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National Trust partnering with Green Building Services


National Trust partnering with Green Building Services, Cascadia Green Building Council on renovation study

For all the progress that's been made over the last decade (and more) advancing green buildings, most of that has focused on new construction. It's the same on the research front: Lots of studies have done analyzing  the merits of constructing new green buildings, yet there’s relatively little data available on the economic and environmental benefits of building reuse.

That will soon change thanks to a new partnership between the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Portland-based Green Building Services and the Cascadia Region Green Building Council. The three groups are partnering on a large, unprecedented study that will quantify the value of building reuse in a number of different situations, such as environmental impacts avoided when homeowners reuse and retrofit an existing house rather than tear one down and construct a new green home in its place.

“We can’t build our way out of the climate change crisis," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust, in a press release. "We have to conserve our way out, and this study provides us with a unique and crucial opportunity to help people understand the environmental value of building reuse.”

Buildings consume around 40 percent of total energy use in the United States. "So they are a big part of the problem, and, by necessity, they have to be an integral part of the solution," added Ralph DiNola of Green Building Services."The energy and environmental impacts embodied in the building’s structure become a more significant part of the equation.  With this study, we aim to provide real clarity about these impacts.”

The study, funded with a grant from the Summit Foundation, will employ a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) evaluation to look at the differences between energy, carbon, water and other environmental impacts in new construction and building reuse. The LCA study will examine several building types in four regions of the United States. The research, team members say, requires a comprehensive understanding not only of existing buildings, building materials and methods, but also of the numerous development forces at play in shaping the built environment, many of which cannot be easily quantified.

Jason F. McLennan of the Cascadia Green Building Council said, “Throughout their lifecycle, building materials are responsible for a whole range of adverse environmental impacts ― from destructive resource depletion and energy-intensive manufacturing, to accumulation of toxins after their disposal.  This important study will provide key missing data for the green building industry as we advocate for lower environmental impacts through building and material reuse.”

Green Building Services, a sustainable development consulting firm, has expanded from its Portland office to include outposts in Sacramento, Orlando and Houston. Cascadia is one of three original chapters of the US Green Building Council and, as a chapter of the Canada Green Building Council as well, is the only international chapter in North America.

The study is expected to be completed in early 2011.

photos by Brian Libby 

Published with permission of Portland Architecture

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