Introduction to Heritage and Sustainability
Many people already practice the 3 Rs, by reducing, reusing and recycling materials such as metal, paper, glass and plastic. Reusing and rehabilitating historic buildings is a significant way to practice the 3 Rs on a much bigger scale.
"It makes no sensefor us to recycle newsprint and bottles and aluminum cans while we're throwing away buildings and sometimes even entire neighborhoods."Historic buildings are inherently sustainable. The preservation of these buildings is extremely important to curbing climate change and other negative impacts on the environment. Consider this statement by architect Carl Elefante: "the greenest building is the one that is already built."
How is the greenest building the one already built?
- Rehabilitating a building requires less energy than building a new one, so fewer fossil fuels are wasted and less greenhouse gas is produced.
- Rehabilitating buildings saves on landfill space.
- Saving a building also means saving all the
embodied energy that was used to build and maintain it. Demolishing a building is quite simply a waste of energy.
- Heritage buildings are built out of low energy intensive materials.
- Reusing old buildings cuts down on the need for new developments which encroach on our green spaces.
- Reusing old buildings fosters green lifestyle choices. Living and working in old buildings usually means living more centrally, commuting less and biking or walking more.
We need to think differently about green building. "We can't build our way out of the global warming crisis. We have to conserve our way out. This means we have to make better, wiser use of what we've already built."
How much do you think new green buildings will reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Think about it: if you put all the new LEED Platinum buildings together they will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by exactly zero. They may reduce the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, but existing CO2 emissions won't be reduced at all. In fact, a new building (LEED or not) only increases emissions beyond existing levels. We can only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by retrofitting and responsibly upgrading existing buildings. That is where the real wins are in energy reduction with buildings. The responsible and respectful rehabilitation of buildings and neighbourhoods will lead to vibrant and sustainable communities.
Quotes by Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.