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Sustain our future with preservation





Blog, Uncategorized

“The greenest building… is one that is already built.” 

~Carl Elefante, FAIA, FAPT 

As the Charlestown Preservation Society works to preserve the neighborhood’s history through the built environment, we also look to building the future. That includes taking measures to minimize our collective impact on the environment by advocating for the conservation, reuse and retrofit of older and historic buildings.


Worldwide, the construction and operation of buildings is responsible for 37 percent of all human-generated carbon emissions – more than the amount contributed by sectors such as transportation or industry. Reusing existing buildings rather than replacing them avoids the carbon emissions that occur during new construction, minimizes the amount of materials going into landfills or incineration, and supports the growth of a secondary building materials market with more affordable offerings. 


Research conducted by the National Trust’s Preservation Green Lab found that it can take between 10 and 80 years to overcome the carbon debt that is incurred when an existing structure is replaced, even if the new building is highly energy efficient. Utilizing a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) methodology, the study compares the relative environmental impacts of building reuse and renovation, and its embodied carbon versus new construction over the course of a 75-year life span. Energy conservation in older and historic buildings is a key decarbonization strategy and strategies to reduce operational carbon emissions include adding insulation, converting to all-electric HVAC systems, and connecting to renewable energy sources. Since the 1970s, preservationists have prioritized increasing energy efficiency in historic buildings.

  • Improving Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings was one of the first Preservation Briefs published by the National Park Service and continues to provide good advice for how to insulate older buildings, improve the performance of historic windows and doors, add efficient new systems, and build on passive energy features.
  • The American Institute of Architects offers guidance on how to reduce the material use and climate impacts through adaptation and deconstruction. Zero Waste Boston in partnership with RecyclingWorks MA connects developers to technical assistance and support for deconstruction that includes reuse, recycling and waste management planning, outlets for salvage materials, and identifying deconstruction crews.


The efforts of the Charlestown Preservation Society to safeguard the neighborhood’s rich history extend beyond mere preservation of buildings; we are committed to building a sustainable future. By advocating for the conservation, reuse and retrofitting of older and historic buildings, we address pressing environmental concerns and align with broader decarbonization strategies. By embracing these principles, we not only honor the past but pave the way for a more sustainable and inclusive future for Charlestown and beyond.


For those planning to embark on a restoration / renovation project, contact us at info@Charlestown for more information on deconstruction and preservation building technologies.  


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