Can the Junk, Save the Town

Posted on: October 9th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

(This post was written as part of PreservationNation's coverage of the National Preservation Conference, October 2-6, 2007.)

How do you keep your town looking, feeling, acting, and even preserving as your town and not some other burg up the pike or across the country? That question -- how to hold on to community character (and what benefits accrue when you do) -- informed a special speech by Ed McMahon. This was an early-morning Saturday event, not the primest of times to attract those on the down slope of a long and busy conference. But preservation types are nothing if not enthusiastic and indefatigable, as they proved by showing up in huge numbers for McMahon, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute.

He really delivered. Flawlessly mixing humor and truth -- and showing plenty of slides, that beloved mode of making a good point -- McMahon illustrated the often-ignored fact that good design really pays off, not just in dollars but also with social and environmental benefits. He set the stage with the sad observation that “special and unique character has been disappearing faster than ever” but went on to show that communities can and have made U-turns toward saving their individuality.

“The problem is not development but the pattern of development,” McMahon said, flashing us a good slide/bad slide combo of, first, a well-preserved Civil War battlefield building in Virginia (beautiful!), then a high-dreck strip shopping center right next door (phooey!). Guess what, he said. Communities can choose whether or not they want this sort of thing. They can plan against such mistakes. And in the cases where development will happen anyway, they can tell developers and fast-food folks a big-fat “no” to business-as-usual design – then get the much better model. Images of McDonald’s in exquisitely local-appropriate buildings, some of them hard to distinguish from historic structures, proved this beyond a doubt.

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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.

Greening Sprawl? Why the Context of Buildings Matters

Posted on: October 9th, 2007 by Patrice Frey 2 Comments

 

Last week’s conference in St. Paul featured a presentation by Mike Jackson of the Illinois Historic Preservation.  Among preservationists, Mike is known as an Energy Guru on the subject of the energy embodied in historic buildings, and on the operational efficiency of historic buildings.   During his presentation, Mike referenced a recent article by BuildingGreen.com that found that commuting by office workers can account for far more energy use than building operations.  According to BuildingGreen calculations, commuting “accounts for 30% more energy than the building itself uses.”  As building efficiency goes up, the proportion of energy used for transportation is even more significant. “For an average new office building built to code, transportation accounts for more than twice as much energy use as building operation.”

So what does the mean?  While new green buildings – such as those certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standards -- may be energy efficient, the context in which they are located isn’t necessarily sustainable.   I’m reminded of an excellent piece I ran across recently in Greener Buildings in which Shari Shapiro discusses "green sprawl,"  -- development in which green buildings are located in unsustainable contexts.   Under most green building standards, buildings are certified as “green” because they incorporate energy efficient features, provide adequate daylighting, – and meet a host of other criteria.  While these standards may encourage development in existing urban areas, they do not require it.   

I’ve done a bit of research that seems to substantiate concerns about “green sprawl.” About 19% of LEED-NC (New Construction) projects have earned a credit for being located in a densely developed area – that means 81% of LEED-NC certified buildings don’t meet the USGBC’s requirement for dense development. Though a relatively small number of historic buildings have been LEED certified (about 35 out of more than 400), more than 50% of historic projects have earned the credit for dense development. Furthermore, over 90% of LEED-NC certified historic projects earned a credit for providing access to mass transit, as compared to about 60% of newly constructed projects.   

The research bears out expectations that many historic buildings are located in sustainable contexts – and location matters.   Rehabbing and re-using these buildings allows us to capitalize on existing infrastructure – including mass transit -- reducing those gas guzzling commutes. 

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.

Beyond Green Building: Morning Round-Up

Posted on: October 9th, 2007 by Patrice Frey

 

I'm back from St. Paul -- -and here are couple of articles that caught my eye this morning.

For Energy Consumption, There's No Place Like Home – ENN. According to a survey commissioned by the Johns Manville company (a leading manufacturer of an extensive line of energy-efficient building products, such as insulation materials) most Americans think that the transportation sector (cars, trucks, buses, etc) is the number one user of energy in the country. But the family car is not the number one energy hog, it’s the family home. (Since most homes are energized by fossil fuels, American homes are also responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions.) Tool Helps Businesses Compare Their Buildings' Carbon Emissions to Others in Same Region - ENN. Portfolio Manager is an online tool that helps buildings take control of their energy to increase energy efficiency and help protect our environment. Organizations have used Portfolio Manager to benchmark the energy performance for billions of square feet of office buildings, schools, hotels, and other buildings across the country and thousands of buildings have earned the Energy Star for superior energy efficiency.

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.

Nevada Church Will Be Reborn

Posted on: October 8th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

St. Augustine Church, NevadaLast week marked the latest milestone in the restoration of Nevada's oldest Catholic church building, St. Augustine's. That's when a new steel roof was completed for the red brick, Gothic revival and Italianate structure that has been a part of the historic silver mining town of Austin since 1866.

The new roof means no more "flown-in insulation," as the building's owner, Jan Morrison, calls the 25 cubic yards of bird droppings that accumulated in the rafters over the years by falling through gaps in the old tin and aluminum roof. Morrison isn't sure how much it weighed, but after a hazmat crew removed the guano, she says, "the ceiling raised up two inches." ... 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.

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.

Reaching Tweens

Posted on: October 6th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Author Blue Balliett signs her booksAfter three or so days of tackling issues of concern, it was a tonic on Friday afternoon to walk into a session entitled “Reaching Tweens.” The folks so labeled, I’m told, are poised between childhood and teenage – and they’re the target of a writer with the wonderful name of Blue Balliett, a Chicagoan who composes children’s mysteries. Her second thriller, The Wright 3, is all about the Trust’s very own Robie House in Chicago, menaced by demolition until three sixth-graders and their teacher band together to save the Frank Lloyd Wright landmark. It’s a proper mystery with weird events, mysterious strangers, and cryptic messages. It’s also an adventure that Balliett uses to infect her young readers with an appreciation for architecture, especially of the historic sort. “Nothing’s as important to the future of preservation,” Balliett told the audience, “than engaging the interest of our kids.”

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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.