Study links historic preservation, environmental benefits

A report produced by the Preservation Green Lab of the National Trust for Historic Preservation provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the potential environmental benefit of building reuse.

This groundbreaking study, “The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse,” concludes that, when comparing buildings of equivalent size and function, building reuse almost always offers environmental savings over demolition and new construction.

The report’s key findings offer policy-makers, building owners, developers, architects and engineers compelling evidence of the merits of reusing existing buildings as opposed to tearing them down and building new. Those findings include:

Reuse Matters — Building reuse typically offers greater environmental savings than demolition and new construction. It can take between 10 to 80 years for a new energy efficient building to overcome, through efficient operations, the climate change impacts created by its construction. The study finds that the majority of building types in different climates will take between 20 to 30 years to compensate for the initial carbon impacts from construction;

Scale Matters — Collectively, building reuse and retrofits substantially reduce climate change impacts. Retrofitting, rather than demolishing and replacing, just one percent of the city of Portland’s office buildings and single family homes over the next ten years would help to meet 15 percent of their county’s total CO2 reduction targets over the next decade;

Design Matters — The environmental benefits of reuse are maximized by minimizing the input of new construction materials. Renovation projects that require many new materials can reduce or even negate the benefits of reuse;

The Bottom Line — Reusing existing buildings is good for the economy, the community and the environment. At a time when our country’s foreclosure and unemployment rates remain high, communities would be wise to reinvest in their existing building stock. Historic rehabilitation has a thirty-two year track record of creating 2 million jobs and generating $90 billion in private investment. Studies show residential rehabilitation creates 50 percent more jobs than new construction.

The full report can be accessed online at .

Launched in March of 2009, the Seattle-based Preservation Green Lab advances research that explores the value that older buildings bring to their communities, and pioneers policy solutions that make it easier to reuse and green older and historic buildings. The Green Lab seeks to minimize carbon impacts from the built environment through direct emissions reductions from older building retrofits and reuse, and to conserve character-rich and human-scale communities that attract people to more sustainable, urban living patterns. For more information about Preservation Green Lab, visit .

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For earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage of historic preservation, click on the following links:

— A House in the City, A Home to Neighborhood History: One resident’s connection to Tacoma’s storied Wedge area —

— Ahoy History Buffs! City’s role in century-old shore leave focus of new Tacoma Historical Society exhibit —

— Behind the Times: Nevermind the buildings. Can Pierce County restore its historic preservation program? —

— Building History: THS exhibit celebrates downtown Tacoma’s architectural icons —

— Can the Bank of Buckley be Rebuilt? —

— Downtown’s Lost Block: Archived photos show Pacific Avenue’s erased history —

— High Hopes for Historic Tacoma Skyscraper —

— Long Distance Memories: A lifelong, photographic tour through Tacoma’s passenger train history —

— Long List of Concerns for Washington State Preservationists: An interview with Washington Trust for Historic Preservation’s Jennifer Meisner —

— Luzon Unlocked —

— Momentum continues for Spanish Steps rehabilitation —

— New tenant, lobby renovation for downtown Washington Building —

— Pierce County’s History Detectives —

— Preserving Tacoma’s Heritage Trees: A conversation with Marshall McClintock —

— Reaching the Register: An interview with historic preservationist Caroline T. Swope —

— Salvaging history in Tacoma’s razed older buildings —

— Saving Tacoma’s Urban Arbor: Will the City create a register of historic trees? —

— Status Seekers: The challenges and benefits to seeking historic district designation —

— Tacoma Fire Buffs: A welcome sight for local firefighters —

— Tacoma’s Heritage Streetcars: End of the line, 130 miles north —

— Tacoma’s Record Keeper: Remembering small-press publisher Marshall B. Skidmore —

— The Washington Trust: In an old hilltop mansion, a strong voice for preservation —

— The Washington State Heritage Caucus —