Friday, January 25, 2008

Make It Work

Welcome! We hope you’re here because of the National Trust. We’re honored—really honored—to have their support and get a chance to work with the best in preservation.

We started work on the embodied energy calculator because we’re invested in actually doing something. No more preaching to the choir, we started spreading the word by whispering Carl Elefante’s phrase to anyone who would listen: “psst—the greenest building is the one already built. Pass it on.” Feeling bolder, we said it in meetings. We wrote it in articles. And then we got buttons to help spread the message. These have really caught on, and it’s not just preservationists wearing them these days. Once the people heard the message, we were ready to move again.

Embodied energy has been incorporated into staff reports. Our HPC now considers the embodied energy of every building submitted for demo in town. Every single building. And there’s still a lot of demo in town…

As part of this effort, we wanted to make the number “real” for the community. And so we started working on calculators. First, it makes it easier for staff to report. Second, we can put our numbers into something like gallons of gas… and yes, those MBTUs can be eye popping. It’s helped us go from people listening to a message to people ready to take action. Give it a try in your neighborhood.

We’ve taken small steps, to be sure. But the momentum is just now beginning to build, and we think we’re headed in the right direction. So what’s next? The HPC has begun working on incentives, just as “green” spreads throughout the City. Watch this space as we chronicle what we hope to accomplish.

The greenest building has an HPC behind it!


Conserv1 said...

This site is remarkable. It is about time that environmentalists and preservationists understood that they have the same concerns. Here is a question: Does someone have the correct percent of waste that goes into Chicago area dumps that is from either demolitions or from demolitions and the resulting new construction? (It is far higher than the national average) Thanks

Kevin Dickson said...

Doesn't the concept of "sunk cost" apply here?

In other words, the embodied energy of the existing building is immaterial if you are doing a cost analysis of retrofitting the old vs. new construction.

On the other hand, I wish there were some way to put a dollar value on the difference in "character" between the old and the new.

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