Upcoming Event: Whose Carbon is it Anyway?

Posted on: March 13th, 2008 by Patrice Frey


The  National Building Museum is offering what promises to be a good discussion about how to tackle the thorniest of carbon problems -- all that carbon that is released into the atmosphere by constructing and using buildings.   See the announcement below. Hope some preservation-minded folks will be able to make the event -- and speak up about the importance of reusing our existing buildings.   (Unfortunately, I'll be on a plane to Seattle, driving up my own carbon footprint.)   See the NBM website for details.

Tuesday, March 18
Whose Carbon is it Anyway?
6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
As the creation and maintenance of buildings creates over 40% of the carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere every year, who is going to take the lead in finding solutions? Opening Remarks: Harriet Tregoning, Director, DC Office of Planning. A discussion with: Scott Barrett, Director, International Policy Program; Professor of Environmental Economics and International Political Economy, SAIS at Johns Hopkins University • Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post Journalist (moderator) • Rainer Hascher, Co-founder, Hascher Jehle Architektur, Germany • Melissa Lavinson, Director, Federal Environmental Affairs and Corporate Responsibility, PG&E Corporation •Fran Pavley, Former Assemblywoman, State of California 1.5 LU (AIA) 1.5 CFE (ASLA) 1.5 CM (AICP)

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.

Good News, Historic Homeowners…

Posted on: March 4th, 2008 by Patrice Frey 1 Comment


"The greenest home...may be the one you live in now, given the cost in dollars and pollution of ripping out old materials and producing and shipping new ones." 

Check out a good piece in the Wall Street Journal from Friday.

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.

New Orleans Projects Paint the Town Green

Posted on: February 22nd, 2008 by Preservation magazine 1 Comment


ICINolaNew Orleans has never been known for its strong environmental conscience. Until five years ago, the city measured the success of each Mardi Gras by the number of tons of trash generated, and for many, recycling meant reusing the plastic cups caught at parades. In some neighborhoods, curbside recycling programs struggled due to lack of participation. Today, two and a half years after Katrina, residents and social and environmental activists are sweeping away old notions, but some say too much is being lost in the process.

Seeds of Change—and Dissent

Actor Brad Pitt and his Make It Right project have snagged media attention recently, debuting plans to replace 150 Lower Ninth Ward houses with sustainable, eco-friendly dwellings. The project has generated a positive buzz, in part because the targeted area is a Katrina-created wasteland with little, if any, remaining historic character. Other projects around the city are sowing seeds of green hope in some cases, but red-faced anger in others.

In Bywater, a 200-year-old, National Register and local historic district with very little Katrina flooding, a mixed-use loft project is digging a deep rift. New Orleanian Cam Mangham and her partner, Shea Embry, are developing ICInola, which Mangham says will be the city's first LEED-certified, mixed-use development. Plans for the development, anticipated to open in spring 2009, involve partially deconstructing, renovating, and rebuilding a historic manufacturing plant and recycling much of its materials. The plant and a second, new building will be developed with eco-friendly features like roof gardens and solar panels. Two more structures will come later; a total of 105 lofts and 50,000 square feet of commercial space on 2.76 acres.

Neighbors opposed to the project have formed the Bywater Civic Association to fight it. "The project is completely out of scale and context, and the design is too modern for such a historic neighborhood," says BCA organizing committee member Blake Vonderhaar. Vonderhaar says that hundreds of people have committed to boycott any store that leases space there. "They keep saying we can't have replica buildings because they don't want to turn New Orleans into Disneyland. But there has to be a reasonable solution that is appropriate to an historic neighborhood," Vonderhaar says.... 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.

Existing Buildings Get Their Due

Posted on: January 30th, 2008 by Patrice Frey


A newsy item over the weekend that I’m remiss in not posting before now.

If you haven’t seen it already, check out the New York Times article from Sunday Green Buildings Don’t Have to be New (surprise!). Article notes that the “vast stock of older buildings presents a much bigger opportunity [than new construction] to cut down on energy consumption and carbon emissions that contribute to the warming of the planet."

With the Clinton Climate Initiative lining up behind greening the existing building stock and the U.S. Green Building Council renewing their efforts to address existing buildings in an improved version of LEED-EB, maybe times are looking better for our existing building stock.

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.

Embodied Energy Calculator Goes Live

Posted on: January 25th, 2008 by Patrice Frey 5 Comments


Earlier this week, a group out of Highland Park, Illinois (the May T. Watts Appreciation Society) went live with a fantastic website that provides an embodied energy calculator. Check out the calculator at – and the associated blog.

With minimal information – the size of a building and the building type – users can generate an estimate of the amount of embodied energy in any building, and calculate the total energy wasted by demolishing a building and constructing another structure in its place.

Bravo to the Watts Appreciation Society for taking on this task! This will make it easier for preservationists everywhere to help build a convincing case for the environmental benefits of building reuse.

The work can’t stop here though. Embodied energy only tells us part of the story. While knowing the embodied energy in a building enables us to understand how building construction and demolition compares to other energy intensive activities, such as auto use, it doesn’t help with much else. It doesn’t tell us anything about toxins that are released as a byproducts of extraction, manufacturing, construction and demolition – or the natural resources consumed in the process.

The National Trust is developing a research agenda to help quantifying the other negative environmental impacts associated with building demolition and construction. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) provides a means to do just this. LCA quantifies the energy and materials usage and environmental releases at each stage of a product’s life cycle, including extraction of resources, manufacturing of goods, construction, use and disposal.

LCA is in its infancy – and unfortunately doesn’t lend itself very well to a handy calculator of the variety the Watts Appreciation Society has created. But the Trust is committed to harnessing LCA to help articulate the benefits of building preservation. Stay tuned to the blog for as the details of our research agenda are finalized.

In the meantime – congrats to the folks in Highland Park, and happy embodied energy calculating to the rest of 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.