Kaid Benfield Jun 25, 2012
I believe that historic preservation in the right context – a healthy neighborhood – can be intrinsically green. Most historic buildings, at least the ones constructed before the days of freeways and urban flight, are on walkable streets in relatively central locations. They represent embodied energy and materials that would be consumed if the same amount of space and the same function had to be constructed anew. Also, being built before “the thermostat age,” as my friend Steve Mouzon calls it, many of them were built with attention to climate and with locally sourced materials, giving them environmentally beneficial characteristics as a matter of design.
But, by definition, historic buildings do not have the latest technology unless it is added many years later. I agree with Steve that technology can be overrated as an environmental cure-all, but there are clearly some forms of green technology that can strengthen the environmental profile of older buildings. This raises the delicate issue of how much updating can and should occur without compromising the building’s historic character.