Well the forces have finally aligned and the Earth Day message from USGBC President and CEO, Rick Fedrizzi, made to point loud and clear. The economic crisis has forced everyone to reconsider priorities and make decisions that conserve resources, primarily money. The slowdown/stoppage of new construction brings the realization that there are hundreds of thousands of existing buildings and homes in need of energy reconstruction and reuse. USGBC sees the green movement as thriving and migrating toward conservation of resources, the essential sustainable activity, whether money, water, energy or jobs. Restore Media's President, Peter Miller, carried a similar message in his article "Why This Recession is Good for Traditional Building, Part II".
At the same time the preservation movement, which has also had its share of shifts since the first Earth Day in 1970, has reinvented itself from initial focus on landmarks, to adaptive reuse and then to emphasis on social and communal values. In the mid 70’s in the midst of the first sustainable design years, the preservation movement began to push forward the concept of embodied energy which linked the two movements. The studies of BTU value of existing built environments created an understanding that our older buildings were in fact fossil fuel repositories, and if we extended the life of these buildings we wouldn’t have to use the energy again. The January/February 2008 Preservation Magazine, Green Issue, in the article “A Cautionary Tale” ties the two movements together and provides many interesting facts and figures to support the arguments.
So one can say the nexus has occurred. Sustainability begins with preservation, whether social, cultural or economic and many have said the most responsible way to build is to recycle an old building. So per USGBC, more than 120 million buildings and homes await our action. The economic crisis has refocused our attention on these critical issues.