Green Round-Up: Old is the New New Edition

Posted on: April 16th, 2012 by Rachel Bowdon

When architect Jean Carroon presented at the James River Green Building Council in Charlottesville on April 10th, her message regarding the environmental benefits of preservation was clear: 

"Stewardship is the heart of the environmental movement. The only way we can really take care of nature is by taking care of what is all around us and believing in the power of preservation. [...] Every time we extend the service life of a building, we avoid the environmental impacts of creating something new, we avoid the environmental impacts of our throwaway culture."


Rendering of a new Passive House office/restaurant reuse project in Portland, Oregon. (Image: Scott | Edwards Architecture)

Carroon’s message is refreshing in a world where far too often older buildings are demolished or abandoned in favor of something new -- "green building" or not.

Many others around the world are proving the green power of preservation and conservation through a variety of reuse and retrofit projects. From the eco-renovation of a power plant into apartments to the conversion of a 96-year-old building into a Passive House, these stories are truly remarkable.


The same Portland building as above, as it appeared before construction. (Photo: Hammer and Hand)

Portland Building Gunning for First Commercial U.S. Passive House Retrofit - DJC Oregon

"A 96-year-old building in Southeast Portland being renovated by Hammer and Hand is in the running to be the first commercial Passive House retrofit in the U.S. "Basically we are totally revamping the envelope of the building," said Skylar Swinford, a Passive House consultant at Hammer and Hand. "We wanted to build it how we’ll actually be building in the future. Why build something now that will be obsolete in five or 10 years when the next code comes out?" Passive House is a German building standard that uses advanced energy modeling and airtight construction techniques to dramatically reduce energy consumption." 

Six Amazing Green Renovations That Turn Industrial Buildings into Architectural Gems - Inhabitat

"Building reuse and architectural adaptation typically lend themselves to green ideals, and over the years we have found some incredible sustainable renovations around the world. But some of the most surprising and imaginative designs weren't old churches or updated Victorian buildings, but instead, former industrial or factory buildings that were seen as nothing more than a blight on the landscape."

New Rochelle Brothers Apply Green Building Techniques to Transform Dilapidated Train Station into Spectacular Adaptive Reuse Facility in Mamaroneck - New Rochelle Talk

"In what can only be described as an incredible turn around, the new "One Station Plaza" in Mamaroneck, NY has risen from the ruins of what was the old Mamaroneck Train Station and been transformed into a stylish, hip bistro with professional, loft-type office space above. Four years ago, John and Chris Verni bought the Mamaroneck Train Station from the MTA. The building had fallen into disrepair. Originally constructed in 1888, the building is the second oldest depot on the New Haven railroad line."

New Life for Old Buildings: Adaptive Reuse in Pittsburgh - PopCity

"[South Hills High School] has been reincarnated as the South Hills Retirement Residence, 106 units of senior housing with space for community assets such as a day care facility. The project was recently awarded LEED Gold certification accruing to a mix of co-generation and solar photo-voltaic panels that provide 70% of the building’s power, among other sustainable features."

900-Year Old Church Goes 100% Renewable - Treehugger

"This 900-year-old house of worship has undergone a thorough green renovation to become Britain's first zero carbon church. Featuring a biomass boiler for heat, and a solar array on the roof, solar panel suppliers Kyocera claim the church is now running on 100% renewable energy. The initiative is the latest in a long line of efforts by the Church of England to go green. Given that many churches were traditionally built on a strict east/west axis, they have plenty of south-facing roof space that is ideally primed for solar energy."

Preserve an Old Building, Live a Green Life - Medill Reports

"It was old. It was stout. It was a mess inside. But Jo Stavig fell in love with it nonetheless. [...] Stavig is one of the many Chicagoans who have a passion for restoring and rehabilitating old residential units. Apart from loving the history within, they have another preservation philosophy: Preserving old buildings is a green way of life. "

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.

Rachel Bowdon

Rachel Bowdon

Rachel Bowdon is the program assistant for the Sustainability Program at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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