Historic preservation is inherently sustainable.
The greenest building is the one that’s already built. Using historic buildings keeps materials out of landfills and consumes less energy than demolishing buildings and constructing new ones.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration acknowledges that buildings are the largest consumers of energy in the nation, and provides guidance and technical information about how historic properties can incorporate sustainable practices to reduce energy consumption, while maintaining those characteristics that make them significant. Pancratia Hall — a former dorm at Loretto Heights built in the 1920s that is now affordable housing — is a great local example of an energy-efficient historic building. It uses all-electric power for lighting, heating and cooling; the 78-unit complex is powered by 100% renewable energy.
Historic Denver’s office building, the Emerson School, relies on a geothermal heating and cooling system, which has slashed the 1885 building’s energy consumption to a very low level.
Plus, reusing existing buildings conserves their embodied energy, the energy used in their materials and original construction. This keeps valuable materials out of our landfills and reduces waste. A report from the National Trust for Historic Preservation found that it can take between 10 and 80 years for a new energy efficient building to make up for the carbon impact of demolishing the original structure.