Recipe for a livable communityBy Kae Elgie
A version of this article appeared in Municipal World magazine in May, 2011. While Municipal World would not allow us to reprint the article without paying a fee that's more than our annual website budget, Kae graciously allowed us to reprint the original, which appeared in the newsletter of the North Waterloo Region Branch, Architectural Conservancy of Ontario.
Why should ACO members care about the environmental value of heritage? We already love old buildings for their aesthetic and historic value. Isn’t that enough?
In May 2010, ACO President Lloyd Alter gave convincing arguments and stunning examples to show that heritage is green and healthy.
Alter cited predictions by Chevron’s CEO and Balfour and Associates about the chaotic changes running out of energy will wreak on human society. Even skeptics who deny that we are running out of oil and/or causing global warming cannot ignore the BP oil spill on April 20 and the March, April, and May volcanic eruptions in Iceland. These showed how fragile our natural environment is, and how quickly travel, tourism, and even food supplies can stop when the environment is damaged.
The connection to heritage? In the United States, buildings consume 48% of all energy produced. (In Canada it’s more like 27%.) Transportation consumes 27% of all energy in both countries.
Heritage buildings and heritage districts can greatly reduce transportation and building energy consumption. They can help solve our energy and environmental problems.
"Heritage is about learning how we lived, how we built our houses and communities in the past, as a template for the future".
"Heritage isn’t just about buildings. It’s about the way we live."
Compare: World War Two Poster with Caledon’s Take a Bite Out of Climate Change campaign, 2010
Heritage Neighbourhoods are more walkable, reduce gasoline costs and carbon dioxide emissions
Urban Archetypes Project – Calgary Community Case Study found pre-1945 inner city Mission neighbourhood households spent $2060 on gas and emitted 5.0 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, compared to mid-1990s Citadel neighbourhood households which spent $5633 on gas, and contributed 13.8 tonnes of CO2. Study
Measure your neighbourhood’s walkability at www.walkscore.com
Heritage Buildings are durable
They were built of good materials and built to last.
Heritage Buildings are flexible
“They weren’t value engineered within an inch of their lives for single purposes” but were built to adapt to changing family size and structure.
“The greenest brick is the one that’s already in the wall!”
Save landfill and transportation costs for old materials AND the cost of re-manufacturing replacement building materials.
The Air-Conditioned Nightmare
Air conditioning takes indoor heat and pushes it outdoors. To do this, it uses energy, which increases production of greenhouse gases, which warm the atmosphere. We're cooking our planet to refrigerate the diminishing part that's still habitable.
Heritage Buildings are frugal
They were designed to use resources sparingly, because they were built in times of relative scarcity. It was much harder to heat and cool buildings back then, so they had to be well designed, using simple, but sophisticated technology, such as shutters, transoms (to let hot air at top of rooms escape into corridors), open vertical ventilation tunnels in the middle of buildings, awnings, front porches, and ivy/vines covering brick walls (which make buildings 50% cooler)
Everything new is old again: managing expectations
We have been “programmed” -- like our thermostats -- to expect rooms to be the same temperature year-round. But why? In times past, people expected to add and subtract layers, put another log on the fireplace, or stick their feet in wading pools on hot days.
Heritage is economically stimulating
New construction is about 50% labour, 50% materials. Restoration and renovation can be up to 75% labour.
For every dollar spent you get twice as much local employment, and use about half the resources.
Kae Elgie, North Waterloo Region Branch, Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (NWRB-ACO) Article written for NWRB-ACO newsletter, June 2010