[Preservation Tips & Tools] Eight Strategies for Building a Sustainable Preservation Movement


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Older and historic buildings are the heart and soul of our communities. They provide character, history, and authenticity, making our main streets and neighborhoods places that we love, not just places to live. (That’s a big reason why we’re preservationists, right?)

What’s more, many older buildings are inherently just as sustainable, if not more so, than new ones. The National Trust’s Preservation Green Lab (PGL) is focused on helping historic communities maximize their energy efficiency potential and vitality. And in the end, we believe our main streets will outlive the chain stores and franchises.

There are 1.5 million commercial buildings more than 50 years old in America, so we have opportunities at every turn to make sure the places we love are sustainable, high-performing, and vibrant for years to come. Here are eight strategies to help you build a sustainable preservation movement in your community.


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[Preservation Tips & Tools] Eight Strategies for Building a Sustainable Preservation Movement

  1. 1. Eight strategies for building a SUSTAINABLE PRESERVATION MOVEMENT
  2. 2. Use the building’s original design. Older buildings were often constructed with certain features to increase their natural energy efficiency (brick, high ceilings, double- hung windows). Make sure to fully utilize these features first.
  3. 3. Fix weak areas. Fix leaky walls and windows, top off under-insulated basements, and replace inefficient lighting. Minimizing these types of issues will help make new equipment and systems more efficient.
  4. 4. ADAPT Take advantage of the fact that older buildings can be adapted in creative ways that promote more efficient living.
  5. 5. Pick DIY projects thoughtfully. There are many energy-saving tips out there that, in the end, don’t have much real physical impact. Take the time to consider which ones make the most sense for your historic building.
  6. 6. “The best energy saving advice might simply be to put on a sweater.
  7. 7. One size doesn’t fit all. Consider each building based on its own unique characteristics. You’re likely to waste resources if you try to use the same strategies on every building, regardless of size, shape, or history.
  8. 8. Look at former industrial sites. These often underused and overlooked buildings offer vast amounts of space and nearly unlimited options for reuse.
  9. 9. Use your resources. There are many reports, guidelines, and case studies available to help you. Here are a few to get you started: The Greenest Building Saving Windows, Saving Money Realizing the Energy Efficiency of Small Buildings Learning from Los Angeles
  10. 10. Spread the word. The more people who join the cause for preserving our historic buildings and neighborhoods, the greater chance we have of making a difference and saving the places we care about.
  11. 11. The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America’s historic places. Preservation Tips & Tools helps others do the same in their own communities. For more information, visit blog.preservationnation.org. Photos courtesy Roger Ward, Flickr; KMoFoto, Flickr; Arlington County; Edmund Tse, Flickr; Sheridan Travel & Tourism; Bertrand Monney, Flickr; US Department of Agriculture, Flickr