Green

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 www.thegreenestbuilding.org – 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.

Students Take on Neighborhood Sustainability and Preservation

Posted on: January 24th, 2008 by Patrice Frey

 

The National Trust and the University of Pennsylvania’s program in historic preservation (my alma mater!) are partnering to offer a Seminar on Sustainability, Planning and Historic Preservation. The class met for the first time last Wednesday – we started out with a great conversation about how the concept of “sustainable development” emerged and has evolved over the last 20 years or so.

The class project is focused on LEED for Neighborhood Development standards, which have been released by the US Green Building Council. I think this marks an important shift for the USGBC – away from the one-dimensional focus on the environmental aspects of building – to thinking more holistically about the components of a sustainable community, including the social dimensions.

LEED-ND is in its pilot phase, which provides a fantastic opportunity to take the standards for a test drive. Students will apply LEED-ND to several different neighborhood typologies, including historic neighborhoods in urban neighborhoods and close-in suburbs. The process should inform our understanding of the sustainable characteristics of historic neighborhood -- i.e. what can we learn about different types of historic neighborhood when we evaluate them in a systematic way using sustainability criteria? At the same time, evaluating historic neighborhoods will also inform our understanding of these new sustainability standards -- i.e. what can historic neighborhoods teach us about sustainability and LEED for Neighborhood Development?

My colleague Rhonda Sincavage from State and Local Policy and I will be co-teaching the course along with Randall Mason, an Associate Professor in Penn’s historic preservation program. We’re thrilled that 20 or so students are enrolled – and that there is such a strong interest in this subject among students.

Check out the course blog at hspvcpln742.blogspot.com. Students have posted entries this week with their response to National Trust President Richard Moe’s speech on the sustainability-preservation nexus. Their posts provide some great food for thought. You can see Richard Moe’s speech on sustainability and preservation at www.nationaltrust.org/Magazine/current/moe.htm.

Look forward to more posts on the class blog in the coming weeks.

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.

Ravioli, Pierniki & Authenticity: Thoughts for a New Year

Posted on: January 1st, 2008 by Barbara Campagna 1 Comment

 

Pierniki

Before last week I would never have imagined that I would use these three words in the same sentence – ravioli, pierniki and authenticity – let alone that they would have a connection. Last weekend I decided to bake cut-out cookies for Christmas – something I had Cut out cookies known as “Pierniki”not done in a few years. For me, baking Christmas cookies is a way to hearken back to my childhood and contribute to a traditional holiday season, as well as completely ignore my usual diet! I am not an inherent baker, I can improvise any kind of sauce or appetizer, but when it comes to baking I need to follow a recipe with no deviations. So I went in search of my Polish grandmother’s recipe for “pierniki” – the classic Polish Christmas cookies my mother, sister and I used to make together every Christmas. Having moved across the continent twice in the past 5 years, that was no easy task. I could not find the recipe anywhere – in my file cabinet, in any of my cookbooks, in any of my drawers. So I did what any normal person would do, and called my mother. Of course she would have or know the recipe by heart. But my mother moved for the first time in 30 years this year, and guess what, she couldn’t find the recipe either. And she couldn’t remember it either. Between the two of us we remembered all of the ingredients, but not the amounts…what to do?

Well, I did the next thing any normal person would do, I googled “pierniki”. And this is when it got really weird. Ten different postings for pierniki came up, including one in Wikipedia. All ten were similar, but not one of them was even vaguely similar to what I remembered as our classic Polish pierniki recipe. There were barely any of the same ingredients. It was not my grandmother’s recipe. So why did she call it “pierniki”? I briefly thought about trying the recipe anyhow, but it sounded horrible! I wanted the moist, sugar-filled cookie of my youth, regardless of what it really was. After ranting to my mother that we had lost this last tradition forever, she suggested that I google the main ingredients we remembered and see what came up. So, in went “sour cream, Crisco, anise oil, cutout cookie”. And voila!! Up came the recipe immediately – exactly as we remembered it, only one odd thing happened – it was listed as a traditional Christmas cookie under “Southern Cooking”. Southern cooking? The furthest south my grandmother had ever been was Erie, Pennsylvania. Did they mean “southern Poland”? I briefly thought about looking at a map of Poland to see if Warsaw was in southern Poland, but in looking at the webpage again I realized, no, this was definitely listed under Southern American cooking. I decided to file this in the back of my mind while I actually got to work baking the cookies. Twelve hours and 130 cookies later, I took the first bite and indeed was transported back to my early Christmases.

