Over the past year, the Region 5 U.S. EPA (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin) has taken up the cause of green preservation. I was lucky to be a loud and productive part of a symposium planning committee that culminated in the first ever EPA Green Preservation Symposium early this year. The event brought together people across the country from a variety of building disciplines to describe their unique experiences and roadblocks, and to ultimately create meaningful dialogue in terms of what was hindering projects that were or could be both environmentally and historically sensitive. Fortunately, the symposium received a good deal of notoriety and has turned into a national agenda! As a result, two other regions in the US are on board—one in the west and one in the east—and Region 5 has created a “Green Preservation Implementation Task Force” to help realize some of the changes that were suggested by symposium participants, and to keep this dialogue going.
The new task force is made up of around 30 of us from a variety of organizations, including the EPA regional and headquarters offices, other Federal agencies such as GSA, National Park Service, and ACHP. It also includes some architects from various parts of the country, the National Trust and the USGBC. The group is divided into subcommittees that are targeting the Energy Star green building rating system, the new Lead Paint Initiative, Research, Pilot Projects, Rating Standards, Green Historic Preservation Symposiums, and Job Training. The subcommittee members are tasked with working on ways to build more synergy between preservation and green building techniques in these areas. I’m part of the Pilot Projects committee, driven largely by the fact that we desperately need more projects as examples to show contractors, architects, engineers, etc. how energy efficiency and preservation can work together. Without such examples to draw on, we will surely all tear out clumps of hair and regress to thumb sucking due to repeated trauma during the planning portions and implementation of such projects.
Of course, having a massive, national organization like the EPA on board and bringing people together from other national policy-making organizations is pretty huge. Because of these kinds of efforts and conversations across disciplines, some serious work is actually getting done this year, including the following nuggets of goodness:
1. ENERGY STAR is considering devoting part of the site to older homes. To earn the ENERGY STAR rating, a home must meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. EPA. These homes are at least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC), and include additional energy-saving features that typically make them 20–30% more efficient than standard homes. Currently, a home needs to be gutted to the studs to get this certification, but that might be changing—here’s hoping!
2. The EPA is working with the office that handles the lead paint rule regarding their communications as it relates to older building and training of
contractors—to see why this is crucial, read this.
3. The National Park Service is going to update the Secretary of Interior Standards to include more information on sustainability. For real, and I don’t just mean via bulletins that nobody reads. Yeah, HUGE. The NPS is working on these changes as we speak and hopes to release them in the next 1-2 years.
4. The National Park Service is also going to launch a website in the near future that features properties that have undergone energy efficient retrofits, complete with data gathered on those projects.
This is pretty big stuff, folks!