Posts Tagged ‘sustainable Seattle’

The greenies v. the preservationists

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Crosscut’s Knute Berger wrote an interesting column today about the animosity between historic preservationists and green building proponents.

Too often, he says, green building techniques and density goals are used as justification for tearing down Seattle’s usable buildings and squandering their embodied energy and inherent greenness.

Meanwhile, historic preservationists get sidetracked by the historic and architectural significance of the buildings they are trying to protect. They don’t put that same effort into making a sustainability case for keeping those buildings.

Adaptive reuse in Portland's Pearl District

If Seattle really wants to be sustainable, Berger says, the two groups need to form an alliance. Both need to embrace the environmental value of the existing building and build from there.

I think things get complicated when density concerns are added into the mix.

But some cities, like Portland, have done a great job of encouraging adaptive reuse of historic building stock. These aren’t the landmarked buildings that allow only minimal changes, but the buildings that serve as mainstay to new floors of condos or offices above or around.

The federal government even offers a 10 percent tax credit for adaptive reuse of certain historic buildings. There are a few caveats, like making sure the addition can be removed and the historic building is left largely intact.

It could be painful for preservation purists to see some buildings getting such a drastic face-lift. It will likely be even harder for those greenies who like to start from scratch and leave their fingerprints.