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The cost-benefit of building rehabs… beneficial both environmentally and economically

June 12, 2012 1 comment
Preservation Hall

Rehabilitation makes environmental and economic sense (Photo credit: JWSherman)

A recent study published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation titled, The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse, has inspired a great deal of discussion. One discussion in particular, an article by Blythe Lawrence published in The Seattle Times (Seattle, WA USA), provided a follow-up comparison of the environmental value and the economic value of rehabilitating an existing building versus constructing a new one. The study looked at the effects a building has on the environment (such as runoff) and the use of nonrenewable resources (like fossil fuels) as well as energy and and resource extraction, and found that “even the most energy efficient new buildings have to stand as long as 80 years before their energy savings offset the negative impacts of constructing them,” as summarized in The Seattle Times article. The article continued to note that, “from an environmental perspective [building reuse is] a no brainer.”

Going one step further, the article noted that if an existing building has a good envelope the cost of rehab is about the same as the cost of new construction for a similar-sized building. If an existing building needs to be demolished as part of a new construction project, in order to clear the property for a replacement building, the economic and environmental costs increase exponentially. Though many, including developers, are often reluctant to accept or acknowledge the viability of rehab projects, the article sums up the reality of the situation stating that “development is about obtaining the maximum return from a piece of property. You don’t have to build a new building to make money.”

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