Historic Preservation and Sustainability

The Briggs Estate, ca 1879 - Nevada, Iowa

I attended a social networking gathering at my wife’s college last week. The university has an architecture program with an emphasis on sustainability. I was introduced to one of the students a “MArch Candidate” it said on his business card. I mentioned I was involved with historic preservation of traditional architecture and his eyes lit up.

His young energy filled his mouth with words of interest, but I truly knew he had not a clue what I did for a living. We exchanged pleasantries and he mentioned sustainability as one of his schools focal points, and his as well. I discussed my specialty in Division 4, Historic Masonry, and followed it with the statement that preserving architecture is the ultimate sustainability.

When you stop and think about it for a moment, it really is something.

The brick are already fired, no need for fuel or manpower to extract the clay from the earth – already done! Same goes for the stone – already quarried to size, and transported to the site – lifted into place. The mortar ingredients have already been located, sifted, fired, mixed, and installed between the units.

All the collective energy and labor effort in Division 4 has been paid for and is waiting to provide more life-cycle performance to the next generation – for perhaps another hundred years. With the right preservation plan for its reuse you have sustainability at its finest.

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