Going Green

Preservation Green Lab Update

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Download Main Street Now PDF 2010/03_04

The Preservation Green Lab, based in Seattle, is currently working on two policy initiatives that will help leverage the value of building reuse and retrofits to cities and states around the country. 

The first, in partnership with the City of Seattle, is a new model for energy codes based on performance outcomes rather than rules that dictate how buildings should be retrofitted. This will give the owners of existing and historic buildings the flexibility to use their retrofit dollars in ways that are cost-effective and architecturally appropriate for their individual buildings. We will be selecting two demonstration projects in Seattle in 2010 to test various aspects of this new code framework.

The second project examines the building code policies and financing models that cities will need to integrate district energy systems into neighborhoods of existing and historic buildings. Used in many American cities in the early 1900s and still prevalent throughout northern Europe, district energy systems employ one plant for the entire district to deliver hot and cold water to each building economically and efficiently.

District energy plants can be based on any number of renewable fuel sources (biomass, geothermal, and waste heat, among others); in fact the Olympic Village in Vancouver, British Colombia, captures waste heat from its sewer pipes for its new district energy system. We believe that district energy can play a significant role in helping  urban buildings meet aggressive carbon reduction targets in the future and that cities must start planning for such systems now. Our project will document case studies throughout North America – including Dubuque, Iowa; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Toronto, Canada − and provide policy guidance to cities about the specific challenges of integrating such systems into neighborhoods of existing and historic buildings.

The Green Lab is also evaluating policy projects in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Charleston, and Kansas City and will select at least one more policy project for 2010.

Helping Historic Buildings Go Green

The City of Seattle and the National Trust for Historic Preservation launched the Preservation Green Lab in March 2009. Its goals are to promote building reuse, reinvest in older communities, and "green" existing buildings to combat climate change. Preservation Green Lab serves as a resource for sustainable development policy and helps local and state governments reduce greenhouse gas  emissions associated with the operation of existing buildings, as well as reducing transportation-related emissions arising from irresponsible land use.

Building Partnerships

The Green Lab is partnering with selected municipalities, states, and preservation partners throughout the country to create innovative sustainable development policies that incorporate principles supporting the reuse of buildings in zoning ordinances, municipal plans, building and energy codes, and "climate action plans." Green Lab will also identify and work with owners of historic buildings to implement retrofits that demonstrate new policy initiatives.

Creating Jobs

Preservation-based activities create more jobs than those associated with new construction. Rehabilitation projects generally use 20 percent more and produce a greater number of jobs than new construction.

Every $1 million spent to rehabilitate a building, as opposed to new construction, results in $120,000 more dollars initially remaining in the community, five to nine more construction jobs created, and 4.7 more new permanent jobs.

Building retrofits create jobs for:

  • Electricians;
  • Heating/air conditioning installers;
  • Carpenters and craftspeople;
  • Roofers;
  • Installation workers;
  • Construction managers;
  • Building inspectors; and
  • Energy efficiency auditors.