Here’s a nice piece from Michigan about why characterizing historic Main Street buildings as energy hogs is unfair. Energy performance issues in older buildings typically have to do with the maintenance they’ve received, rather than the way they were built. Buildings constructed before WWII – in other words, before we began taking cheap energy for granted – incorporated a lot of what we would now call passive energy-conserving features like operable windows, awnings, and transoms designed to bring daylight indoors, but often those features were not maintained or were altered when a reliance on mechanized heating, cooling, and lighting became the norm. Fixing the maintenance issues can improve energy performance, at a fraction of the cost of new construction, replacement windows, or other so-called green solutions that are actually the opposite of sustainable.
And here’s another article, also from Michigan, describing the projects of preservation architect Gene Hopkins, who also argues for the environmental benefits of rehabilitating historic downtown buildings. Mr. Hopkins’s projects have the full support of the city manager, quoted in the article as saying, “The city does not need any new additional buildings … We can’t afford it and there’s no need, so to renovate the existing buildings has been a goal over the last two decades.” It helps that Michigan has a state tax credit for rehabilitation of historic buildings, which helps make these projects especially attractive for investors – watch this space for an update on our efforts to enhance New York State’s tax credit program.
Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services