Green Growth and the Past Feeding the Future
In this week’s Practice section, James Kienle, FAIA, contends, with strong reasoning, that building preservation is a resource-efficient planning approach that may be thwarted if municipalities adopt green guidelines that do not take into account the material, energy, and cultural resources embodied in existing buildings. Another argument for strong architect involvement in municipal planning?
The U.S. Green Building Council is indeed considering LEED® credits for building preservation, Kienle points out. But that may take some time, and some jurisdictions are already requiring specific levels of LEED certification for public buildings, apparently without a full appreciation of the possible results. For instance, developers looking for tax incentives or accelerated permit approvals are likely to view the point system as prescriptive minimums rather than guidelines for informed design. Historic buildings might even be lost if there are more potential points in building a replacement edifice. Good intentions become bad results.
Recently, in the Washington Post Sunday Magazine, Susan Mandel wrote of the struggle to site the Lincoln Memorial. Speaker of the House Joseph Cannon, an ardent admirer of Lincoln, objected so vehemently to the then-remote and marshy field west of the Washington Monument that he threw all of his considerable power into quashing the plan Charles McKim and Augustus Saint-Gaudens proposed. Cannon’s intentions were good, but his vision for the city—as he himself later admitted—was myopic. Mandel points out that it took architects, coming together through the AIA, to persuade the White House and Congress to do what was right.
Kienle this week also points to the too-often mindless rush to Modernism that spanned from the 1950s to ’70s and turned the concept of Urban Renewal from dream to nightmare. The worst of those buildings also spawned the idea that all older buildings are energy hogs. Not so, Kienle argues. What that era proved is that careful consideration by knowledgeable men and women is in order. And the sooner the better.
What do you think?