News Round-Ups

Preservation Green Lab Releases New Report on the Environmental Value of Building Reuse

Posted on: January 24th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation


For a long time we’ve known that preservation helps create quality communities that are character-rich, vibrant, and dynamic places in which to live, work and play.  And there’s also been lots of good news over the years about the economic value that preservation brings – especially in tough economic times.  But today, with the Preservation Green Lab’s release of The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse, we have the most comprehensive research to date showing preservation is good for the environment too. The findings from this study offer additional compelling evidence that preservation makes sense for communities.

Each year, approximately 1 billion square feet of buildings are demolished. The Greenest Building explores the environmental impacts associated with the decision to demolish and replace existing buildings – and especially the carbon dioxide savings that might be offered by reusing and retrofitting these places instead of demolishing them. With generous funding from The Summit Foundation, this effort brought together a team of leading thinkers with unparalleled expertise in building and life cycle science.  The study team included Cascadia Green Building Council, Green Building Services, Quantis, and Skanska.

Using life cycle assessment, an internationally recognized approach to evaluating the potential environmental and human health impacts associated with products and services throughout their respective life cycles, this study compares the reuse of existing buildings to demolition and new construction.  Six different building types are examined: single family; multifamily; commercial office; mixed-use (main street style); elementary school, and warehouses converted to multifamily and commercial buildings.

Notable study findings include:

  • Building reuse typically yields fewer environmental impacts than new construction when comparing buildings of similar size, functionality and energy efficiency.  This result was found to be true irrespective of climate – though differences in climate can affect the extent of savings
  • The absolute carbon-related impact reductions can be substantial when these results are scaled across the building stock of a city.  Consider this example: In Portland, Oregon retrofitting just one percent of the city’s office buildings and single family homes that would otherwise be demolished and rebuilt over the next ten years would help to meet 15 percent of the entire county’s total CO2 reduction targets.
  • The study also explores how the reuse of an average performing existing building would stack up against a new, efficient building; it’s often assumed that a new, green building will rapidly compensate for any climate change impacts that occur during the construction process. The Greenest Building analysis finds that it can take 10 to 80 years for a new energy efficient building to compensate, through efficient operations, for the climate change impacts created by its construction.  The study finds that the majority of building types in different climates will take between 20-30 years to overcome the initial carbon impacts from construction.
  • The design of buildings matters. Those buildings that tend to use the fewest materials will have the most significant environmental savings – and in fact renovation projects that require many new materials can reduce or even negate the benefits of reuse.  It’s important to make sure buildings (whether new or existing) are designed to minimize material inputs -- and to make sure designers have the tools needed to select materials with the best environmental profile.

The bottom line:  As preservationists, the work we do to save buildings makes sense for our communities, our pocket books and our environment!  For more information on The Greenest Building, download the full report or see our report webpage.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Preservation Round-Up: Building Disneyland Edition

Posted on: January 23rd, 2012 by David Garber


Sleeping Beauty's castle, c. 1955. (Photo: Flickr user Tom Simpson)

Construction of Disneyland - Retronaut

This great photo set from Flickr user Tom Simpson shows what Disneyland looked like in 1955 while still under construction. Less costumed characters, more scaffolding.

Bridging the Gap Between Historic Preservation and Sustainability - Eco-Structure

"In the not-too-distant past, the impetus for historic preservation was simple: Prevent old buildings from being torn down so that future generations could experience them. Preservationists were accused of keeping buildings frozen in time, and their mission was often misconstrued as being at odds with that of the budding green-building movement, which championed new and energy-saving technologies. This isn’t the case today."

Purple? Pink? Yellow? Painting your old house. - Old House Web

"You’ve polished those old hardwood floors, painstakingly restored the original windows and scoured antique shops for the perfect furnishings. Your old house might be as historically accurate as you can make it on the inside, but what about the outside?"

[Editor's note: Can't say we agree with the statement that "in many cases even historic commissions are giving the enthusiastic go-ahead for vinyl siding use," the rest of the article is a good resource.]

Uncanny Valley: The Real Reason There Are No Skyscrapers in the Middle of Manhattan - The New York Observer

"It has long been believed that New Yorkers could thank God for their unusual agglomeration of buildings (or, for those on the Upper West Side not believing in His good work, eons of geological development). It turns out that Manhattan has a bedrock unusually suited to the construction of very tall buildings, in many cases just a few meters below the surface. But that solid land drops away in the gooey middle of the island, long limiting the heights of buildings in the city."