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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.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at bcampagna@bcampagna.com.

A Report from the Greenbuild Conference in Chicago – Part 2

Posted on: December 19th, 2007 by Barbara Campagna

 

Presenting the Sustainability Initiative of the National Trust

Two colleagues and I presented the Sustainability Initiative of the National Trust to a room of 250+ Greenbuild-goers on Friday, November 9th. The large number in attendanclincoln-cottage.jpge was a great relief and an indication, I think, that interest in the intersection of historic preservation and green building is not limited or marginalized to the choir of preservationists who have been singing that tune for the past few years. I began the session by asking how many in attendance consider themselves to be preservation professionals – and only a handful raised their hands. But when I asked how many were National Trust members, the hands of about 2/3 of the attendees enthusiastically shot up. Maybe more people are listening than we realize.

We have a multi-component work plan but below are the key issues we presented.

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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.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at bcampagna@bcampagna.com.

When is Demolition Justified?

Posted on: December 5th, 2007 by Barbara Campagna

 

The Jesse Baltimore House, Washington, DC demolishedThere was an article on WashingtonPost.com today that really got me thinking about when demolition is appropriate. Entitled “The District Shows Some Spine”, the columnist applauded DC’s Historic Preservation Office for standing up to some local preservationists in the Palisades neighborhood and refusing to landmark a deteriorating Sears-kit house.

I had seen the many articles about the house over the past few months in my local Upper Northwest newspaper, and without thinking too much about it, just assumed, “Why of course it should be saved.” But we can’t and we shouldn’t save everything, and instead I found myself this morning admiring the journalist for his views and the DC Preservation Office for their gumption.

But, beyond cultural value, demolition of buildings takes on a new urgency in these days of climate change and disposable living. A report from the Brookings Institution projects that by 2030 we will have demolished and replaced 82 billion square feet of our current building stock. In other words, over the next 23 years, we anticipate demolishing nearly 1/3 of our existing buildings. Where will we put it all? Other than the whole embodied energy/embodied effects discussion, which is worthy of a separate posting, what does this say about our respect for our planet? In many ways, we are all struggling with the disposable lives that we have found so easy to live thanks to the industrialization and technological advances of the past century. I’m afraid I don’t have an answer – if I did, I’d probably win the next Nobel Peace Prize. These statistics keep me up at night and as much as I personally try to do my bit at recycling, I know I could do much better. But does it mean retreating back to pre-history? Never tearing down or replacing another building, regardless of their significance or durability? I’d like to think (at least I hope!) that the intellects on our planet will come up with a way to continue advancing technologically, live comfortable lives AND stop the rapid climate change. Call me an optimist…

So the article on the demolished Sears house finished with a call to DC’s preservationists to The Richardson Towers at the Buffalo Psychiatric Centertransfer their energy for a house like this one to standing up to the federal government for its plans for St. Elizabeths Hospital (a National Historic Landmark psychiatric facility). This has been an ongoing battle to find the appropriate use for a site of national significance. It’s a massive institutional complex significant for social history, architecture, landscape architecture, hospital planning, and our historic approach to serving the mentally ill. There are a variety of complexes like this around the country and most of them have not fared well. But there are some success stories, including the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, which I’ve been involved with for more than 20 years and is the only building I would chain myself to, to keep it from being demolished. http://www.richardson-olmsted.com/

The National Trust has been involved with both complexes over the years, and while I agree with the journalist’s call somewhat, it does concern me that his implication was that St. Es is more worthwhile to save because it’s of national significance, whereas the Sears house was only possibly of community interest. One of the beauties of the National Register process has always been to me that it doesn’t rank the significance of sites – all sites listed are important as contributors to the story of America – and no story is any more important than another.

You can see I’ve been all over the place with my thoughts regarding the demolition of the Sears house in the Palisades. No, not everything can or should be saved. Yes, community landmarks are as important to the story of America as National Historic Landmarks. Yes, our landfills are too full as it is and losing embodied energy is never a good thing in how it affects climate change. We can’t build our way out of climate change, but we also can’t freeze our way out of it either. The answer will be much more complicated and require preservation when it makes sense, and sound green building when that makes sense. We can’t save them all but we can be wise about what we save and what we build.

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.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at bcampagna@bcampagna.com.