Making old buildings energy-efficient


There was an op-ed piece in the New York Times today with particular relevance to our neighborhood.  Written by Richard Moe, the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the article makes the case that older buildings can be preserved and made almost as energy-efficient as newer ones, in the process helping create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Polish Hill, of course, is mostly old houses.  The large number of older houses (and relative lack of modern structures) help give the neighborhood its unique character, and they’re one reason why so many people are attracted to Polish Hill and want to move here.  Many new residents have invested in the future of Polish Hill by buying houses and fixing them up.  But renovating an old house is expensive, and many homeowners could use some information or assistance.

The first step to making an older home energy-efficient is an energy audit by a local utility. These audits can be obtained in many communities at little or no cost. They help identify the sources of heat loss, allowing homeowners to make informed decisions about how to reduce energy use in the most cost-effective way.

Help is on the way from another source:  the Obama administration is taking steps to help homes save energy with a program that will invest almost $8 billion in state and local weatherization and energy-efficiency efforts. The Weatherization Assistance Program, aimed at low-income families, will allow an average investment of up to $6,500 per home in energy efficiency upgrades.

Richard Moe says:  “Before demolishing an old building to make way for a new one, consider the amount of energy required to manufacture, transport and assemble the pieces of that building. With the destruction of the building, all that energy is utterly wasted. Then think about the additional energy required for the demolition itself, not to mention for new construction. Preserving a building is the ultimate act of recycling.”