News Round-Ups

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.

Preservation Round-Up: NIMBYs Are People Too Edition

Posted on: May 10th, 2012 by David Garber


The Mossback Manifesto on Urban Density -

"I don't think NIMBYs are always wrong. It's not an epithet in my vocabulary. In fact, they often get a bum rap for caring too much at a time when too many citizens don't care enough. NIMBYs are often good folks acting locally and who often know more than the people with clipboards and white boards. That said, I don't think the Not-in-My-Backyard stance is sustainable as a guiding philosophy. I think of NIMBYs like those little crabs you find on the beach that raise their claws when you've turned over their rock."

A Move Toward More Affordable Preservation - SFGate

"San Francisco's policy governing historic preservation districts and landmarks must take into account the financial hardship concerns of property owners and low-income housing developers, pedestrian-safety improvements and development challenges, under legislation given preliminary approval by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. [...] "San Francisco is a great historic city, but it is not a museum," said Supervisor Scott Wiener, chief sponsor of the legislation."

Historic Preservation and Its Costs - City Journal

"Historical buildings add value, interest, and beauty to cities. Beautiful architecture of the past deserves to be recognized and saved, just as we preserve other types of art. We must also recognize, however, that our cities are not museums but living and evolving centers of commerce and culture."

Can Paul Rudolph’s Architecturally Vital Orange County Government Center Be Saved? - Vanity Fair

"Rudolph, who died in 1997, was probably the finest maker of compositions in three dimensions of modern times; he could put planes and solids and lines and textures and surfaces together in a way that at its best was sublime. Rudolph buildings are like Mondrian paintings turned into space, and when you walk into them, if you can get beyond the fact that they are not warm and cuddly, they can thrill you and, at their best, ennoble you."

A Quiet War on Landmarks, or Fixing the Problems with the Preservation Commission? - The New York Observer

"Is the city’s Landmarks Law broken? To the uninitiated, that would have been the likely conclusion from a hearing held at the City Council today. Eleven different pieces of legislation addressing myriad issues at the commission were debated. [...] The city is under assault from a nanny state stuck in the past seemed to be the clear message. For the large crowd assembled in protest for what turned out to be a four hour meeting, the case was quite the opposite: It was the city’s daring Landmarks Preservation Commission, keeper of the soul of the city, that was under assault."

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.

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.

Preservation Round-Up: The Windmills of Golden Gate Park Edition

Posted on: April 30th, 2012 by David Garber


The now-restored Murphey Windmill in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, as it appeared in 2009. (Photo: itspaulkelly on Flickr)

Golden Gate Park's Historic Windmill Spins Again - San Francisco Chronicle

"The windmill, which stands in the southwestern corner of the park and has been in the process of being refurbished since 2002, is in its final phases of restoration. It will spin with its older compatriot to the north, the Dutch windmill, which has already been restored to its original appearance."

Montpelier: A Lesson in Historic Sleuthing - Old House Web

"Some finds were sheer luck. Bits of wallpaper were found in rats' nests. A photograph that happened to capture a mirror led to an understanding of the way a particular door opened into the house. The look of the original roof became clear with a single wood shingle found in the attic."

Land Swap Planned for Historic Black School -

"Central High School was an 'equalization' school that had only black students from 1956 through 1970. Some alumni have been meeting every week for the last year, discussing ways to preserve the school and bring more programs to area residents. [...] Georgia spent $30 million building 500 equalization schools all across the state in the 1950s. It was a massive resistance to integration, trying to prove that schools for blacks could be separate but equal."

Old Tennessee Jail to Become Military Museum - Chattanooga Times Free Press

"The 160-year-old Bledsoe County Jail building likely will never hold another prisoner, but it will offer a home to a military museum and the county's Veterans Service Office. [...] Two years ago, the county was awarded a $17,000 Historic Preservation Fund grant to put toward restoration."

Everyday Hero: Sam Collins III - The Galveston Daily News

"After purchasing our historic property, I was bitten by the preservation and history bug. I began researching my family history and local history. I enjoy learning about American history. I also enjoy helping others to recognize the value of the contributions of African-Americans to our shared American history. I want people to realize that African-American history is American history. African-American history is not more important than any other American history, but it is equally not less important."

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: The Barn from Charlotte's Web Edition

Posted on: April 23rd, 2012 by David Garber 2 Comments


A classic red New England barn. (Photo: Lost-In-Maylene on Flickr)

Celebrating 60 Years of ‘Charlotte’s Web’ - The New York Times

"The barn was very large. It was very old. For more than a century before E. B. White and his wife, Katharine, purchased the farm in 1933, the barn had stood on a rise above Allen Cove, Me., near the village of North Brooklin. For White, the barn was the center of their 40 acres, even more so than the big white house that was attached to it by an aromatic woodshed. The building united White’s two great writerly loves -- barnyard animals and Maine."

America’s Oldest Net-Zero Home - Natural Home & Garden

"Turning a century-old Victorian house into a net-zero home might sound like an ambitious goal for a young couple in their first home, but Kelly and Matt Grocoff, a self-described “average couple” from Ann Arbor, Michigan, did just that, and now own the oldest home in America to achieve net-zero energy."

Preserving history, or the 1 percent? - Salon

"Restricting development in pricey neighborhoods, the new thinking goes, not only cements a city’s best sections as enclaves for the rich, it has wider anti-urban reverberations. It promotes suburbanization by pricing out the middle class. It prevents densification, the greenest, most efficient use of space and the defining characteristic of cities. And less density makes walkable, retail- and transit-oriented neighborhoods harder to sustain."

On Block in Harlem, Neighbors’ Push for Restoration Will End in Demolition - The New York Times

"Gentrification, or at the very least prettification, has reshaped block after block in Harlem, but it has not fully arrived at East 126th Street between Madison and Park Avenues. There, handsome rows of century-and-a-half-old brownstones line the north and south sides of the street, just as they do one block west, on a pristine tree-lined stretch where homeowners keep polished doorknobs and spotless front stoops. But along East 126th Street, vacant buildings are interspersed among the inhabited ones."

The Distinctive City - Urban Land

"If I have learned anything from my career in urban planning, it is this: a community’s appeal drives economic prosperity. I have also learned that, while change is inevitable, the destruction of a community’s unique character and identity is not. Progress does not demand degraded surroundings. Communities can grow without destroying the things that people love."

Cleveland's past and present merge in repurposed, grand old buildings -

"Every day I come to work and I'm inspired to put as much care into my food as they put in this building," says Schimoler, chef and owner of Crop. "This place cost $1.5 million to build in 1925, and these days it would cost $30 million. Who could ever build something like this these days, especially to house a restaurant?"

Taking Guardianship of a Historic Home - The Wall Street Journal

"More than anything, owners of historic homes buy for love. Love of the artisanship, architectural details and even the quirks. Still, it’s a smart investment. A landmark plaque on a residence increases property value. It assures buyers the qualities that attracted them to the home in the first place will endure over time."

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.

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.