Going Green

Making Emerson School a model of sustainability

The National Trust has long championed the ecofriendly benefits of restoring historic structures, noting that the greenest building is the one already built. Now the organization intends to establish a model for how sympathetic rehabilitations can also achieve the highest levels of sustainability.

The Trust will convert Denver's historic Emerson School, designed by Colorado architect Robert Roeschlaub, into the new home for the Mountains/Plains regional office, as well as Colorado Preservation, Inc., and Historic Denver, Inc., two of the state’s leading preservation groups.

"We definitely want to make the case that older buildings are already energy efficient," says Barbara Pahl, the director of the Mountains/Plains regional office. "And we want to demonstrate how you can make them even more efficient."

Workers will restore the 1885 school's original windows and energy-saving features designed by Roeschlaub, such as a passive ventilation system. To enhance energy efficiency, the National Trust is evaluating a range of strategies, including a new heating and cooling system, improved lighting fixtures, and solar panels. Final decisions will be made after conducting a cost-benefit analysis and assessing how such features would affect the building's historic integrity.

Capitol Hill Senior Resources, Inc., a nonprofit, donated the building to the National Trust, and a former Capitol Hill trustee established a $1.75 million endowment for future maintenance. Donations and fundraising, as well as a $500,000 grant from the State Historical Fund, managed by History Colorado, will pay for much of the $2.4 million rehabilitation. To follow the project, see PreservationNation.org/emerson.         

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