The National Trust for Historic Preservation says the “greenest” buildings are ones that already exist. Why?
(1) Throwing away buildings is wasteful. Any new building represents a new impact on the environment, no matter how much green technology is employed in its design and construction. We must think of our buildings and neighborhoods as renewable — rather than disposable — resources. We need to reuse our older and existing buildings. It makes no sense for us to recycle newsprint, bottles, and aluminum cans while we’re throwing away entire buildings, or even entire neighborhoods. (Facts on the importance of building reuse are available online.)
(2) Saving buildings saves energy. The retention and reuse of older and existing buildings is an effective tool for the responsible stewardship of our environmental resources — including those that have already been expended. The continued use of our existing buildings and neighborhoods reduces the amount of demolition and construction waste deposited in landfills and lessens the unnecessary demand for energy and other natural resources required by new construction. Reinvestment in communities also preserves the energy expended in creating the existing infrastructure, such as roads, water systems, and sewer lines and can prevent sprawl.
(3) Retrofit older buildings; Save energy and money — go green. Historic and older buildings can be successfully reused for different purposes, and contrary to what many people believe, many older buildings can “go green.” These green retrofits increase energy efficiency and reduce the other environmental impacts associated with buildings. Green retrofits are also good for the pocketbook because saving energy saves money. An increasing number of sensitive and successful rehabilitation projects demonstrate that historic buildings can be greened with great respect for the distinctive character that makes them so appealing.