Welcome to the Preservation Technology Podcast. The show that brings you the people and projects that are advancing the future of America’s heritage. I’m Kevin Ammons with the National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. In this edition of the podcast, we join NCPTT’s Jeff Guin from the 2010 Association for Preservation Technology conference in Denver. First, he speaks to Jill Gotthelf, coordinator of an NCPTT-sponsored workshop at the conference … followed by an interview with John Anderson, who spoke on implementing sustainability in preservation.
Jill Gotthelf: I’m the Principal at Walter Sedovic Architects, and I am co-chair of the APT Technical Committee on Sustainable Preservation, and I am a preservation architect.
Jeff Guin: Tell me a little bit more about that committee and why it chose to hold this particular session.
J. Gotthelf: The Technical Committee on Sustainable Preservation began out of a Halifax Symposium, where we realized that there was a growing concern about sustainability and from a holistic perspective, not just energy and embodiment, but also community and social equity and how our heritage buildings played into this movement, and what we should and should not do, as well as the issues of climate change and the impact they are having on our buildings. It was really a very widespread look at our heritage buildings and issues of sustainability and environmentalism, and from that over the years, the committee has looked at addressing issues from rating systems to climate change, education, preservation programs in the schools, and they are addressing issues of sustainability. Now we also have moved into focus of policy and there was a symposium in Montreal that addressed theoretical issues, and over the last two years since that, we realized that we, at APT, have a specific expertise in technology and in the technical end of these issues, and looking at all the organizations that have been working on sustainability, there are other organizations who really are public policy organizations and addressing many of those concerns, and that we really needed to focus on some of the technical issues so we could offer our expertise to the entire field, addressing sustainability and with the coming out of all these new codes, especially the upcoming international green construction code, we realized that many of the concerns dealt with energy and our envelopes.
We, deep down in our hearts, know that historic buildings are not the energy hogs that they are made out to be, and the advantages of thermal lag, and that buildings built before WWII had to address environmental issues, because we could not design the environment out of our buildings and that they really did what most of these codes and LEED, and all of the rating systems were asking for already, and it is just that they have been maligned or they have been altered, the systems have been taken out, people do not understand how they work. So, one of the things we wanted to address is envelope modeling and monitoring and performance of our existing buildings to get real data that show how our buildings work. Modeling of new buildings, we are finding buildings are modeled and then they do not perform the way they are modeled to be. We, with historic buildings, have the advantage that we have real buildings that we can go out and actually do real models based on the performance testing. So, the decision was that now was the time for a two-day workshop to discuss what tests are available for historic buildings, what information can we get and show, and then how can that information be transferred into a model so that we can generate data that we can take to explain how our historic buildings work, what systems are in place, what happens once those originally designed systems are restored, how does the building perform by itself and now, what intervention really is necessary, and you will find that the designs of the systems vary greatly, when you really understand actual performance and then design an intervention rather than a model.
J. Guin: And you actually used a real world setting, a historic building, for part of the workshop.
J. Gotthelf: Yes, we used the Central Presbyterian Church here in Denver. That was an ideal building because it is a historic masonry church with a 1960’s – 70’s cavity wall addition, and we were able to both model the cavity wall addition and the historic portion of the church and look at the differences in how the two performed and the different decisions that you would need to make based on the two different building construction types. There was a series of pre-testing that was done about a month ago so that we had a baseline testing, as well as, doing the hands-on testing at the workshop, so that we had a report of the testing to discuss at the workshop, as well as, to physically do the hands-on testing. This was a building where the original passive system had been closed up, and we looked at how the building was performing now with that and then discussed from our knowledge of how the system originally worked–this whole chimney fact and reopening of the passive ventilation system, what would be gained by restoring the original system and whether that is a better solution or newer intervention.
