Old is the New Green
By James H. Schwartz | From Preservation | March/April 2010
My family has never been particularly good at "new." Anyone who's seen our homes (or furniture) will tell you that "gently used" and "richly patinated" are our hallmarks of pride.
That's one of the reasons I'm confused by those who claim that old buildings stand in the way of a greener America. Old isn't obsolete, it's versatile!
Every month reporters and editors at Preservation document historic structures with extraordinary green potential. Why replace them? Why waste the time, money, and energy when what already exists is infinitely adaptable?
That sentiment is shared by the owners of the Empire State Building, as Senior Editor Sudip Bose learned when he headed to New York last fall to learn about efforts to transform the Art Deco landmark. As Sudip said after his tour of the skyscraper, "These owners are really doing it. They're proving that making an old building energy efficient can be cost effective—and result in significant profits." See what he discovered at the Empire State Building, and I bet you'll share his enthusiasm.
Kelly and Clint Clemens, who live in a fine, brick firehouse in Newport, R.I., feel much the same way. When they discovered that their 19th-century property threatened to collapse in a heap because of failing mortar, they didn't send the beams and bricks to a landfill. They dismantled and rebuilt Redwood Hose Station 8, creating a "new old house" that celebrates history and state-of-the-art energy efficiency at the same time. See "Brick by Brick" to learn more.
And for one more superb example of energy savings blended with innovative restoration, don't miss Executive Editor Arnold Berke's tale about Woodlawn in Virginia. With a commitment born of experience and a deep affection for history, Tom Glass rescued that derelict Federal house, transported it to a new site, and restored it with painstaking care. His home is now a stunner. Check it out.
All these stories remind me of something my grandmother said: "Yes, there's a crack in the glass door at 19th Street where Grandpa had the pillow fight. But in this family we don't throw things away. We fix them, or simply enjoy them, because each one tells a tale we wouldn't want to forget."
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