Author Archive

[10 on Tuesday] 10 Ways to Weatherize Your Historic Home

Posted on: July 24th, 2012 by Julia Rocchi 1 Comment

 

Do you live in an older or historic home? Could your energy bills use a little bit of help? Are you wondering how to lower them without affecting the unique features that give your house its character?

Today’s 10 on Tuesday guide -- a new feature on Preservation Nation that will share preservation-friendly tips, tools, and ideas -- is all about how you can increase your home’s energy performance in a way that maximizes energy savings and preserves your home’s historic character.

Most of these recommendations will work for a home of almost any age or style. In fact, many traditional homes were built with locally sourced materials and environmentally-friendly features such as thick walls, light-reflecting finishes, operable windows and shutters, vents, awnings and porches to provide shade.

So if you’re the owner of an older or historic home, you can feel good about living in a building that has served well for 50, 100, or 200 years or more. Here are 10 ways to keep it that way for another century:

1. Consider a whole-house approach. When you weatherize a home, you are equipping it with everything it needs to be more energy efficient. So look beyond just one area or component of the house, and take into account how the whole structure is working together.

2. Identify problem areas by conducting an energy audit. Local utilities and state energy agencies now frequently offer audits -- for free or at minimal cost -- to help homeowners target leaks and identify cost-effective options for sealing them.

3. Seal cracks, holes, and gaps, especially around windows, doors, and other areas with high potential for heat loss. Think small cracks don’t matter? A gap of just 1/8 of an inch under a standard door lets in as much air as having a 2.4 inch-wide hole in the wall. And remember: For every cubic foot of heated or cooled air (that you pay to condition) that leaves your house, one cubic foot of outside air enters!

4. Reduce drafts with simple steps such as closing curtains, blinds, shades, or shutters at night in cold weather; using draft “snakes” at doors (or simply a rolled towel); and closing your fireplace damper when fireplace is not being used in winter.

5. Check for proper ventilation to spaces you aren't heating or cooling to protect from the effects of condensation.

6. Repair older windows and doors with new glazing. Install storm windows where appropriate. (More on window repairs in a future 10 on Tuesday!)

7. Make sure water is properly draining away from a building through gutters and downspouts, combined with foundation waterproofing and drains.

8. Install insulation, where appropriate, around ducts, pipes, and water heaters, as well as near the foundation and sill.

9. Maintain watertight roofing and siding.

10. Establish a baseline for your energy usage so you know a) if your changes are working, and b) if you’re really saving money. One way to track your energy usage is to analyze your energy bills for the last twelve months (or longer if available).

As you can see, weatherizing your home doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to be effective. You can take on plenty of low-cost DIY projects to save energy, and put those extra savings toward the fun projects (or perhaps another historic property…?).

Have you weatherized your older or historic home recently? What were some of your experiences?

Wait, there’s more! Check out these oldie-but-goodie videos from the Preservation Nation vault about weatherizing your home in summer (see below) AND winter (so you can get a head start).

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

We've All Gone Local: Conference Digest, Day 1

Posted on: October 20th, 2011 by Julia Rocchi 1 Comment

 

Preservationists gather on the mezzanine level at historic Shea's Performing Arts Center for the National Preservation Conference opening plenary.

You may notice this post is coming to you on Thursday, but don't be fooled -- it's really about Wednesday, the day the 65th annual National Preservation Conference kicked off in Buffalo, NY.

We've been covering Buffalo a lot these past few months, both here on Preservation Nation and through our Buffalo Unscripted web documentary project. But once you arrive, and you're standing in Niagara Square with the newly restored Statler Hotel over one shoulder and the gorgeous Art Deco City Hall over the other, you're struck by the power of being in a place where preservation is not only applauded, but encouraged -- even expected.

This power certainly isn't lost on the record-breaking 2,500 attendees who have trekked from all over the world to learn from this city and its people. Even though the conference didn't officially begin until 4 p.m. this afternoon with the Opening Plenary, everyone fanned out across Buffalo from 8 a.m. onward with their respective tours, affinity sessions, and on-the-ground case studies, eager to begin.

