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Evaluating the Effect of Local Historic Preservation and Climate Change Action Policy on the Promotion of Operating Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

Boote, Ethan

The built environment offers significant potential for achieving climate change mitigation goals. Located within these goals is the strategy to drastically reduce of greenhouse gas emissions through renovating and reusing existing buildings. As a small portion of existing buildings, designated historic buildings play an important role in reducing emissions in urban environments in addition to their role of providing architectural and cultural value. The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement marked an urgent change in urban policy to target greenhouse gas emissions, with fast approaching deadlines. As preservation expands the number of buildings designated on local, state, and federally historic building lists, the number of existing buildings deemed historic will continue to grow, creating the need for historic buildings to contribute meaningfully to energy efficiency improvements and climate change mitigation goals. Operating energy efficiency fits into the larger climate change narrative as an opportunity to reduce long-term building energy consumption and switch to renewable energy sources. Preservationists already use historic building operating energy consumption as an advocacy approach, citing the building’s inherent energy saving features alongside embodied energy saved and sustainable land use opportunities. However, historic buildings consist of a diverse group of buildings that do not necessarily feature inherently sustainable design features. Additionally, current policy frameworks do not back up these claims, often incentivizing historic building reuse projects through ease in energy regulations, specifically energy conservation code exemptions. Conflicts exist among preservationists surrounding historic buildings and energy efficiency due to the potential negative impacts energy retrofits could have on architectural and material character, and the debate has remained remarkably stagnant for the past forty years. Through close evaluation of local regulatory conditions, climate change action initiatives, and project level decision-making, this thesis defines opportunities for changes in the regulatory environment to improve the promotion of operating energy efficiency in historic buildings. By forging the conversation between regulatory officials, historic preservationists, building professionals, and sustainability advocates, this thesis supports further exploration of how historic preservation can serve the present-day need of climate change mitigation.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Yao, Kimberly K.
Degree
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
September 25, 2018
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