Historic Homes go Green in Britain

Posted on: July 23rd, 2008 by Patrice Frey


So lately I’ve been trying to increase my tolerance for heat and run my home air conditioner a lot less. DC in the summer is the perfect environment for such a quest -- aren't we lucky! My electricity bill hit a record high in June of $33 to cool my 500 sq ft condo (compare this to spring low of $12.) Okay, I just told a tiny lie there. My condo is actually about 450 square feet – but I’m trying to make myself feel better.

Now, I know $33 is cheap these days, and there are many others with summer electricity bills far higher. Nonetheless, I’m on a mission: keep my bill under $20 during July. Granted, I’m not quite as committed as Jeffrey and Brenda Marchant who were profiled in a recent New York Times article Trying to Build a Greener Britain, Home by Home. Mr. Marchant has kept electricity logs for his home since 1960, and thanks to a handy new gadget, can track his energy usage in real time using a smart energy meter.

The villages of Brighton and neighboring Hove, where the Marchants live, have succeeded in lowering their carbon emissions by 50% in recent years, in part through steps like smart metering. But there’s more to this story. 

The Marchants live in a historic Victorian home and have significantly improved their energy usage through retrofits and behavioral changes. The article notes that many families in these two villages have made their historic houses eco-friendly, and “done it through inexpensive and nearly invisible interventions, like under-roof insulation, solar water heaters and hallway meters, that leave their homes still looking like old Victorian houses.” 

The Marchants, for example, have reduced their energy consumption with just two structural modifications to their home -- installing a solar water heating panel and insulating their attic. Another couple in the article resorted to much more drastic measures – though it wasn’t clear what the impact was on the appearance of their house.

It’s hard not to envy the British…they are just so much farther ahead on understanding the value of existing buildings, and promoting retrofits -- thanks in large part to a government that is far more progressive on these issues. We’ve got a lot further to go on this side of the pond... but I'm optimistic that things will change with what I hope will be increased focus on global warming after the election.   

Let's hope that optimism isn't just the heat affecting my judgement.

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.

Notes from New Orleans: Jackson Barracks

Posted on: July 22nd, 2008 by Walter Gallas 2 Comments


Jackson Barracks, New OrleansJackson Barracks dates to 1835, when it was established to house the Federal garrison at New Orleans. It saw service during the Mexican War, the Civil War, and both World Wars. Reflecting the time period of its initial approval by the United States War Department, the historic officers' and enlisted men's quarters around a central parade ground survive as a unique collection of Greek Revival buildings in one spot. It is now the home of the Louisiana National Guard.

Located as it is at the Orleans-St. Bernard Parish line at the downriver boundary of New Orleans, Jackson Barracks suffered considerable flooding and damage as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

The damage notwithstanding, the state has committed to rebuilding the installation. With those plans comes Section 106 historic preservation review, since FEMA funds will be used.

... 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.

A Loss for the Trust, Preservation Movement

Posted on: July 21st, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation


I am saddened to report that Jack Walter, the sixth president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation from 1984 to 1992, died unexpectedly this past weekend.

Jack Walter was a passionate preservationist who cared deeply about the special places that are our legacy from the past. Using the skills and experience he had acquired in a long and distinguished public-service career, he led the National Trust for Historic Preservation to become the strong, effective organization it was meant to be -- and helped bring new life to historic buildings, neighborhoods and landscapes from coast to coast. All of us who work to keep America's heritage intact and alive are deeply in his debt.

-- Richard Moe, President, 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.

Need Help Greening Your Wood Windows? Check this out!

Posted on: July 18th, 2008 by Patrice Frey 4 Comments


windowgraph.jpgWindows tend to be a "flash point" in the dialogue between green building advocates and preservationists, with preservationists preferring to retain character-defining windows, and green building advocates often arguing that it is necessary to replace windows to improve energy performance. It's safe to say that the National Trust gets more questions about this issue than any other related to the Sustainability Initiative, and we receive many requests for step-by-step technical assistance for greening historic windows. Our new Tip Sheet for Historic Wood Windows addresses many of these questions. The tip sheet, which was prepared by Rebecca Williams of the Northeast Office, explores the environmental benefits of retaining wood windows and offers suggestions for greening windows.

Interestingly, data from the U.S. Dept. of Energy finds that windows usually account for about 10% of energy loss in buildings, while walls, ceilings, and floors account for 31% of thermal loss. And as Barbara Campagna and I have mentioned in previous blog entries, studies have demonstrated that properly weatherized historic windows perform about as well as new, thermally resistant windows. Nevertheless, there continues to be concern about the issue of windows, and the widespread perception that going green automatically requires replacing windows.

The Windows Tips Sheet is really just the beginning of our work on the issue. Because this topic is so important, we’ve established a comprehensive Historic Windows Assessment Project to study windows more comprehensively.  Thanks to partial funding from the National Center for Preservation Training and Technology, the first phase of our Historic Windows Assessment Project will compare historic windows to the latest in green technology and create a "decision matrix" to help building owners decide the most appropriate path to improving their windows. The research will be undertaken with scientists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

The second phase of the research will look at windows in the context of thermal loss in the entire building to help demonstrate the importance of looking at buildings holistically, rather than focusing on one source of thermal loss. The third phase will look at the total life cycle impacts associated with replacing rather than reusing an existing window. In other words, instead of just looking at energy saved through operation of a new window, this study will look at the environmental costs of manufacturing new windows and replacing them periodically since they typically cannot be repaired.

In the meantime, have a look at the Tip Sheet, and tell us what you think!

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.

Lost in the Flood: The Vavra House, Cedar Rapids

Posted on: July 15th, 2008 by Sarah Heffern


Last week, staff from our Midwest Office visited Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which was devastated by last month's floods. In the video below, Michael Richards, a homeowner they met -- whose residence is slated for demolition -- talks about his home, and its role in both the history of Cedar Rapids and as a part of his personal history. It is, in Mr. Richards' own words, a reminder that historically important structures are not just grand buildings, but also the, "small homes and traditional neighborhoods" that were lost in the flood.

Information on dealing with flood damage is available on our website.

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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

It’s Rally Cap Time for Tiger Stadium

Posted on: July 11th, 2008 by Matt Ringelstetter


Tiger StadiumWednesday marked a sad day for a two-time member of the National Trust’s List of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Although demolition began in June, the most significant damage to Detroit’s Tiger Stadium began this week to the park that legends like Ty Cobb, Willie Horton, and Hank Greenberg once called home field. The stadium opened in 1912 and owed its unique design to the corner location on Michigan Avenue and Trumball Boulevard. In addition to its corner design, Tiger Stadium featured a signature 125 foot tall flagpole to the left of center field and an upper deck that overhung right field by ten feet.

The Stadium has played host to some of the most fabled moments of America’s sport, such as Babe Ruth’s 700th home run in 1934, the voluntary end of Lou Gehrig’s 2,130 consecutive game streak, and what is considered to be the longest confirmed home run in the history of the game—a shot by Ruth that traveled close to 600 feet on the fly.

Is there any hope for the ballpark? Or will it meet the same demise as Ebbetts, Comiskey, and Forbes? The Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy, a Corktown based non-profit, is trying to prevent just that, and is raising money to help save part of the historic stadium for use as a banquet hall, museum and office space. Time is running out, but the efforts of the Conservancy and others are in the right direction, and need all the help they can get.

Read Preservation Magazine's February article on "Detroit's Field of Dreams."

Hearts Break as Tiger Stadium Falls [Detroit News]

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.