Lately, I feel like every day I am pulled into a conversation revolving around this question and it’s lead me to believe that perhaps as green building advocates and preservationists, we should do 2 things: Establish some kind of guidelines and promote more repairing.
I know the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation are out there, but most homeowners don’t exactly have them hanging on the fridge–most likely they have never heard of them. Butat least preservationists already have an idea of when to repair vs. replace, the info just needs to be more accessible. The green building movement is a mess in this regard, likely because there are so many new materials on the market and so many certifications out there to show how green that they are, and that’s a whole lot of money and industry. Good news is that there seem to be some acknowlegement of this, at least on the part of a small faction of Chicago “greenies,” as I was recently asked to be part of a group that weighs in on “green” materials on a monthly basis. I think that frequency is key here as 8 million new products seem to come out each year.
As a side note, if preservationists want to promote restoration to a larger, more general population, language is crucial. People often think of “restoration” as being cost-prohibitive. And this is because, well, let’s be honest, it can be. If we start to use words like “repair” which actually tends to conjure ideas of frugality, along side “restore,” a lot more of the will be on board with the idea of keeping more of what they already have and simply fixing it up. I think that this is presicely why a lot of people also fear landmark status, when in reality it will benefit them vs. make their lives difficult and more expensive. “Landmark,” like “restoration,” has a stigma for many.
That said, I’ve recently joined up with an initiative started up by Big Shoulders Realty “Restoration Not Rehab” to help people looking for homes, or who already have existing homes, to restore/repair their existing features and/or make their homes more efficient without gutting all the charm and craftsmanship out of the interior. I’ll save the details for another post, but I think the initiative is rather awesome. We’re a down-to-earth crew with a wide knowledge base and the best intentions. That’s what it’s all about. (Please save the Hokey Pokey jokes).