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Making Historic Landmark Preservation Sustainable

Making Historic Landmark Preservation Sustainable

Historic landmarks are part of our cultural history and tell us a lot about the past through their characteristics. During the manufacturing boom in 19th century, building materials such as brick, hardwood, terracotta, and brownstone, became cheaper and more readily available. As a result, more and more people could afford to own a brick or stone home.

Today, we admire these historic masonry buildings because their characteristics have become less common over time and as technology evolves. The green movement has inspired owners of historic buildings to become more sustainable when it comes to maintenance.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) requires that historic buildings meet certain aesthetic criteria, while the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) requires that these buildings meet certain sustainable criteria. While LPC is more focused on the potential loss of a building’s character, the IGCC is more concerned with the reality that certain building materials have become less available and therefore unsustainable in today’s environment.

To beat this conflict, preservation architects must pay special attention to a building’s most meaningful characteristics. For example, historic windows are central in defining the character of historic buildings. Instead of replacing in-kind, architects might suggest retrofitting with insulated glass to boost their performance or incorporate weather stripping and storm windows that prevent heat loss and gain all year round.

Regarding energy, visible solar panels reduce the historical value of landmarks significantly. Preservationists prefer these panels be installed on flat roofs where visibility is minimal. Another sustainable solution currently in place is using renewable energy sources like off-site wind power and geothermal heating systems, which can be incorporated into the building system. These energy sources provide the much-needed efficiency and fulfill sustainability requirements that the IGCC, building owners and tenants desire.

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Published in Landmarks Preservation