By the time we reconvened for the plenary, everyone was more than ready to settle into Shea's Performing Arts Center -- the largest intact movie house in the world -- to hear what Buffalo mayor Byron Brown, National Trust president Stephanie Meeks, and keynote speaker and author James Howard Kunstler had to share. (We've linked to their individual speeches, but you can browse the full Ustream channel here.)

Of particular note was Stephanie Meeks' address, in which she outlines the National Trust's new focus on local preservationists. Not sure what we mean by that term? Here are the fast facts:

  • There are roughly 15 million people in the United States who share our values and are already taking action on behalf of preservation.
  • They have been flying under the radar. They rank preservation lower on this list of charitable interests than our preservation "grasstops" leaders -- more like number5 rather than number 1.
  • They also tend to think of preservation in a larger context -- as a subset of their commitment to culture, community, and sustainability.
  • When it comes to how they spend their time, however, local preservationists take almost as many preservation-related actions as leaders do. As Stephanie put it, "they are kindred spirits."
  • Overall, they are younger, more plugged into technology, and more diverse economically, culturally, and in their level of education.

Pretty exciting stuff, and something I anticipate will be discussed in much more detail in coming weeks and months.

The other revelation of the day wasn't in a speech or a session -- it was online. Turns out that the number of actively tweeting preservationists has jumped exponentially since last year's conference. I'm not sure if more folks know about Twitter or simply more people have smartphones, but the #presconf hashtag was off the hook the whole day as people posted photos, shared tips, and debated viewpoints.

Here are some of my favorite tweets from throughout the day:

And my personal favorite ...

Ok, that's it from me for now. Time to dive into day two of the conference. Stay tuned for more posts and vlogs from our team of roving reporters, all the way from Columbia University. It will be PresConf in a whole new light!

Julia Rocchi is on the Digital + New Media team at the National Trust. She is thrilled to be back in the Queen City for now a third season.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

Catch National Preservation Conference Highlights Online

Posted on: October 11th, 2011 by Julia Rocchi 3 Comments

 

Ah, the joy of the Interwebz -- allowing us to connect across the miles and delve deeper into our shared love of preservation at the National Preservation Conference! Though we much prefer to have you see the Nickel City for yourself, we understand if you couldn't make it in person this year, and we still want you to be involved from your corner of the world.

This year we are featuring conference highlights on several channels:

  • Right here on the PreservationNation blog. We have the great good fortune this year to have students from Columbia University's Historic Preservation program acting as our roving reporters for the conference. Watch the blog for timely posts and vlogs featuring their on-the-ground view.
  • Twitter. National Trust staffers and our #builtheritage chat friends will be busy bees capturing the most salient session points in 140 characters on Twitter. Watch the hashtag #PresConf (or the official @PresConf account) for the latest news and notes. And if you tweet, by all means, join in!
  • Facebook. Keep an eye on the PreservationNation Facebook page for announcements, photos, updates, and more.
  • Flickr. A picture is worth a thousand blog posts, and believe me, Buffalo is one photogenic town. Check in periodically to our Conference Flickr group and see exactly what attendees are seeing as they traverse the city.
  • Buffalo Unscripted. This summer, a team from the National Trust hit the streets of Buffalo to tell the real story of a city that everyone seems to have an opinion about – whether they live there or not. Now we're debuting footage from the project at an interactive public screening event during the conference. Learn more about the project and watch the videos on the project's Tumblr.

Of particular note: We're livecasting the plenaries and general sessions on Ustream! Here's the schedule:

  • Opening Plenary (with keynote speaker James Howard Kunstler)
    Wednesday, Oct. 19
    4-6 pm EST
  • General Session: Preservation in the Age of Sustainability
    Thursday, Oct. 20
    8-9:30 am EST
  • General Session: Thinking about Shrinking
    Friday, Oct. 21
    8-9:30 am EST
  • Closing Plenary (with keynote speaker Isabel Wilkerson)
    Saturday, Oct. 22
    10:30 am-12 pm EST

You can catch these livestreams -- as well as links and feeds for all the other sites I mentioned -- on the National Preservation Conference homepage. Thanks for joining us there!

