboo floors, automatic lighting… its just amazing… a blend of old and new and the building looks sooo beautiful

  2. Preservation Conference Roundup « Buffalo Rising News « Buffalo 123

    October 26, 2011

    […] site you can find several stories about the buffalo Conference.  Two that stood out are… this story about Buffalo's School restoration program. The story notes:  "Last Friday, I got to see […]

  3. Joyce Mellom

    October 26, 2011

    I have seen too many community schools razed. The old schools were often built on the best site in the community, by local carpenters and architects, of indigenous materials, and attended by all the community for generations. I believe the demolition of the old schools is an act of vandalism and even a crime against society. I would like to see criminal penalties attach to these acts of vandalism.

  4. Jim Napora

    October 27, 2011

    I read & reread the tag line for the City Honors photo above the article. Contrary to what is printed, none of the buildings we are renovating in any Phase of the project were ever vacant. All buildings were/are occupied up to the point where they are closed for the renovation. At that time, the entire school population (faculty, staff, students) “swing” into an alternate location for the duration of the project. Once the building’s renovation is complete, everyone returns to their “new” building.