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Environment Matters Audio Podcast

Environment Matters
EPA Region 3
Topic: Green Preservation
Size: : 5,863k
Time: 06:16

Date: June 3, 2011

Bonnie Lomax: Hello,  I'm Bonnie Lomax of EPA's Mid-Atlantic Region and welcome to Environment Matters, our series of environmental podcasts. 

[Opening music]

Today's discussion will focus on how sustainable and green principles can apply to smart growth and historic preservation.  Our guest today is Lorna Rosenberg, EPA's Mid-Atlantic expert on green buildings. Good afternoon, Lorna, and welcome. 

Lorna Rosenberg: Thanks, Bonnie. It's a pleasure to be here.

Bonnie Lomax: How does historic preservation tie into protecting the environment? 

Lorna Rosenberg:  Preserving and renovating historic properties can really play an important part in taking a sustainable, smart growth approach, and is often the starting point and anchor for  redevelopment of a block, a street, or a district.  Older buildings represent a prior investment of resources and energy.  If you tear down a building, that investment is wasted – but if you keep the building in use, you're saving energy and you're conserving resources.  Preservation really can be seen as the ultimate recycling.  

Bonnie Lomax:  Really? Why is that? 

Lorna Rosenberg: Bonnie, that's a really good question. Any new building, no matter how much green technology it has, represents a new impact on the environment.  Repurposing old buildings, for example, particularly those that are vacant, reduces the need for construction of new buildings and the consumption of land, energy, materials, and the financial resources that they require.  So, rehabilitating historic properties can really also be a critical part of promoting energy efficiency by preserving what's called "embodied energy," and that energy is that which is already represented by existing buildings. 

Bonnie Lomax: But isn't energy efficiency a big problem with old buildings? 

Lorna Rosenberg: That's something to think about as well. Many older buildings have features that we recognize as environmentally friendly -- features like, for example, big, operable windows, shaded porches, and high ceilings.  Also, most older buildings were built to really last, which is the very essence of sustainability. 

Bonnie Lomax:  Yet there still are obstacles, correct? 

Lorna Rosenberg:  Absolutely yes, there are.  Many codes and green building standards are not always clear on the best ways to develop and revitalize historic and other existing buildings to achieve sustainable outcomes.  For example, replacement of windows and doors – key elements in energy-efficient buildings – often pose a challenge to those who are interested in preserving the historic integrity of older buildings. 

Bonnie Lomax: So how is EPA helping to overcome these obstacles? 

Lorna Rosenberg:  In January 2010, EPA along with other stakeholders held a symposium in Indianapolis, Indiana entitled   "Greening Historic Buildings:  What's working, What's not working, and What needs to change?"  Participants included a cross section of stakeholders who discussed the sustainability of existing and historic buildings and how to find common ground with so many different points of view. 

Bonnie Lomax:  Well, how successful was the symposium?

Lorna Rosenberg:  I'm happy to report it was very successful in that it brought many of these issues to the surface and, in turn, resulted in the formation of an EPA-led Green Preservation Implementation Team.

Bonnie Lomax:  Green Preservation Implementation Team. What does the team do? 

Lorna Rosenberg:  The team is made of up of policy making organizations such as EPA, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Park Service, General Services Administration, and others, who are looking at key issues raised at the symposium.  These issues include window repair versus replacement, determining how to fit high performance systems into older buildings without adversely affecting their character, and ensuring that historic preservation guidelines properly account for sustainability.  The team is working with EPA to develop approaches that consider both green building technology and historic preservation when formulating local policy. It also assists in defining strategies to implement these approaches in everyday practice. 

Bonnie Lomax:  That's all very fascinating. What are the next steps? 

Lorna Rosenberg:  One of the most popular comments from the first conference is that EPA should convene more of these meetings in various areas of the country to focus on specific regional issues.  In response to that we are hosting a mid-Atlantic conference in Wilmington, Delaware on June 15 and 16. The focus is greening historic communities. So, taking the green and historic building to the next level, at the neighborhood and citywide scale. 

Bonnie Lomax: And where can our listeners learn more about this meeting?

Lorna Rosenberg:  Registration is still open, but spaces are filling up quickly.  To learn more about the meeting and to register, listeners can go to http://www.greenhistoricpreservation.org/

[Closing music]

Bonnie Lomax:  And of course a good place to find additional information on green buildings is the EPA website at http://www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/ .  Lorna, I want to thank you for being our guest today and thank you, listeners, for turning on Environment Matters. 

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