Written by Denise Ryan

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but getting a home energy audit has been on my to-do list for at least three years. So what got me moving? What got me to face the “inconvenient truth” that my house leaks like a sieve.

The answer: guilt, a growing concern about global warming, and my public policy co-worker, Patrice Frey.

Patrice leads the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Sustainability Initiative, which recently launched the Preservation Green Lab in Seattle to preserve (sustainably, of course) older and historic buildings. Now, it probably won’t surprise you that we do “talk shop” at work. Thanks to these water cooler conversations, it wasn’t long until I was sufficiently inspired to, as Mahatma Gandhi would say, “be the change [I] wish to see in the world.”

As a first step, I visited Angie’s List, an independent website that provides hundreds (maybe thousands) of reviews for service companies in D.C. and beyond. I’ve had great experiences with them looking for everything from plumbers to pet sitters, so I logged on and searched for an energy audit company. And that’s how I found Pascale Maslin with Energy Efficiency Experts, an expert/entrepreneur who conducts all of the audits herself. Much to my surprise, we were able to schedule an audit just one week later. No chance to backslide now; we were moving ahead.

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Pascale prepares my front door for the blower test, which helped us track down leaks and drafts.

Now for some background on my house. Built in 1956 and located in Cheverly, Maryland, it’s a detached, three-level Cape Cod with three bedrooms, two baths and a full basement. In addition to some high bills, I’ve got very little attic insulation, original windows, an old furnace, an old air conditioner, and an odd temperature discrepancy between the main floor and the upper level. I’ve done some starter improvements here and there (installed a programmable thermostat, replaced light bulbs, put a blanket around my hot water heater, etc.), but I knew that nothing would compare to the expertise of a professional home energy audit.

On audit day, the first thing Pascale did was conduct a blower door test, which sucks all of the air out of the house so that drafts, holes and cracks are easier to detect. She built a custom frame around my front door and inserted a shockingly powerful fan through an elasticized hole. Once she flipped the switch, we (very systematically) walked the entire house checking for air coming through any and everything. Among other things, we found a leak in my fireplace’s flue vent and a good size hole around the pipe under my kitchen sink. Oh, and the door to the basement was a veritable wind tunnel! What was that about?

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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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Wisconsin, Home to Earth Day Pioneers

Posted on: April 22nd, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Trent Margrif

With Earth Day, many pioneers in the land preservation and conservation movement are recognized throughout the state of Wisconsin. Gaylord Nelson, former state Governor and United States Senator is widely credited with the invention of the concept of Earth Day in 1970. This legacy and the history of Gaylord Nelson are well chronicled and shared with images, speeches, and overall great information.

John Muir, a pioneering advocate of natural preservation and founder of the Sierra Club, lived at Fountain Lake Farm near Montello, Wisconsin during his youth in the 1850s. The formation of his conservation philosophy can be traced to the years he spent here. The site is a National Historic Landmark, though no structures associated with Muir’s period of residence currently remain. The farm is part of a 125 acre park owned, operated, and open to the public by Marquette County.

The Leopold Shack, viewed from the back.

The Leopold Shack, viewed from the back.

More recently, Aldo Leopold is viewed as a pioneer in the modern land conservation movement. In the 1940s, his ideas represented a shift towards preservation and appreciation of nature in an early impetus for the modern environmental movement. It was during his time at the family cabin, “the Shack” that he formulated these thoughts in the groundbreaking Sand County Almanac, published a year after his death in 1948.

In 2003, the Aldo Leopold Foundation received a grant of $5,000 from the National Trust for Historic Preservation towards a Historic Structures Report for the Leopold Shack. This report assisted restoration efforts and it currently is utilized for public education tours. Visitors can now experience the property as Aldo Leopold did and gain perspective on his thoughts regarding land conservation. The green restoration of the shack will be featured in an upcoming presentation on May 29th, 2009. Also make sure to check out the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center. It is a newly constructed building, but for awhile was the greenest building in the world and makes an interesting comparison with the Shack.

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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.

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.

Main Street Stimulus – Myth or Reality?

Posted on: April 21st, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

The National Trust Main Street Center has been leading a movement to revitalize America’s traditional and historic downtowns – our Main Streets – since 1980. But our concept of Main Street, a bustling central business district that is the heart of a community, is not necessarily the Main Street policy makers and pundits are referring to when they talk about economic recovery.

As Doug Loescher, director of the Center says in a recent online article:

Last November, for example, the U.S. Conference of Mayors endorsed the "Main Street Stimulus," a series of "shovel-ready" projects that would put people back to work, while rebuilding our infrastructure. Many of those ideas made it into the final stimulus package, approved by Congress and President Obama last month. And as recently as last week, Main Street coordinators in our network have been peppered with questions about the stimulus, and what it means for them.

First things first… the much-talked about "Main Street Stimulus" as endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors is in no way connected with the National Trust Main Street Center, the Main Street program, or our network. Moreover, most of the "shovel-ready" projects will not take place on – or even near – a Main Street.

