Since there has been an increase in environmental awareness across the country, it’s fascinating to see how many varying viewpoints there are on how to improve the environment and reduce energy usage. One study, by Preservation Green Lab, funded in part by National Trust for Historic Preservation, focused on reductions in climate change by reusing and retrofitting existing buildings rather than demolishing and replacing them with new construction. The organization utilized a Life Cycle Analysis methodology to compare the relative environmental impacts of the two different approaches over the course of a 75-year life span. The study examined many indicators, including climate change, human health, ecosystem quality, and resource depletion, and evaluated six different building types within each climate zone across the U.S. According to the report, “this research provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the potential environmental impact reductions associated with building reuse”.
Interestingly, the study found that “building reuse almost always yields fewer environmental impacts than new construction when comparing buildings of similar size and functionality”. Even more astonishing, the study concluded that “savings from reuse are between 4 and 46 percent over new construction when comparing buildings with the same energy performance level and it can take between 10 and 80 years for a new, energy-efficient building to overcome, through more efficient operations, the negative climate change impacts that were created during the construction process”.