What’s old is new (and green)
That’s not to say there are no challenges. While the market is starting to catch on, green retrofits are anything but simple endeavors. There is much more investigative work that must happen. What do the current systems look like? Are they up to par with today’s standards? There are clear challenges when it comes to meeting current codes for fire, accessibility and seismic, and sometimes these are fatal flaws in the economics of the deal.
Of course, new sustainable development and construction is vital to the environment and economy long term. Buildings account for 40 percent of the energy consumed in the United States and in turn emit roughly the same share of the gases associated with climate change. It is vitally important that new construction is designed and built to minimize environmental impact, create energy efficiencies and increase occupant health and safety. However, the ‘greening’ of buildings is not limited to new construction. In fact, the fastest way to reverse climate change in the near term, given the vast amount of reusable building stock that already exists, is to ‘green up’ those buildings.
Putting an environmental value on any project is always a complicated equation with competing variables stretched out over long timelines. However, it is with a sense of optimism that we can pour our efforts into retrofitting existing building stock. No longer relegated to a stop-gap measure, renovations are an essential complement to raising the performance of our entire inventory.
Steve Clem is vice president of preconstruction in the Portland office of Skanska USA Building and specializes in sustainable building. He can be reached at Steve.Clem@skanska.com.
Front page image courtesy of flickr user Outsanity Photos.