Author Archive

Green Round-Up: Density and Industry Edition

Posted on: May 21st, 2012 by Rachel Bowdon

 

St. John's Hospital in Belgium
The eight-hundred-year-old St. John's Hospital in Bruges, Belgium. (Photo: lhonchou)

Remaking an Eight Hundred Year Old Hospital -- True Green Cities Blog

"The oldest part of St. John’s Hospital in Bruges, Belgium dates from 1270. Subsequent buildings date from the 14th through 17th centuries. Today the complex of at least 10 buildings houses a hospital museum, a historic dispensary museum, an art and community center, a Picasso gallery and a restaurant. It was actually a hospital until 1976. It occupies a large piece of land overlooking one of the main canals and opposite the Church of Our Lady, which contains one of the only Michelangelo sculptures outside of Italy. It could be location, location, location but add to that the European ethic of reuse, and this hospital has found new uses that keeps it even more active than it’s ever been."

The Limits of Density -- The Atlantic Cities

"There can be no doubt that density has its advantages. In general, denser cities are more productive, more innovative, and more energy efficient. But only up to a point. The key function of a city is to enable exchange, interaction, and the combination and recombination of people and ideas. When buildings become so massive that street life disappears, they can damp down and limit just this sort of interaction, creating the same isolation that is more commonly associated with sprawl."

Could Battersea Power Station Be a Trailblazer for Green Renovation? -- businessGreen

"... Battersea could be a perfect case study for how governments and businesses should deal with the raft of aging coal-fired power stations that are due to start going offline over the next decade, raising a host of questions about sustainable building strategies and whether it is greener to retrofit an old building, or demolish it, recycle the materials, and create a greener development on site."

Building for the Needs of an Information-Based Economy -- UrbanLand

"Google’s decision to locate its Pittsburgh operations in the inner city is but one way America’s ever-expanding knowledge economy is changing the real estate sector—something it is expected to continue doing. Not only are high-tech companies looking for unusual spaces that are reflective of their corporate culture, but firms in the knowledge sector are also reviving inner-city neighborhoods, spearheading the drive for sustainability, and even changing the way some new buildings are designed."

Calculating The True Economic Benefit Of Green Buildings -- Fast Company Co.Exist

"Standard real estate practices have a hard time modelling for the system-wide and long-term benefits that building more sustainably provides. A new system, called Economics of Change, finds the real cost."

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 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. ... Read More →

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 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." ... Read More →

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.

Preservation Round-Up: Jane Jacobs Edition

Posted on: March 26th, 2012 by Rachel Bowdon

 

Written over 50 years ago, Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities is still one of the most influential books in today's planning world. Celebrated among preservationists and urbanists alike, Jacobs believed that a mixture of uses and a diversity of building types is the key to any great city, and understood that historic preservation is essential to ensuring a community’s social and economic health.

Jacobs famously wrote that "cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them." I recently read two blog posts that got me thinking more about the forces that threaten building diversity and the important role that preservation can play in achieving variety and balance of the built environment.


An original ad for Jacobs' most famous book. (Image: pdxcityscape on Flickr)

Generating and Preserving Diversity - City Builder Book Club

Reflecting on Jane Jacobs in his post Generating and Preserving Diversity, Aaron Renn discusses the detrimental effect of "upscaling" that occurs in many city cores as warehouses and class C office space are replaced with single-use districts with high-end functions. “This is reducing the supply of lower rent buildings, undermining one of the pillars of Jacobs foundations of diversity. […] The loss or upscale conversion of older and lower rent buildings in our central cities, while something to celebrate in many respects, should be a long term concern to those who care about truly sustainable urban diversity, especially if taken too far."


Jane Jacobs street art in Toronto. (Photo: ruffin_ready on Flickr)

Rightsizing Retail - The Architect's Newspaper

"It’s been exactly 50 years since urban activist Jane Jacobs described the sidewalk ballet in front of her home on Hudson Street in Greenwich Village. Developers from Seattle to New York are now trying to replicate her notions of mixed-used community while zoning departments from San Francisco to Toronto try to preserve the ones that are left. Jacobs wrote that neighborhood vitality was due in part to the trust between retailers and their neighbors: "It grows out of people stopping by the bar for a beer, getting advice from the grocer, and giving advice to the newsstand man, comparing opinions with other customers at the bakery…""

More preservation and urban diversity stories after the jump. ... Read More →

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.