The Harmony between Preservation and Sustainability

By Shih-Chun Tseng

For historic sites, preservation is one of the most important aspects of good stewardship; now it’s our responsibility to show how preservation is sustainable, and how historic sites can be more green.   An example is the 1905 building that serves as the Visitor Education Center for President Lincoln’s Cottage, which was certified LEED Gold in April 2009.  This is the first building at a National Trust site to be LEED certified, but it certainly won’t be the last.

Statistics tell us that buildings are the greatest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming ( The reuse of an existing building eliminates the impact of producing and shipping many new materials. Therefore, reuse is second nature to both preservation and sustainability.

Here are three resources about the harmony between preservation and sustainability.

Preservation is Sustainability
By Lloyd Alter
Old buildings have new and green spirits. In this article, Alter recounts and analyzes a speech by Mr. Richard Moe, the President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in which he declared that preservation is sustainability—save an old building, save our future.

Preservation and Sustainability
By Katie Eggers Comeau
Comeau gives us several strong connections between preservation and sustainability. For example, reusing an old building prevents the waste of embodied energy, and the design of old houses often have more climate-sensitive designs.

How to Recycle Big Stuff—Like a House
By Holter Graham
A house doesn’t have to be “historic” to warrant reuse. Graham tells us about the Daniels family’s experience with recycling a house to take advantage of embodied energy, reinvest in their city, and enjoy the taste of time through this big recycle project.

Ms. Tseng is a 2009 Summer Intern at President Lincoln’s Cottage.
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