Cultivate culture by salvaging structures. Part one.

Posted on Aug 28, 2015 in inspiring INvironmentalism

“Protect the past. Shape the future.”-DAH&P

By Brett Marlo DeSantis


Why would we want to preserve buildings? Well, frankly it’s a good thing; good for you, your community, your pocketbook, our nation and our environment.

Whether it’s a house, barn, theater, notable fishing site, garden, sculpture or commercial building, we quite literally shape the future of our communities by protecting the past. You will ensure a sense of place with historical character and charm when you tackle a preservation project.

Did you know that cultural and heritage tourism is on the rise? According to the United Nations, “Heritage contributes to social cohesion, sustainable development, and psychological well-being. Protecting heritage promotes resilience.” Cultivating our cultural resources, buildings, objects, archeological sites and their surroundings creates a beautifully diverse built environment.

Reusing existing infrastructure equates to recycling on a massive scale. When you preserve an existing structure, you are lessening the demand for the creation of more materials, unnecessary construction and tons of demolition debris.

The embodied energy (the combination of all the energy; extraction of raw material, transporting, manufacturing, assembling, and installation consumed when the building was originally constructed) of an existing building is often overlooked and yet an extremely valuable commodity. Often existing materials are more durable and of higher quality than those that are produced today (sad, but true.)

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties specify standards for four different approaches for the treatment of historic properties. You may preserve, rehabilitate, restore and reconstruct a historic property. The guidelines address both the exterior and interior of historic buildings of all types.

Preservation standards allow for construction measures necessary to sustain the property’s existing integrity. Rehabilitation standards focus on the need to alter or add-to in order to meet new uses and still retain the structure’s historic qualities. This process allows repairs, alterations and additions while still preserving the features or portions of historical significance.

Restoration and reconstruction standards concentrate on the accurate depiction of historical features as they appeared in the periods of significance. For a more in depth description of the four approaches, go to:

Whatever approach you select, employ the appropriate treatment (the approach that will minimize the destruction of the historic fabric) prior to commencing the project.  Definitely allow yourself the time to explore opportunities to redesign and create resiliency by updating existing building systems.

How can we protect historic resources against extreme weather events? Consider a holistic systems approach; applying new technologies, efficient equipment, meeting life and safety needs, assessing seismic reinforcement and accommodating for accessibility.

Using sustainable design principles when looking at preserving structures, we can optimize our resources, such as site, water, energy, and materials. We can preserve our cultural resources while creating even more beautiful and healthy spaces for those who inhabit or experience them. Inspire our community and generations to come…