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May 4, 2009

Letter to the Editor: Put the focus on making existing buildings green

Kevin Daniels' recent op-ed (DJC April 27) was right on the money.

I was just at the AIA What Makes it Green contest and I was struck in particular by one presentation about the upgrading of the historic Vance Building downtown. The owner wanted to upgrade the energy performance of the building but had a small budget. What they ended up doing is taking the double hung windows and repairing them so that they were operable again rather than replacing them. They took the steam heat system and, rather than replacing it (beyond their budget), they fixed all the leaks/problems in the piping and greatly improved the equipment performance. For a low budget they got dramatic increases in energy performance.

Meanwhile, a bunch of the new and fancier buildings were doing some good things too, but on very high budgets. Could some of these municipal projects have moved into historic/older buildings and spent a fraction of the cost upgrading them? I think so. There is a very expensive, technological sustainability that has some applications but will not be enough or be too expensive to make broad improvements throughout our building stock.

I think a truly conservative approach seeks to first make the most and best of what we have before adding more. Based on the work Kevin Daniels has done in Seattle, I think he walks the talk.

Michael Godfried

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