J. Guin: Okay. Well, what were your findings?
J. Gotthelf Well, interestingly enough, our findings were actually giving us real data for what we already knew about how thermal lag works, and based on modeling of looking at historic buildings and then modeling how the heat transferred through the building, we have actually started to look at putting insulation on as being a disadvantage, not just from what we already knew about creating dew points of moisture, but that it also did not allow that additional heat to transfer into the space. It did not allow us to gain the advantage from the thermal lag that we had naturally, and so, it gave us a better understanding of what we already knew, how these buildings performed in a way that we then could bring it to our building stewards, and rather than just trusting us, they could actually see data.
J. Guin: Well stepping back a second, you mentioned that this was at least in part, a hands-on experience. Talk about that, what were the participants allowed to use the different types of equipment, etc.
J. Gotthelf: In the church, we actually had a blower door set-up for the participants to work through, and they watched the set-up of the blower door, an explanation of the fans, how we pressurize or depressurize the building through turning the fans on, having the system work, and then walked through with smoke so that we were able to identify locations where there were drafts, as well then, there was equipment for doing thermal performance…
J. Guin: Was that the little handheld device? …
J. Gotthelf: …That was it being passed around and everyone was able to see, yes. Being that this is in October, the results on that would not be as dramatic unless you were hitting part of the building that happened to have the heat on and steam, whereas, on a really cold day in the winter, you would see a greater differential, or a really hot day in the middle of the summer, you would see a greater thermal differential when we went and tested…all the walls, but I gave a relative understanding of the one surface to another surface and that has been a discussion throughout this workshop that all of our testing devices have reached a certain point of accuracy. You know, they will continually grow to become more accurate, and there is a certain amount of user failure and a certain amount of changes in levels of accuracy depending on the sophistication of the equipment in use, but everyone of them are good tools for relative performance and understanding, because if you are using the same tool in one place and in another place, your relative performance is still the same even if it’s actual physical number that it is meeting out is not.
J. Guin: Tell me about some of the other folks that were involved in helping instruct the workshop.
J. Goothelf: We have a range of instructors that include, our leader in the hands-on testing is with a company here in Denver that is lightly treading, and they go in and do energy audits and evaluation, and testing. They themselves are not trained architects and engineers in developing the new systems to make changes. They are very well versed in collecting the data and in analyzing the performance of the building and developing an instruction on key areas where efficiencies can be added. We added to that several engineers, ranging from structural engineers, mechanical engineers, and engineers that are also working in the energy modeling field, who then have been able to show us how that information that we gathered can be put into models and analyzed, can make informed decisions in our evaluation of cost benefits and life cycle cost analysis, and then can also discuss the pros and cons of making those decisions, understanding holistically how the building systems work, making certain changes are going to have impacts on other decisions that you make. So we really had a nice range.
J. Guin: You recorded the workshop on video and you are going to do something with that as well …
J. Goothelf: Yes. This workshop is for CEU credits from the American Institute of Architects and the NEECES, which is the engineering and the Ontario architects, so it offered a full range of CEU credits. The entire workshop was videotaped from a grant from NCPTT, which we will take the two days and condense it into a one-hour learning module that we would like to then make available to outside of APT as a learning module that can basically be an on-the-road learning module.
Interview with John Anderson
John Anderson: Hi, my name is John Anderson. I am currently an instructional engineer at Robert Silman Associates in New York City. My background is focused on sustainable building, so I have done a Master’s Degree at UC Berkeley, where I focused on sustainable concrete technologies and then before that, I was a Fulbright Fellow in Berlin at the Technical University there, where I looked at the interlap between architecture sustainability engineering and how that forms sustainable design. So that is really where I am coming from.
Jeff Guin: Today you were speaking at the APT Conference in Denver about putting sustainability into preservation. Tell me a little bit about that.
J. Anderson: Exactly. So the general idea with the preservation community currently is that preservation is sustainable. End of story. But what we are really trying to do is move sustainability into preservation so that preservationists can move from being a passive participant in this building design movement to really being leaders, and then by being leaders, we can illustrate that historic buildings, historic neighborhoods, have a lot to teach new buildings and have a lot to teach policy makers. So when policy members, administrations, think about they want to do green building, they will look to preservation for guidance.