Historic churches near Cleveland Clinic campus at center of debate over preservation, land-banking -

"The Euclid Avenue Church of God and the Church of the Transfiguration sit empty on Cleveland's former Millionaires' Row, remnants of a heyday when mansions marched east from downtown. Their congregations have fled. And historic preservationists fear that both churches will disappear, swallowed up by the Cleveland Clinic's appetite for land."

Group wants to survey Pittsylvania's old tobacco barns - Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Tobacco barns are probably the most prominent symbol of the process of growing, curing and harvesting tobacco. Information on the barns will be compiled and used to eventually seek their inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register."

5 Questions with  Joe Siry on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Religious Architecture - Wesleyan University

"We ask 5 Questions of Joseph Siry, chair and professor of art and art history. Professor Siry teaches classes about modern and American architectural and urban history. His book, Beth Sholom Synagogue: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture, was published by the University of Chicago Press in December 2011."

David Garber is the blog editor at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He wonders when Disneyland will itself become a historic landmark.

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.

Preservation Round-Up: Beverly Hills Gets Preservationy Edition

Posted on: January 19th, 2012 by David Garber


After a few recent demolitions and threats, Beverly Hills is now upping preservation requirements for old homes. Super fancy cars not yet included. (Photo: Flickr user VOD Cars)

Beverly Hills takes steps to preserve architectural treasures - Los Angeles Times

"Responding to the demolition of such local icons as the Friars Club, Pickfair and John Lautner's Shusett House, the city of Beverly Hills has adopted a historic preservation ordinance that seeks to protect noteworthy structures. Prompted in part by an aborted plan to raze Richard Neutra's Kronish House, the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve new rules for demolishing or altering structures at least 45 years old and designed by a city-recognized architect."

Conserving Donald Judd at the Philip Johnson Glass House - Core77

"The installation is a concrete ring, and in approaching the Glass House from the entrance road, it is the first element in Johnson's "asymmetric sliding planes" and circles that one encounters. ... In early 2011, Glass House curator Irene Shum Allen began working with a team at Integrated Conservation Resources, based in New York, to conserve the Donald Judd work, which had been ravaged by moisture, dirt, cracks and even was serving as home to chipmunks in a large crack."

No Closure for Denver’s Beltway Loop - The New York Times

"For decades, this has been the community that said no, arguing through courts and politics and whatever other means available that a multilane ring road circling Denver — the kind built around cities all across America starting in the 1950s and ’60s — would spell disaster. Most of Denver’s belt-loop would cruise through open prairie land; here it would cleave the narrow Golden Valley and shatter the community, residents and their leaders said in what became a mantra."

Those '50s ranch homes are finallly getting some architectural respect - American Planning Association

"The ranch houses where baby boomers grew up, and the 1950s and '60s fast-food joints that the boomers frequented, are finally getting some respect. More and more, the buildings of the era are being perceived as historical structures worthy of national attention and preservation."

Preserving the Past: 10 Great Historic Preservation Projects - Urban Land

"All completed in the past five years, the following ten projects—which are listed alphabetically, not in any rank order—bring back valuable community resources from decline and neglect. Some crumbled slowly over the course of long vacancies as cities sought ways to pay for necessary seismic strengthening and repairs. Some endured early remodeling attempts that hid or destroyed ornamental details, and some were devastated by earthquake or fire, or both. Some simply suffered from dwindling use as tenant needs changed."

Preservationists defend endangered Belleview Biltmore - Tampa Bay Times

"Five days after the owners of the Belleview Biltmore filed a request to raze most of the 115-year-old hotel, a national nonprofit is urging town leaders to deny that request. "I understand the frustration when it takes longer than anticipated to find a preservation solution for a building, but the answer is not demolishing the building for the promise of something 'better' that in many cases is never built," wrote John Hildreth, a vice president at the National Trust for Historic Preservation."

SC Supreme Court to hear Charleston cruise case - CBS Money Watch

"The South Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to hear complaints brought by local residents, preservationists and an environmental group over Charleston's expanded cruise industry. A lawsuit filed last year against Carnival Cruise Lines alleges, among other things, that the company's vessels are a public nuisance in this historic city, that they amount to illegal hotel operations and that the liner's signature red, white and blue smokestacks violate city sign ordinances."

Save Ellis Island - National Park Service

David Garber is the blog editor at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Although happily carless, he wouldn't hate driving the above vehicle.

