Sep '06 - Dec '06
Yesterday I had the pleasant experience of being (I'm quite certain) the youngest participant in the National Summit on Greening Historic Properties hosted in Pittsburgh by the Green Building Alliance and the Pittsburgh Historic Landmarks Foundation. The event was appropriately wedged between the AIAS Northeast Quad Conference on "Building a Sustainable Future" and this week's National Preservation Conference.
Having been personally involved with (some may say waffling between) both green design and preservation pretty much throughout my education, I've never really seen much of a disconnect between the two. Adaptive re-use, smart growth, brownfield restoration; they all exist in that pointy oval in the middle of the Venn diagram and are all to me some of the most dynamic issues in architecture and urban design.
But participating in this summit, it became painfully clear that to the people firmly embedded via career in one area or the other, there's not much mutual understanding. The preservationists on average don't understand LEED and the green builders on average don't have a clue what the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation are.
I went into the summit hoping to learn some soild guidelines for using new green strategies on historic buildings. Are green roofs kosher? Are there any good thin-film PVs that can integrate with historic awnings? Have we solved the fake muntin problem yet? Will there be a LEED for Historic Buildings?
I would have liked to hear more about the fundamental relationship between the two disciplines; the idea that old buildings built before the dawn of HVAC were inherently energy efficient and that the greatest potential to make such buildings newly sustainable is to rediscover those ancient techniques.
Instead, most of the discussion focused on two things. One, integrated practice is good; get all parties to the table at the very beginning, find common ground, etc etc. And two, we need better systems to calculate the embodied energy of existing buildings to balance that with the energy savings of green products.
I guess the biggest thing I learned was that the various disciplines within architecture are still pretty segretated and that those of us trying to stitch them back together have a lot of work yet to do.