True Green Cities / Historic Preservation Equals Sustainability

The Lee H.Nelson Hall in Natchitoches, LA , the headquarters of NCPTT, is the focus of a "greening plan" showing how a historic building can go green.

The Lee H.Nelson Hall in Natchitoches, LA , the headquarters of NCPTT, is the focus of a “greening plan” showing how a historic building can go green.

The Urban Green Council, the USGBC chapter of New York City, invited me to speak about historic preservation and sustainability on Thursday, January 22nd at 6:30 in TriBeCa. They also asked me some questions.  Here is part one of that Q & A.

How does sustainability in historic buildings differ from sustainability in some of the older, non-historic buildings around New York? How would you describe the unique challenges? Unique opportunities?    

The construction and operation of buildings accounts for almost 50% of the United States greenhouse gas emissions. But reusing and retrofitting our existing buildings can reduce these emissions dramatically. From the simple action of preparing a National Register nomination, to developing a regulatory review mitigation plan, to preparing a sustainability master plan, to designing a LEED certified rehabilitation – these are all green building practices because they help keep what’s here and in doing so, avoid new impacts.

In many respects, historic preservation methodologies are just sound, common-sense approaches to protecting the resources, culture and heritage of our planet and that is inherently sustainable development. And this methodology can be used on a National Historic Landmark or a contemporary shopping mall. There are many ways to make your building or site greener, through green housekeeping recommendations or capital improvements. Why choose to be more environmentally conscious? Because not only is it good for the planet, it is sound business practice. When you improve your efficiency and resource use, you improve your bottom line by providing more funding for your core missions and that’s just good for everyone.

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