Thursday, May 23, 2013

Retrofitting Historic Buildings


Old historic buildings such as this one in Charlestown, South Carolina can be retrofitted to become a green building. Image Credit: Public domain.

There is a lot of talk going on about new green residential and industrial buildings in Canada, but what about the older buildings that have remarkable historic and cultural value? Retrofitting historic buildings requires special attention because unlike other buildings, they can only be modified in certain ways. Modifying them solely for the sake of environmental sustainability may cause damage to its immense architectural value.  

So what are the aspects that you have to pay careful attention to when retrofitting historic buildings

In terms of the sustainability of the site, the local government and building owner have to address heat island reduction and the control of storm water runoff. 

Water efficiency is another concern. Water used cannot be drastically reduced, because it might disrupt the careful ecological balance of the greenery. At this point, architects and engineers must carefully survey the “cultural landscape”. Native species must be carefully protected, because they form part of the heritage of the historic property. Take advantage of the cisterns and irrigation system of the original property, making only changes that will not negatively affect how the property looks.

A third concern is the energy and atmosphere. Something as simple as making sure the shutters work can positively impact the building’s energy efficiency. Awnings, as long as they work and fit the architectural design, can reduce the influx of heat by as much as 65%. The high ceilings must be preserved to allow the optimum circulation of light and air, and windows must be kept in good condition to reduce demand heating and cooling demands. The courtyards and fountains can also provide comfort during the warm months.

One thing you should think of is the on-site renewable energy. Net zero buildings are making quite an impression in the industry, and there are several options for you: solar, wind, geo-thermal, and bio-gas are some of them.

These are, of course, only some of the environmentally sustainable ways of making a historic building as green as possible, without sacrificing its cultural value. This just shows that environmental sustainability does not have to come for a culture price, while historical artifacts can be brought up to 21st century environmental standards.

1 comment:

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