The “Cost” of new, sustainable buildings

“The greenest building is the one that is already built.” 

This statement goes against what many people think.  All overy major North American cities, demolition crews are dismantling old, inefficient buildings and creating new, more efficient, more sustainable buildings in their place.  Seems like a great idea.  If we look at this more closely, it makes us think a little differently.

Preservation Green Labs (link here) is a Seattle-based think tank that explores the value that older buildings bring to their communities, and pioneers policy solutions that make it easier to reuse and green older and more historic buildings.  It’s important to understand this context as the research they released on January 24, 2012 as it forwards their cause.  Saying that, there is a lot of good information that is both objective and scientifically factual.

Here are some of the highlights of the report

Reuse Matters: It can take between 10 – 80 years (typically 30) for a new energy efficient building to overcome, through efficient operations, the climate change impacts created by its construction.

Scale Matters: Collectively, building reuse and tretrofits substantially reduce climate change impacts.  Cities often have an opportunity to incorporate reuse and retrofit initiatives into budgets and planning, providing significant scale and carbon reductions.

Design Matters: The environmental benefits of reuse are maximized by minimizing the input of new construction materials.  Retrofits and reuse projects using recycled materials provides big opportunities for reducing environmental impact.

Conclusion: When comparing buildings of equivalent size and function, building reuse almost always offers environmental savings over demolition and new construction.

The entire report can be read here.

The opening sentence is a comment that can be debated over fair-trade coffee and organic beer on a patio any day.  The value that comes from a report like this is the debate and how debates like this can enhance everyone’s understanding of the best ways to deal with existing infrastructure.

Please leave your comments as I would love to hear them.

Thanks for reading.