Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Heritage Myth: Heritage buildings aren't green.

The environment seems to be what everybody talks about these days, whether they're environmentalists or not. The way trendy people converse about greenhouse gases, fossil fuel emissions, and deforestation, you'd think they actually know what they're talking about. Meanwhile, of course, they continue to drive SUVs, sit around their backyard pools, and forget to recycle.

New buildings are often billed as environmentally friendly and quite often they really are. Solar houses like this one are just plain cool. And earth-sheltered buildings are beneficial for tempering inside spaces. The trouble is, projects like these tend to be expensive, even taking into consideration long-term energy savings. And when a historic structure is torn down to make way for a new one, the developer is usually more interested in making a buck than creating sustainable architecture. 

A more practical way of greening architecture would be to stop tearing down so many heritage buildings. Currently about 35% of the contents of Canadian landfill sites are building materials. Then there are the unofficial landfills. The remains of our very own Hotel London, torn down in 1972, were tossed into a field beside Vauxhall Park at the end of Price Street. An ignominious ending for a local landmark and more garbage in the ground.

So the modern world isn't just covered with buildings, but with the remains of buildings. How about restoring or renovating the heritage structures we already have instead of tearing them down and creating more structural waste?

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