Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Preservation is Green: Example 1

For me, its a no-brainer to reuse old buildings.  I tend to be frugal by nature (and birth) and want to reuse everything: scraps of lumber and bubble wrap, leftover basket reed and yarn, paper...You name it, I'd rather try to reuse it than throw it out.  Old buildings have earned respect and deserve to be reused and not discarded like someone's trash:
  • They represent a vision.  The vision of the person or people who built the store, church, depot, theater, service station, school, or house.  The vision that they would be providing a service to the community or a home to raise a family.  The vision that they would be there for years to come as part of a town or neighborhood or farm.  
  • They contribute to a sense of place.  They are the main street shops, the leafy neighborhoods, and the center of the square. 
  • They incorporate green principles that have recently become new all over again.  Solid brick walls that act as insulators to the cold and wind and as a trombe wall letting the heat from the sunny day slowly work its way into the building at night when the heat is most needed.  Large windows to let in natural light and cooling breezes in summer.  Established deciduous trees shading the building during the heat of the summer or evergreens acting as a windbreak in winter. 
  • They're the embodiment of energy.  The energy taken to create the building materials and design and build the building.  The energy of the craftsmen who laid the brick  or carved the woodwork, creating the special details that are often absent today.
  • They are happily reconfigured.  The old school with its classrooms and large windows becomes artists studios.  The old depot becomes home to a museum or visitors' center.  The old church becomes a restaurant.  And the service station becomes...town offices? 
 The Town of Blacksburg finished their repurposing of the Blacksburg Motor Company building last year.  Many people looked at the old Doc Roberts building and thought they were crazy.  What on earth did anyone see there that was historic or worth saving?  For those of us who looked closely, we saw the Art Deco details, the large open spaces of the former automobile showroom, and the ideal location on Main Street next to the Municipal Building.  The site had environmental issues to clean up and who better than the Town to ensure it was properly cleaned up?

The Blacksburg Motor Company is now home to the Planning, Building, Engineering, and GIS departments for the town and recently was awarded Platinum LEED Certification.  While historic preservation and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) have not always seen eye-to-eye on what qualifies for LEED points (the topic of another blog), the Blacksburg Motor Company project was successful in illustrating low impact development and green building principles including: a geothermal heat pump, carpeting of recycled materials, original tin ceilings, rain gardens, porous pavers, and alternative transportation.  Furthermore, the building is historically significant so the town could  reduce the final cost of construction by taking advantage of state and federal tax credits. 

Bravo, Blacksburg, for providing such a great example for Southwest Virginia to follow!

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