Why Preserve Buildings?
Todd Mitchell, Why Preserve Buildings? The Arguments for Architectural Preservation
It’s good for the neighborhood.
- Preservation promotes respect for those that came before us, and those that will come after. Preservation encourages citizen activity to become active in their own government and fulfill their right and responsibility to create their community’s future.
- Restoration promotes neighborhood stability and revitalization.
- Vacant housing, and even empty lots, reduce property values.
- Restoration reduces vacancy.
- Restoration spurs further rehabilitation.
- Restoration is often cheaper than building new housing.
- Restoration attaches people to their community, provides a sense of place, connects them to their neighbors, and encourages public participation.
- “Preservation is making opportunities for contact with our shared heritage, and that is the glue that holds us together.” - Richard Moe, President of the National Trust
It’s good for the environment.
- Preserving a building is the ultimate in recycling. It keeps construction materials out of the landfill. 20% of the solid waste stream is construction waste.
- Construction waste is highly toxic.
- Preservation saves the embodied energy of the materials used to construct the building. Much energy was required to excavate, manufacture, transport, and assemble the bricks, glass, steel, wood, and so on used in that building.
- Many traditional building practices in historic buildings are “green”: covered porches reduce heat gain during the summer, and thick walls, an attic, and cellar help keep interior temperatures.
- Preservation reuses existing buildings and infrastructure, and decreases urban sprawl.
It’s good for the economy.
- Cultural and heritage tourism is a rapidly growing industry.
- Restoration brings more jobs and dollars to the local economy. Restoration of a building is more labor intensive than is new construction, and also demands more skilled labor, thus resulting in higher wages. More materials and services are purchased locally, further increasing the economic impact.
- What would be the difference in benefits between spending $1,000,000 in new construction and spending $1,000,000 in rehabilitation?
- $120,000 more dollars will initially stay in the community
- Five to nine more construction jobs will be created
- 4.7 more new jobs will be created elsewhere in the community
- Household incomes in the community will increase $107,000 more
- Retail sales in the community will increase $34,000 more
- Real estate companies, banks, hairdressers, and restaurants will all receive more monetary benefit
- The Economics of Rehabilitation
- A mixed-use building can be economically more stable than a newly constructed, single-use building.
- Property values remain stable or rise in historic districts.
- If an old building must be demolished to make way for a new building, the cost of demolition must be factored in.
- New ideas need old buildings. Old buildings can provide inexpensive incubator space for small businesses, nonprofit organizations, start-up firms, and bootstrap entrepreneurs. Such users look for low rent space, and old buildings also have a variety of spaces for a variety of needs. Finally, old buildings also tend to be centrally located, close to banks, accountants, attorneys, the post office, city hall, and other offices with which they have to interact.
- Quality of life is increasingly important in attracting the “creative class” and new businesses. Old buildings differentiate a community from all others.
- “We’ve all heard the expression, ‘It’s cheaper to build new than it is to reconstruct.’ That’s not true. I’ve always found it’s cheaper to use an existing structure.” - Donald Trump
“Whatever is goode in its kinde ought to be preserv’d in respect for antiquity, as well as our present advantage, for destruction can be profitable to none but such as live by it.” - Nicholas Hawksmoor, on the rebuilding of All Saints College, Oxford, 17 February 1715