Heart – “I love the old windows. Aren’t they beautiful?”
Wallet – “What are the heating bills?”
Welcome to a discussion that is growing louder and louder with no real resolution in sight. I am, of course, referring to the movement/trend towards “Green” building practices and how they are in direct conflict with many historic renovation practices.
I think that we can all agree that there needs to be preservation of our architectural heritage. No real argument there. And…there are programs at both the Federal and State levels that will refund a large portion of a developer’s costs in renovating a historic structure if it is done so within the guidelines of the National Park Service. The equity created is substantial and allow what would not be a feasible project to become a feasible one. It is, quite frankly, one of the main reasons that we have a Downtown again. We should be thankful that we have a development community that has the skill set to understand and employ these programs.
But here is the problem….the guidelines for these programs do pretty much nil to bring “green” elements to the table. Unless the windows are utterly unusable on your historic building, you have to re-use the original ones. Doors, ditto. Likewise, LEED certification is pretty much impossible in a tax credit renovation as many LEED techniques require an adjustment to the façade (a HUGE no-no), new windows (pretty hard to do), modern materials (no way) and “day-lighting” which is process by which natural light is brought into the interior of buildings through the use of atriums and/or interior courtyards (once again, hard to do within the DHR guidelines.)
Why is this so? The LEED scoring system is modern. The rules that govern the historic tax credits programs and really define the “historic renovation” process were written 15-20 years ago. It is a new world. The scoring system that governs LEED developed in a much more recent time frame and consequently, is much more “friendly” to new construction. Bottom line, the majority of new construction is suburban while historic rehabs tend to be urban.
So here we are again. If we truly want to impact our energy needs, then we need to make LEED feasible in the urban environment. Building ground up LEED is easy when compared to urban renovation. Throw in the Historic requirements, and it is darn close to impossible. We already have renovated a large number of our City’s eligible historic buildings over the past 10 years without LEED certification being an integral driver of the redevelopment process. That is unfortunate.
Imagine urban cores with revitalized historic buildings using eco friendly materials and LEED techniques. Now THAT would be making history….
Check out this article which goes into much more depth on the topic.