April 22nd is Earth Day! Did you know preservation and sustainability go hand-in-hand? As preservation focuses on the restoration and reuse of existing structures, resource and material consumption are reduced. Not only does this result in less waste in landfills, it also requires less energy to restore buildings than it does to demolish them and construct new ones. The facts are startling:
- In the United States, 43% of carbon emissions and 39% of total energy use is a result of the construction and operation of buildings. The environmental impact is even greater when the greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing building materials and products are considered.
- If the US continues its current trends of development, by the year 2030 approximately one-third of the nation’s building stock will have been demolished and rebuilt – for a total of 82 billion square feet. The energy consumption that requires would be enough to power the 37 million residents of the state of California for an entire decade.
- 2/3 of all non-industrial solid waste in the US comes from building-related construction and demolition debris. The average demolition yields 155 lbs. of waste per square foot, and new construction yields 3.9 lbs. of waste per square foot of building area.
Clearly, current construction patterns are not working. A second option must be considered – preserving existing historic structures.
Can historic buildings be energy efficient? Dispelling myths:
Over the past few decades, many strides have been made to develop “high performance” or “green” buildings. While these advancements have been enormous, they have largely – and erroneously – been seen as exclusive to new construction. However, considering the environmental costs of new construction, erecting “green” buildings from the ground up is not as effective as upgrading historic structures. Not only can historic buildings be updated with modern, energy efficient features and systems, they are also by nature more environmentally friendly. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy states that commercial buildings constructed before 1920 use less energy per square foot than buildings from any other decade until 2000 – and even then, buildings from the 2000s only use 424 BTUs fewer of energy consumption per year than their pre-1920s counterparts.
The statistics may be surprising – but there is a straightforward explanation. Many historic buildings were designed with passive systems, before the widespread use of electric lighting and powered heating and cooling. Thus, these structures were made to take advantage of ventilation, solar orientation, and natural daylight by design – characteristics that are again being forefronted in 21st century “sustainable” construction. Further, the materials used to create these historic structures such as concrete, wood, glass, and steel, are more durable than their modern competitors.
How can the Heritage Home Program help?
Though the merits of historic buildings cannot be overstated, many recent advancements are undeniable in their effectiveness, including modern heating and cooling systems, and alternative energy forays such a solar power. That’s why the Heritage Home Program supports updating such systems in historic homes. You don’t have to take our word for it – the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation also allow for modern amenities to be implemented in historic buildings. With this in mind, the Heritage Home Program can help ensure your home is energy efficient – saving both the planet and your wallet. Some examples include:
- Site Visits: Free, thirty-minute site visits are available for homeowners in participating communities in homes that are fifty years or older. Our construction specialist is able to come out to your home and discuss ideas for how to make your house more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
- Technical Assistance: The HHP staff can match you with qualified contractors in your area to upgrade your existing systems or install alternative energy products, review estimates from contractors, and discuss what updates might be right for you and your home.
- Heritage Home Loan: The Heritage Home loan can be used to fund the replacement and insulation of modern heating, cooling, and electrical systems. From updated furnaces to solar panels, we can do it all!
- Window Repair Resources: Though often-perpetuated, the idea that new windows are more effective than original windows is a myth. In fact, replacement windows only last an average of 10-20 years, whereas with the correct maintenance, original windows can survive indefinitely. Window repair and rehabilitation reduces the disposal of original windows into landfills, and is more environmentally effective than manufacturing new windows. Furthermore, the vinyl materials most new windows are constructed with, are neither biodegradable nor easily recycled; vinyl is infamously considered to be a “red” material by green building standards. Additionally, adding storm windows, caulking, and using weatherstrips can make original windows as energy efficient as new replacements. Want more information on how to restore your home’s windows? CRS is hosting a wood window presentation in April and HHP is hosting two window repair workshops in June. Please contact us for more information, or check the calendar on our website for the full schedule of events.
Whether you want solar panels on your roof or a new boiler in your basement, the Heritage Home Program is here to help. Give us a call at (216) 426-3116, or shoot us an email at hhp@heritagehomeprogram
– we are looking forward to hearing from you! You can also check out our website, heritagehomeprogram.org
, for more information about the program, or to schedule a site visit online. There are so many ways to renovate existing buildings to maximize energy performance – get started today!