Scott Lindlaw, Building preservation becoming green trend, Assoc. Press, April 6, 2008, available at http://www.helenair.com/articles/2008/04/06/weekly_features/at_home/top/50hg_080406_preservation.txt (last visited April 9, 2008).
According to this article from the Associated Press, Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, spoke recently at the First Church of Christ in Berkeley on preservation and sustainability.
Moe, as the article suggests, represents a contingent of preservationists whose basic message is that preservation of existing structures can be and often is more energy-efficient than new construction.
Describing the energy embodied in structures, Moe says: “It takes energy to manufacture, to extract building materials, more energy to transport them to a construction site, still more energy to assemble them into a building...All of that energy is embodied in the finished structure — and if the structure is demolished and landfilled, the energy locked up in it is totally wasted.” And so his argument goes that “buildings are vast repositories of energy.”
Scott Lindlaw, the article’s author, attempts to quantify that embodied energy in numerous ways throughout the article. Citing to the National trust for Historic Preservation, for example, Lindlaw offers that “the construction and operation of buildings sends up twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as the entire U.S. transportation sector.” And according to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (which advises the White House and Congress on historic preservation policy, notes Lindlaw), a “typical 50,000-square-foot commercial building ‘embodies’ the equivalent of 640,000 gallons of gasoline.” Moreover, that same 50,000-square-foot building built new would release as much carbon as 2.8 million miles worth of driving.
The article does not, however, advocate a program of strict preservation. Rather, Lindlaw acknowledges the trend for urban infill and cites to Paul Mackie of Seattle’s Western Red Cedar Lumber Association for the hybrid position that “both renovation and new construction” are needed. And Mackie continues: “Using sustaintable building materials like wood – especially western red cedar—that have the best environmental values are great choices.”
Still, Moe is cited for the final perspective that our practice of “out with the old, in with the new” is merely something engrained in the American mindset and culture. “…[B]ut it is changing, thank goodness,” says Moe. “[W]e’re changing that.”