Existing buildings represent embodied energy - all the mined metals, harvested lumber, manufactured materials, water, electricity and labor that is used to construct a building. When a building is demolished and all that embodied energy is taken to the landfill, it is lost forever. Massive amounts of new energy is required to mine, harvest, manufacture and build a replacement building.
Studies indicate that it takes 10 to 80 years for the operating savings of a new “green” building to overcome the negative climate change impacts of the construction process. In addition, demolishing one modestly sized house generates an average 62.5 tons of landfill waste.
“Buildings represent ‘embodied carbon,’ explains Carl Elefante, FAIA and recent past president of the American Institute of Architects, “keeping and using existing buildings avoids the release of massive quantities of greenhouse gasses, emissions caused by needlessly demolishing and replacing existing buildings. Retrofitting existing buildings to meet high-performance standards is the most effective strategy for reducing near- and mid-term carbon emissions.”
Identifying and preserving our historic resources is not only a pathway to energy efficiency, reduced carbon emissions and sustainability, it is a way we can enrich our lives, link us to our past, and enhance the beauty of our environment.