Historic Preservation is one of the most inherently “green” professions in addition to providing a multitude of benefits to communities. It can be an effective economic tool for redevelopment, foster business development, create jobs and strengthen communities. Yet many see efforts at historic preservation merely as exercises in nostalgia and as an infringement on property rights. The following are some reasons other than wanting to retain beautiful buildings for being a proponent of historic preservation:
- When you choose to repair and restore an existing home, you are performing the ultimate recycling project. Sustainable practice recommendations include considering the embodied energy of products in addition to the long-term energy savings. When a historic home is demolished, all the energy used to produce and assemble the home is wasted. Since the energy is already expended, preserving the home has much less impact on the environment.
- Historic Preservation reduces landfill wastes. Estimates vary, but it is commonly accepted that between 15% and 20% of municipal solid waste comes from construction and demolition projects. Obviously, landfill debris would be reduced if more people choose to preserve an existing building rather than demolish and build new. When true preservation practices are followed during historic home renovations (“repair rather than replace”), waste is reduced even more.
- According to noted economist and historic preservation advocate, Donovan Rypkema, “Sustainable Development requires environmental responsibility, economic responsibility, and social/cultural responsibility.” Preservation and renovation of existing building stock is the one type of development that merges these three elements, helping maintain vibrant, livable communities in addition to being environmentally and economically responsible.
- Since most historic Florida buildings were built without air conditioning, they already utilize many energy saving features that “green” designers are rediscovering. Items such as wide overhangs, operable windows with screens, screen doors, awnings and ceiling fans can reduce cooling costs when used during our more temperate months instead of relying on mechanical systems. In addition, historic buildings are often constructed of more durable materials than are readily available today.
- We agree completely with the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s policy statement on community revitalization: “Revitalizing our historic hometowns and Main Streets is not about nostalgia. It is about reinvesting in our older and historic neighborhoods. Preservation-based community development not only protects our heritage, but also is a viable alternative to sprawl that creates affordable housing, generates jobs, supports independent businesses, increases civic participation, and bolsters a community’s sense of place.”
- Historic preservation makes economic sense. Studies have shown that investment in historic neighborhoods and commercial centers stabilize property values, encourage redevelopment, stimulate business development, and generate tourist dollars.
Places that people love and care about do not spring up overnight; they are built over time, giving them a sense of those who came before and developing character that is unlike anywhere else. Preserving these buildings and sites gives us a sense of place and provide a tangible link to our heritage. We hope that Historic Shed products and services can help efforts to maintain and preserve historic properties while improving their functionality.