Green Round-Up: Smaller Buildings Edition

Posted on: May 3rd, 2012 by Rachel Bowdon 1 Comment

A whopping 95 percent of the country’s existing commercial buildings are smaller than 50,000 square feet and account for 44 percent of energy usage in all commercial buildings. But, did you know that the majority of green retrofits are performed on the other five percent of buildings?

Taking into account their greater homogeneity and economies of scale, owners of large buildings have an easier time commanding the capital and the technical support needed for energy retrofits. In contrast, owners of smaller buildings -- which typically have unique and varied characteristics and requirements -- often are not adequately served by financial or technical resources, or by regulatory frameworks designed with larger and newer buildings in mind. The National Trust’s Preservation Green Lab has been committed to advancing the reuse and retrofit of older, smaller buildings though its Older Building Performance Program.

Like the Preservation Green Lab, Living City Block is also committed to bringing new investment to smaller, older buildings. In her article, Greening an Entire Block Instead of Just One Building, The Atlantic Cities writer Emily Badger explains the concept:

"Living City Block's basic concept is simple. Small buildings rarely have the resources to do a serious retrofit. For most of them, the idea is cost-prohibitive. But what if you combined a small building with 10 more like it?"

Could building owners achieve the kind of economies of scale comparable to larger buildings by working collaboratively rather than separately? We're about to find out. Living City Block is currently testing this concept on two blocks in Denver comprised of 17 buildings, 16 of which are historic. The project is expected to see a 50 percent reduction in the buildings' combined energy use.

Check out more green preservation stories after the jump. 

Eco-Conscious Passive Houses Aggressively Hit Brooklyn -- The New York Observer

"The most exceptional thing about the house at 96 St. Marks Avenue is that it doesn’t look exceptional at all. It’s just another redbrick townhouse on a street chock-a-block with redbrick townhouses in a borough crammed with townhouse-lined streets. However, the Prospect Heights house is the the city’s first multi-unit building to be built, or in this case retrofitted, to meet the über-stringent environmental standards developed by the German-based Passive House Institute."

Plaza Diane is a LEED Gold Art Center Converted from a Former Gas Station -- Inhabitat

"Tucked in the core of the small town of Powell in North Central Wyoming is Plaza Diane, a LEED Gold Community Arts Center reclaimed from a modernist 1950s service station. The project is conceived as a home for visual arts and performance to be exhibited in the culturally rich community, but the community went much further by incorporating a host of design elements to significantly reduce the building's impact."

The Leopold Adds Solar Panels on Roof of Historic Building -- Bellingham Business Journal

"One of downtown Bellingham’s most historic buildings has made a modern move by installing a solar panel system. The Leopold Retirement Residence, 1224 Cornwall Ave., installed 36 solar panels on its roof in March. The solar panels are expected to produce between 8,000 and 9,000 kilowatt hours of annual electricity, which is about 10 percent of The Leopold’s power consumption."

Boston to Get Living Lab of Advanced Energy Technology -- Fierce Energy

"Boston will soon be home to a living laboratory of advanced energy technology. The historic 100-year-old building at 5 Channel Center in Boston will undergo a deep energy retrofit to transform into a building technology showcase for clean energy technologies and research to accelerate the adoption of energy-efficient building technology."

More Than Just the First Hotel in Europe with LEED Gold Certification -- Treehugger

"Not only is this gorgeous hotel LEED gold certified, it is also located in the perfect spot to relax for a few days, or even to go and work from. Right on the beach of L'Escala, north of Barcelona, near Greek and Roman ruins and amongst pine trees, this building from 1907 has undergone a recent renovation and is now one of the most eco-friendly hotels... […] The hotel generates approximately 1/3 of the energy it consumes and 100% of the electricity is sourced from renewable resources."

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.

Green, News Round-Ups

One Response

  1. Lynne Forsman

    May 7, 2012

    Rachel – are you in DC?
    Might you have an interest in attending our next Green Drinks Annapolis May 15th at the Historic Charles Carroll House 5:30-7:30? We are partnering with Main Street Annapolis and highlighting older buildings and sustainability!