Several months back I became part of a committee to help organize a Green Historic Preservation symposium for the Region 5 EPA (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, and WI). Because this is the first time the EPA has ever reached out to preservationists, they wanted to gather information to try and determine their roll in helping to make preservation and green building more synonymous and less contentious. They also wanted to better understand preservation in general as they are new to the field.
I was fortunate to be at these meetings with Tim Heppner from the Chicago Green Homes Program and we crafted an exercise for the event, which we later tweaked with the committee, that would act as a tool to help gather information from those attending the symposium. The EPA could then use all of that feedback to better understand the issues, and those attending the symposium could network and be better educated on what “the other side” was doing as well, where their barriers and incentives were, etc. The symposium, which went from an anticipated number of 80 to a whopping 300 in attendance from all across the country (woot!), was held in Indianapolis yesterday and went so well that we are already talking about plans for the next one! Go EPA!
There were several speakers in the morning from organizations including the IHPA, the National Trust, a D.C. firm specializing in tax credits, and the Region 5 EPA, among others. Some highlights (for me) included an explanation of how to combine green and preservation tax credits on projects for maximum funding (finally!), the need for preservationists to focus on ALL older buildings (this goes back to my thoughts on language and the stigma of “preservation” as well as a need to acknowledge buildings that just ain’t ever gonna be landmarks), the idea that Energy Star could expand its scope to vintage buildings, and the consensus that we need more people in preservation trades.
A concern that arose is the EPA’s new Renovation, Repair and Painting law becomes effective in April 2010 . EPA issued a rule requiring the use of lead-safe practices and other actions aimed at preventing lead poisoning. Under the rule, contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 must be certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. What preservationists should be worried about is the panic that this law could create. Lord knows the freak out about asbestos years back lead to a whole lot of gutting and demo when there was often no need to disturb the stuff in the first place. More on lead later…
All in all, this was a great meeting of the minds. People from both sides of the coin certainly got to learn a lot about the challenges and incentives or working together. I can’t wait for the next one.