Julia Rocchi is a member of the National Trust's Digital and New Media team. She's up to her eyeballs in pixels at the conference.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

 

Central Terminal greets a new day in Buffalo. (Photo: Jason Clement)

Ah, summer ... the glorious season where you're traveling for vacation, thinking about vacation, or picking up work for others on vacation. Either way, you're occupied, so we just wanted to send up a flare and remind you that early bird registration for the National Preservation Conference ends THIS SUNDAY, July 31.

Yes, I know, we're asking you to think three months in advance when you probably haven't even considered your next meal. But trust me, you want to lock in your spot now. Here are three reasons why, pulled from a jam-packed program:

  • James Howard Kuntsler. This author, blogger, critic, artist, and provocateur will welcome the National Preservation Conference to Buffalo and to his home state of New York at the Opening Plenary Session. An expert on cities and a vocal opponent of suburban sprawl, Kuntsler won’t mince words about the economy, the environment, and how good planning and preservation can work together to save our communities -- if given the chance.
  • Isabel Wilkerson. She spent most of her career as a national correspondent and bureau chief at The New York Times, is the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in the history of American journalism and was the first black American to win the Pulitzer for individual reporting. Inspired by her own parents’ migration, she devoted fifteen years to the research and writing of the book The Warmth of Other Suns. She interviewed more than 1,200 people, unearthed archival works and gathered the voices of the famous and the unknown to tell the epic story of the relocation of an entire people. (And you'd miss this?)
  • Buffalo itself. Wow. Just ... wow. Preservation magazine's in love with it. The Buffalo Unscripted team's in love with it. And we're pretty certain you'll fall in love with it too. Register now for your chance to experience a city on the rise.

Besides, if you register now, you save big. And that means more money for ice cream while you're on vacation.

Thanks for joining us!

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

Sustainable Communities In Every Sense

Posted on: June 17th, 2011 by Julia Rocchi

 

Here at National Trust HQ we recently celebrated Go Green Week, an event designed to deepen staffers' knowledge about green office practices and environmental issues. As part of our education, we had the chance to meet Nora Johnson and Danielle Arigoni from the Office of Sustainable Communities (OSC) at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They joined us over lunch to talk about the interagency partnership between HUD, DOT, and EPA, and what it means for creating sustainable communities in every sense of the word.

Formerly known as the Smart Growth program, OSC takes a holistic view to community development. It combines tenets from smart growth -- such as walkability, open space, and transportation -- with those of environmentalism, like protection and conservation. The resulting livability principles touch on everything from land use and design to climates and water. No stone (literally) is left unturned.

As Arigoni put it, “communities are our main clients," and she outlined her office's three key strategies for serving them:

  1. Change the conversation. This includes a new comprehensive website (www.sustainablecommunities.gov), talks, and awards to spread the gospel about sustainable communities. One great example is their Greening Historic Communities Symposium, which just happened this week in Wilmington, Delaware.
  2. Work with the willing. In their goal to be as responsive as possible to communities, EPA partners with a variety of organizations and agencies to offer analysis and technical assistance. Program examples include Smart Growth Implementation Assistance, Greening American’s Capitals, Sustainable Communities Building Blocks, and Governor’s Institute for Community Design.
  3. Change the rules. OSC is working within the regulatory framework to achieve their goals -- and advocating for change when necessary. For example, the EPA is focusing right now on the community-focused International Green Construction Code (IGCC) and fighting against proposals that weaken the code from an environmental standpoint.

A prime example of all these strategies coming together is OSC's ongoing preservation-related work in Concord, New Hampshire. National Trust staffer Kimberly Kooles covered the project in detail earlier this year -- get your refresher course here.

If you're looking to accomplish similar work in your area, be sure to check out the grants listings on the OSC site, as they have both new and improved funding options available to eligible communities. And if you want to learn more about preservation's intersection with sustainability in general, take a minute to browse our blog posts on the subject and our Sustainability section on PreservationNation.org.

So from our community to yours -- Happy (belated) Go Green Week! Good luck with all your greening goals.

Julia Rocchi does content, marketing, and web-monkeying for the Digital + New Media team. Her favorite part of the inaugural Go Green! Week (besides this talk, of course) was the office supply swap, in which she was able to give a neglected 3-hole punch a new lease on 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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.