Conference focuses on a green future for historic buildings

Posted 2/6/10

Saving Places, the 2010 conference organized by Colorado Preservation Inc., was titled “Preservation— the Foundation of Sustainability,” …

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Conference focuses on a green future for historic buildings


Saving Places, the 2010 conference organized by Colorado Preservation Inc., was titled “Preservation— the Foundation of Sustainability,” indicating the focus on green techniques used today to retrofit old buildings as well as design new ones.

Attendees heard a Thursday keynote speech by architect Carl Elefante, who is credited with the oft-repeated quote, ”The greenest building is… one that is already built.”

He began with a native American proverb: “The earth is not given to us by our parents. It is lent to us by our children…” reminding the audience of a responsibility to the built environment, which was built for the ages.

“Sustainable stewardship,” indicates a need to value existing buildings and retrofit them to LEED certification, with the adoption of green tools such as energy modeling, a survey of the entire building’s energy uses and losses. New windows and insulation may only make 8 percent difference, if the roof is the problem, for example, despite frequent ads to the contrary. The wrong tools may be used in evaluation, ignoring built-in durability and sustainability.

He was one of several speakers to reference the Nov. 2009 Pocantico Proclamation, formatted by more than 20 experts with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which urges communities to view re-use of buildings, as well as new buildings through a green lens.

A feature of the Feb. 4 luncheon for about 500 was the announcement of the 2010 Most Endangered Places recognized by CPI.

Included was Willowcroft Farm at 3500 West Bowles in Columbine Valley, which was built in the 1800s by Joseph Bowles, a rancher and farmer who was important in local history. He homesteaded an original 160 acres and eventually owned about 2,000 acres in the South Platte Valley. Designed by prominent Denver architect Robert Roeschlaub, the house was built in Queen Anne style of rose colored Castle Rock stone. It is on the Colorado Register of Historic Properties.

Three other historic structures on the 9.6 remaining acres include a barn, a bunk house where the Bowles family lived while the house was built and the original smokehouse. Paul and Cynthia (Cee) Wolf bought the property in 1946 and it remained in the family until sold at auction in 2009 to settle an estate. (The new owner is Lynn Paris, who lives nearby).

Board members of Historic Littleton Inc., a membership organization, nominated the property for the Endangered Site list because it needs maintenance and is probably slated for redevelopment, which could eliminate a piece of Littleton history.

Other properties on the 2010 list include the dome of the Colorado capitol building, which has deteriorating, rusting underpinnings (CPI will lead a campaign for funds to restore it); the 1905/06 Grand Junction Depot, which was abandoned by Amtrack and is deteriorating badly; the 1874 Elkhorn Lodge in Estes Park, which needs a buyer who will repair and restore it; Brown’s Sheep Camp at Fort Carson, on land owned by the US. Army and outbuildings in the Lake City Historic District (garages, carriage sheds, outhouses, etc). A visit to the CPI website will locate nominated sites from previous years and what has happened to them.

Among many sustainability-related topics on the conference agenda was a session detailing the preparation to retrofit the landmark Empire State Building in New York City, a project that has received considerable attention.

The presentation was by Elaine Gallegher Adams and Caroline Flubrer of the Rocky Mountain Institute, who were involved in preliminary planning.

Included in an estimated 48 billion square feet of existing pre-WWII building stock in the US, one of the mid-century buildings now considered “historic,” the Empire State Building project offers information valuable to individuals and governments contemplating older buildings on a smaller scale.

Energy modeling (a mega energy audit recommended in several seminars) led to repair rather than replacement of 6500 double hung windows and retrofitting of the chilling mechanism; plus interactive measures that saved 38 percent on energy use. Other considerations: design development; modification of building owner behavior; a whole system dynamic life cycle approach. The goal: a 75 percent reduction in greenhouse gas by 2050.

Other sessions focused on historic downtowns, funding, rehabs, surveys, zoning, restoration of adobe, wood and cast iron, politics, historic schools and interpretation. CPI operates year round, aiding in restoration and education. Membership information is available on its website.


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