Arkansas has been called the Natural State since the mid-1980s. The historic preservation community can do its part to ensure that we maintain that slogan. Destruction of the state's historic resources has impacted the environment by creating more debris in landfills and using high levels of energy by destroying sound buildings and leveling trees and hillsides. The effects of the automobile and the promotion of sprawling development on green space and historic sites are well known. Pursuit of sustainable practices would lessen the irreversible loss of Arkansas's connection with our past through its historic buildings.
The greenest building is one that has already been built, and historic preservation is the ultimate recycling! Adaptive reuse of historic buildings not only preserve tangible links to Arkansas's past, it saves energy and takes advantage of services and infrastructure that are already in place, saving tax dollars while reducing sprawl.
The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program considers the website at www.preservationnation.org to be the most comprehensive regarding the re-use and continuing contributions of historic structures. This link can guide preservationists, community members, developers and municipal and state officials in learning about the positive effects that historic preservation has on our shared environment.
The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has stated that there is energy stored in the construction materials of historic buildings that is lost if they are destroyed. Extending the life of these structures through preservation and rehabilitation prevents the increased and often unnecessary release of energy through demolition and new construction. The Embodied Energy Calculator can be used to determine how much energy is contained within your historic building. Information on the calculator can be found at www.thegreenestbuilding.org.
Some quick facts about sustainability and historic preservation:
- The United States produces 22% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions
- Over 40% of those emissions result from construction and operation of buildings
- Buildings that are demolished release embodied energy
- New construction can require 35-40 years to recover carbon emissions expended to build it
- A twenty percent increase in labor can result from rehabilitation of historic structures
- Five to nine more jobs in construction are created through rehabilitation
- Adaptive reuse takes advantage of materials that already exist
- The history of a building adds to a sense of community
- Even though a new building constructed outside of a historic core may be built "green" it can take 30% more energy for employees to drive there
- Many historic buildings were built to take advantage of natural energy sources
- Awnings can reduce heat gain by 65% or more
- Preservation of high ceilings can help air circulate
- Historic double-hung windows can reduce demand for heat and air during temperate periods.
- Besides preserving historic structures, reuse of historic core buildings can encourage walking, foster community pride and create a variety of housing choices.