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.

Preservation Round-Up: Big Win for the Grand Canyon Edition

Posted on: January 12th, 2012 by David Garber


The National Trust is celebrating a big win this week: the announcement that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed a 20-year ban on uranium and other hard-rock mining claims on more than 1 million acres of federal land in and around the Grand Canyon. In his speech explaining the administration’s decision, Secretary Salazar reminded attendees that sometimes, “we must choose between the pressures of the now and the protection of the timeless.” Read / listen to more on the story from National Public Radio.

And now back to our regularly scheduled Round-Up...

To Preserve History on the Moon, Visitors Are Asked to Tread LightlyThe New York  Times

"California’s catalog of historic artifacts includes two pairs of boots, an American flag, empty food bags, a pair of tongs and more than a hundred other items left behind at a place called Tranquillity Base. The history registry for New Mexico lists the same items. That might be surprising, since Tranquillity Base is not in New Mexico or California but a quarter of a million miles away, in the spot where Neil A. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the moon in 1969." (Read more at Preservation in Pink)

Hard times for a tower and its murals - Los Angeles Times

"Faced with complaints from neighborhood groups, docents and even one of the artists' descendants, San Francisco has stepped up efforts to restore the landmark Coit Tower and its historical Depression-era frescoes."

Announcing The Storefront for Urban Innovation - Next American City

"In an effort to broaden our audience and expand the circle of people who are participating in the dialogue about our cities, Next American City is launching something called The Storefront for Urban Innovation. The Storefront will serve as our offices, an exhibition space and a host for small and medium-sized events. We’ve located our storefront in the Brewerytown section of Philadelphia on West Girard Avenue. This neighborhood, like many others in the city, is often described as having "seen better days.""

10 Reasons to Love Your Historic Home - The Craftsman

"A historic home is more than just a place to live; it’s a living history that you’re a part of. While the trials of owning a historic home can be daunting at times, the benefits are unrivaled. Financial benefits, architectural designs and quality of work that is unmatched by today’s standards are just a few of the reasons why you should love your historic home."

5 Tips for preventing ice dams - Old House Web

"If you have icicles hanging from your eaves, you need to take action now.  Those frozen daggers are a sign that you’ve got ice dams.  The ice dam enables the trapped water to get under the roof shingles, causing water to leak inside."

Temporary relocation prepares Oak Park cottage for modern makeover -

"When Shireesh Reddy and his wife Saritha purchased their home on Woodbine Avenue in 2010, there was no question that they were going to need to renovate the small bungalow to accommodate the needs of their family. While plenty of homeowners may feel like they have to move heaven and earth to get a sizeable home renovation project underway in an Oak Park historic district, for the Reddys that was no exaggeration."

Late suffragist Isabel Howland's house gets funding to rebuild -

"The hamlet of Sherwood was once a thriving little community in the town of Scipio. It was also a hot bed of radical activity such as abolitionism, the underground railroad and women's suffrage. In November, the board of the Howland Stone Store Museum learned the group was in line for a $400,000 grant to restore Opendore, the Isabel Howland House."

David Garber is the blog editor at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

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.

Sustainability Round-Up: Top Trends for 2012 Edition

Posted on: January 9th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment


Written by Rachel Bowdon

As highlighted in our blog last month, USGBC announced on December 7 that LEED-certified existing buildings surpassed LEED-certified new construction on a cumulative basis for the first time ever. It was a great way to finish 2011 and filled us with anticipation for what was to come in the New Year in regards to building reuse and retrofit trends.

Inside the Hearst Tower in New York, a LEED-Gold adaptive reuse project. (Photo: Flickr user suttonhoo)

As we begin 2012, we are excited to see that leaders in the sustainability and green building sectors are projecting that the focus on existing buildings (and older and historic buildings in particular) will not just continue, but get stronger. From programs and policies that encourage energy performance benchmarking and building renovations, to public/private partnerships that encourage energy audits and efficiency, most in the industry agree that reuse and retrofits will be one of the top 2012 green trends. To see for yourself, check out the lists of top trends we’ve compiled below:

Top Green Building Trends for 2012 - Green Building Services

In their top ten green building trends for 2012, Green Building Services (GBS) predicts that existing building renovations “will take center stage” in 2012 because it is “arguably more sustainable and cost effective than new construction.” We should expect to see increased energy benchmarking and continuous commissioning as well as building envelope commissioning in the coming year. In addition, GBS projects that there will be a rise of LEED Multiple Building certification efforts which allows a more cost efficient approach for owners of smaller, new or existing buildings under the control of a single entity to achieve green building goals.