But this, of course, is not the whole story. To learn more, check out Doug’s Main Street News story of the week.

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.

New Threats to the Minidoka National Historic Site

Posted on: April 20th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Elaine Stiles

Entrance to Minidoka, 1944.

Entrance to Minidoka, 1944.

The Minidoka National Historic Site (NHS) in Jerome County, Idaho is a place with a hard past, and for the past few years, a pretty challenging present, too. Now a National Park unit, Minidoka was one of ten relocation centers for persons of Japanese descent during World War II. The National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the Minidoka NHS as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2007 because of threats posed to the site by construction of a 13,000 head factory dairy farm less than a mile away. The farm has the potential to ruin the visitor experience at Minidoka, flooding it with foul odors, dust, and pests. After a long local permitting process and subsequent lawsuit, the county granted the permit to construct the farm, though no building has begun. Late last year, the National Trust, a consortium of advocates for the historic site, and local property owners filed a lawsuit to stop construction of the farming operation on procedural and constitutional grounds.

Now the Minidoka NHS faces a new potential threat. A portion of a planned 500-mile, 500 kilovolt electric transmission line between Idaho and Nevada is proposed to traverse or run less than one quarter of a mile away from the NHS. Conceived of more than 20 years ago, the Southwest Intertie Project (SWIP) was granted a right-of-way through what is now the Minidoka NHS by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. (The BLM managed the land that is now the NHS before the designation.) The independent power company pursuing the SWIP is also considering alternatives to the existing right-of-way, some of which would place the power line a short distance outside the main entrance of the NHS. These massive power lines would greatly impact the integrity of the historic site and potentially affect interpretive planning.

The Minidoka NHS is a fledgling National Park unit. The site is still awaiting funding to realize the interpretive plans the Park Service and its partners, including former internees and their families, crafted after its designation in 2001. Minidoka has much to teach us about the story of Japanese Americans in our country, the American homefront during World War II, and perhaps most importantly, the history of civil liberties and human rights in the U.S. Recently, Congress recognized this importance by authorizing the Park Service to expand the bounds of the NHS to include adjacent resources and partially funding a national grant program to interpret, protect, and restore Japanese American confinement sites nationwide. Much work remains to be done, however, to protect Minidoka and its story against the ill effects of industrial agriculture and our ever-growing energy needs.

Learn More:

Elaine Stiles is a Program Officer in the Western Office of 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.

 

Desert Preservation and Vonnegutian Landscape Construction: An architectural Association student in London has proposed the construction of a 6,000 km long sandstone wall to help curtail future spread of the Sahara. The project won first prize at the Holcim Foundation's Awards for Sustainable Construction, due to the proposed use of an "microorganism readily available in marshes and wetlands, that solidifies loose sand into sandstone." [BLDGBLOG]

What Made the Windy City Work?: The city plan of Chicago proposed by Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett is one hundred years old. Urbanophile takes a look at what made the Burnham Plan and the integrated series of projects it called for a success. [Urbanophile]

Montpelier Asks: What is Provenance?: "You may have heard the term if you have visited a museum, watched “Antiques Roadshow” or “History Detectives”, or collect antiques. A good definition for “provenance” is, “a history of who owned an object”. As you can imagine, at Montpelier, we are very interested in objects that were previously owned by James and Dolley Madison; one way to describe these pieces is to say that they had “Madison provenance”." [Montpelier Restoration and Curatorial Blog]

Realize Hudson Rise: Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Kirsten Dunst and other NYC celebs are organizing a grassroots campaign to protect a lower Manhattan neighborhood and its parks. [RealizeHudsonRise]

RIY to Replace DIY: The "Reuse it Yourself" movement is here to revolutionize the "Do it Yourself" method when it comes to construction and the use of building materials. [WorldChanging]

Development at Nationals Park: The Nat's record isn't the only thing slumping these days in the SE corner of the city. If you took in a game at National's Park this week, (and based on what the stands looked like on television, you didn't) you probably saw that for the second straight year, the much-hyped advertisements for development within the area hide nothing but construction holes and stalled progress. "Baseball stadium backers promised a lively entertainment district when the D.C. government poured nearly $700 million into building Nationals Park: a hub of bustling shops, restaurants, hotels, condos and office tower to draw patrons year-round." It doesn't appear that will be happening any time soon. [Washington Post]

UNC-Greensboro's Quad Development: "...Advocates for historic buildings would hope that a design solution involving an architectural recreation not be followed. If the Quad is destroyed for new housing, they reason, the campus would be better served to include buildings of this era instead of those that reflect architectural tastes of the early twentieth century." [Greensboro's Treasured Places]

Linking Place and Space...from space: Pentagram Architects "was asked to mark the points of arrival in Newark and to address the history and culture of the city in the urban landscape." And how to do this? With Google Earth, of course. [Pentagram Blog]

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.