Changing Mindsets: Sustainable Design in Historic Preservation

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At a time of rapid resource depletion and world population growth historic preservation rests at a pivotal point in the advancement of sustainable development and design. Historic preservation is inherently sustainable. Unfortunately, current green building practices focus more on the ever-growing technological innovations that can be applied to new construction. A lack of education and collaboration amongst historic preservation and sustainable design practitioners, scholarly research and publications that join the two fields, and building research, pose additional roadblocks in greening historic preservation in the United States. The question is whether or not historic preservation and green building practice can effectively work together. They can and they do. The key to integration is the changing of mindsets. Educating industry stakeholders as to how and why this linkage can be made is a vital component to effectively taking green building and historic preservation to higher elevations of outreach and implementation. This paper investigates this statement in two ways, by [1] providing a theoretical and evolutionary framework of sustainable design and the inherent role that historic preservation plays within it, and [2] comparing the two sets of standards that guide the two practices: in historic preservation it is The Secretary of the Interior?s Standards for Rehabilitation and in green building it is the widely used Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED?) rating system. The methodologies used to substantiate these points are varied. They include a literature review of sustainable development publications, a brief survey of the ?green? education of State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPO), an analysis of the LEED New Construction (NC) and Existing Building (EB) rating systems and their considerations of historic preservation, and a case study analysis of the green rehabilitation/renovation of the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center in Portland, Oregon. Combined, this analysis proves that historic preservation is inherently sustainable in the most basic sense, and as a result lends itself to green building rating systems.
However, it also proves that there are many kinks to be worked out on both sides before a full integration is a reality. The rules and regulations surrounding The Secretary of the Interior?s Standards for Rehabilitation and LEED can be cumbersome, and this paper is a reminder that while both systems are worthy tools in the stewardship of natural and cultural resources, they are not hard and fast rules. They are basic guidelines, and the fusion of the two holds the potential to more closely align the fields of historic preservation and environmental conservation, and to allow the field of historic preservation to assert itself as a viable and integral means to promoting sustainability.

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Historic preservation; Sustainable design; Green building; LEED Rating System
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bibid: 6476167
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