Top Ten Global Mega Trends for 2012 Green Building Consultant

Similarly, green building industry leader Jerry Yudelson expects that “the focus of the green building industry will continue its switch from new building design and construction to greening existing buildings.” Yudelson, author of Greening Existing Buildings, believes that one of the drivers of this megatrend is that “green buildings have rents and asset prices that are significantly higher than those documented for conventional office space.” In addition, Yudelson foresees that one of the fastest emerging trends will be Performance Disclosure. Performance Disclosure requires commercial building owners to report on the actual building performance to all new tenants and buyers —this requirement has shown to encourage energy efficiency retrofits in existing buildings.

Four Sustainability Trends to Watch in 2012 - Jones Lang LaSalle

Dan Probst, Chairman of Energy and Sustainability Services of Jones Lang LaSalle also believes that energy disclosure will become a major trend in 2012 and that this requirement will help tenants and investors make better informed decisions regarding energy efficiency. Further, he projects that the strong collaboration we saw between the public and private sectors in 2011 will continue to be one of the best ways to overcome obstacles to sustainability. One example includes President Obama’s recent announcement of a $4 billion commitment in energy upgrades to public and private buildings that will be of no cost to tax payers. “Called the Better Buildings Challenge, the eight-year initiative includes $2 billion in energy upgrades of federal buildings and another $2 billion of private capital to improve energy by 20 percent in buildings totaling 1.5 billion square feet.”

Rachel Bowdon is the program assistant for the Sustainability Program at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Preservation Round-Up: Back to the Futuro Edition

Posted on: January 5th, 2012 by David Garber 1 Comment


An abandoned Futuro house near Rockwall, Texas. (Photo: Flickr user steevithak)

[Slideshow] Futuro House, 1960s - Retronaut

From Wikipedia: "Futuro House is a round, prefabricated house of which less than 100 were built during the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was designed by Matti Suuronen as a ski cabin that would be “quick to heat and easy to construct in rough terrain.” The end result was a universally transportable home that had the ability to be mass replicated and situated in almost any environment."

An Unlikely Group Rebels Against Preservation Districts - The New York Times

San Francisco: "Ms. Beckstead said she has her own plans to replace her windows and fix up her garage, but she is loath to start, in part because of the difficulty her neighbors have had getting permits. Her biggest fear, she said, is that the city will make it even harder to obtain permits by declaring her neighborhood a historical landmark district, which would empower Planning Department officials to reject any changes that they decide might violate a building’s historical integrity."

The Ace Hotel Goes To Los Angeles -

"New York City's hot spot, The Ace Hotel, is going Hollywood. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the hip hotel chain has purchased the former United Artist Building in downtown Los Angeles. The building is a historic landmark that was built by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith."

The Grid at 200: Lines That Shaped Manhattan - The New York Times

"The planners proposed a grid for this future city stretching northward from roughly Houston Street to 155th Street in the faraway heights of Harlem. It was in many respects a heartless plan. There were virtually no parks or plazas. The presumption was that people would gravitate east and west along the numbered streets to the rivers when they wanted open space and fresh air, and not spend lots of time moving north or south."

Industrial Arts Building redesign to feature greenhouses - University of Nebraska Lincoln

"Planners at Nebraska Innovation Campus today unveiled a new look and usage plan for the Industrial Arts Building, a historic structure at the former Nebraska State Fair Park. A design concept approved by the Nebraska Innovation Campus Development Corp. maintains the historic footprint and external facade of the 99-year-old building while enabling advanced greenhouse space to be developed on the second floor."

Buyer sought to save historic churchThe Indianapolis Star

"A 91-year-old stately brown-brick Downtown church building, which had been a longtime gathering place for African-Americans, has a chance to avoid demolition. That is, if someone with plenty of money and an idea for reuse of the deteriorating structure comes forward next year."

A Cuomo Microscope on Capitol Renovation - The New York Times

Albany: "No one would accuse Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of lacking attention to detail. But in recent months, his passion for the restoration of the Capitol has amazed even his closest aides, as the state’s chief executive has seemed at times more like its chief historian - or, at other moments, its chief architect, interior decorator and custodian."

David Garber is the blog editor at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He would accept a Futuro house donation for use as a mod satellite office.

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.