The Historic Costs of Going Green

Preservationists say a new California law that requires new construction to meet stringent green building standards could encourage demolition of historically significant buildings.
February 23, 2010, 1pm PST | Cathy Duchamp
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California's first-in-the-nation statewide green building standards code has only been on the books for two months. But historic preservationists say mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and water use don't take into account the value of upgrading old buildings.

This is particularly an issue from the context of LEED certification, says Linda Dishman, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy. She tells NPR's Ethan Lindsey "If you save a historic building, you can get up to three points, but if you use recycled carpet, you get one point. Is saving a whole building really the same as recycled carpet?"

Dishman claims old buildings are greener than new ones because of "embodied energy," or how much energy goes into construction. Historic preservationists are working with U.S. Green Building Council's LEED team to up their points and promote other building standards that weigh preservation more heavily.

Developers say in the end what matters to buyers is cost: whether a building is green or preserved is a second priority.

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Published on Tuesday, February 23, 2010 in NPR
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