Throughout the past 200 years, historic preservation in the U.S. has expanded to include sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant due to their inhabitants, events, architecture, surroundings, contributions to neighborhoods, meaning to their societies, and relationship to cultural identity. In the twenty-first century, historic preservation continues to be a viable social cause. With concern for climate change at the forefront and the recognition of our built environment’s impact on the natural world, preservationists are recognizing and advocating the reuse of existing resources, such as our historic structures, to continue the fight against climate change.
In the past few years, there have already been successful milestones in the growing relationship between historic preservation and sustainable development. The Christman Company Building, formerly known as the Mutual Building, in Lansing, Michigan, became the world’s first LEED double-platinum-rated building, earning the platinum rating in LEED Core and Shell and LEED Commercial Interiors in 2008. Built in 1928, this historic, National Register-listed building sat on a brownfield site in Lansing in a state of disrepair when SmithGroup decided to rehabilitate the structure as an example of how historic preservation and sustainable building form a natural relationship. See our sustainability page for other similar case study projects.
The future for sustainability and preservation looks bright. Due to the efforts of the NTHP, the AIA, and their coalition of preservationists working with the United States Green Building Council, LEED 2009 and LEED-Neighborhood Development, to be introduced in 2009, have been re-evaluated to incorporate new metrics that encourage the rehabilitation of existing structures.
As we venture further into the twenty-first century, preservation in the U.S. will continue to develop partnerships and think creatively about how the message can be expanded so that the protection and reuse of historic built resources not only maintains vestiges of our past but creates vibrant spaces of the future.