Retain It, Sustain It
By Arnold Berke | From Preservation | January/February 2008
A childhood memory has long persisted with me of seeing the movie of Rachel Carson's 1951 book, The Sea Around Us. It closed with huge chunks of a glacier falling into the ocean, an image the narrator magnified from dramatic to frightening by warning about melting polar icecaps and rising seas.
Those icy shards and that terrifying implication recur to me often of late as global warming matures from theory to fact. The icecaps are indeed shrinking, and all of us, consumers of energy, are being asked to do something about it. The question of what that something is permeates many quarters, including the historic preservation community, which has responded by saying its practices have always been "green."
This special issue of the magazine is devoted to the convergence of preservation and sustainability—how preservation cuts energy use by upholding historic buildings and communities and how individuals and organizations such as the National Trust are pushing our movement to play a much larger role in the campaign against global warming.
The following interview with Trust President Richard Moe, on the occasion of his receiving the Vincent Scully Prize, sets the tone. Moe explains why preservation is vital to sustainability, offering a vision of what the Trust's new initiative in this area can accomplish. "It's one of the most important things we've ever done," Moe says. Articles by Kim A. O'Connell describe that initiative ("Preaching and Practicing," page 10) and the Trust's model green project—the restoration of President Lincoln's Cottage in Washington, D.C. ("New Directions for the Old Retreat," page 26).
Green preservation is both a philosophy and a range of real-life applications. In Reporter, Jennifer Weeks assesses the LEED system, which rates the "greenness" of new construction and restoration projects ("From Mold to Gold," page 14). Contributing editor Wayne Curtis' feature ("A Cautionary Tale," page 19) articulates just how well existing buildings and cities perform in trimming energy consumption. "The reputation of older structures as energy sieves," Curtis writes, "is simply not justified by the data."
At the grass roots, associate editor Eric Wills calls the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association's revival of a popular housing type "a means of providing affordable housing, creating a green housing stock, and revitalizing Chicago's neighborhoods" ("Sweet Home, Again," page 32). For historic-house owners in general, we offer 10 ways to bring sustainability home (page 56). And Allen Freeman's tour of Harvard University ("The Greening of the Yard," page 38) profiles an institution going green, as do our six reports, appearing throughout this issue, on public and private restoration projects. Finally, and with his usual refreshing twist, Dwight Young's Back Page ("All There Is to Be," page 76) looks at sustainability via free verse.
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