J. Guin: One of the things that you have been involved with is the Pocantico Summit on Sustainability. Tell me about that experience and what came out of it.
J. Anderson: Yes. The Picantico Proclamation was started by a group of 28 experts from different fields, from architects to engineers to business people, to environmentalists, anyone who is affected by green building and who has an interest in this. We really sat down and thought about how does preservation interlap and play a role with sustainability and then we also thought about where are some conflicts there and how can we address those conflicts.
J. Guin: Let’s talk about those. One of the things that you mentioned in your talk earlier was imperatives coming out of that. Tell me about those imperatives.
J. Anderson: Exactly. So, the background in the argument that we are really forming to make this case, program design for sustainability, are the climate change imperative, the economic imperative, and to explain the climate change is pretty straight forward. The economic imperative is really changing to a green economy. So, moving away from resource dependent, non-renewable fuels and building practices, to renewable practices to a practice of conservation. The last one is equity. As we see the world transform in the last ten years and moving forward, we are seeing that more people have a higher standard of living and that’s requiring resources, so we need to think about, especially in the U.S., how can we get more from less.
J. Guin: And you also mentioned principles coming out of the initiative. Can you talk about the principles?
J. Anderson: Yes. So actually the principles are really lessons that can be learned from preservation and applied to green building, so these examples foster a culture of reuse. We currently have a culture of new, of consumption. So, we can transfer to an idea of reusing something, valuing something, and seeing the bigger picture in something. One of the other big interesting things is to update the sustainability aspects of preservation. So, like we were saying before, that preservation really does not shy away from sustainability but really grabs onto it and takes the lead and leads the movement.
J. Guin: Following the Pocantico and the proclamation, there was a follow-up meeting as well called the National Challenge. Tell me a little bit about that experience.
J. Anderson: Yes. So, the Pocantico laid out the essential principles and guidelines and the imperatives for integrating and assisting preservation. We took it another step and really refined it, and we said okay, we have all these sustainability concerns, economic, environmental, and social. Let’s focus on the most pressing right now and that is climate change. So it is not everything but we are just focusing on one task, and then the question really is, is how can preservation align with climate mitigation strategy. It is very definitive and very clear what the goal is and then what we are looking for is how can that come about, how can we realize this objective?
J. Guin: Have you made any progress in figuring that out?
J. Anderson: Well, it is obviously a big challenge, but I think what we have been doing in…we are essentially an advisory board to other organizations and other organizations participate with us, what has come out of this is there has been legislation written that has been proposed to the House, in matters like this where the needs with the DOE, Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, so really taking our message to policymakers and saying, “Hey, look, preservation is a way to reduce climate change and we need to address this.”
J. Guin: Are you learning any lessons from the environmental movement and implementing policy?
J. Anderson: Existing buildings emit 40 percent of the CO2 emissions in the U.S. Historic buildings, you know, buildings that are listed on the Landmark Registry are very small, it is one percent of New York City. So, if you have one percent, you cannot make a big change. But if the preservation movement went beyond museum type buildings, one-of-a-kind and historic buildings to really be the spoke person for all existing buildings, then we have really taken a big branch. We have said, we are the people that care for buildings, we know how to maintain buildings, we know how to increase longevity of buildings, and then we have a big area to contribute and then people come to us to say, can you help us with this problem.
J. Guin: Absolutely. You talked about the actions items and the steps that we go through to actually start influencing policy, tell me about those.
J. Anderson: The big one that we have been thinking about and is a personal interest of mine is research, because I think a lot people that are enacting green initiatives, green goals, so anyone from the presidential administration to localities, such as New York City’s Michael Bloomberg, these people are interested in achieving these environmental goals. And I think what they do not have now that they could use, are tools to help them see that existing buildings are a key in that solution. I do not think people are excluding existing buildings right now, people just are not, they do not have the data available to show that these are the areas one should really be focusing on.
J. Guin: When you are talking about the actions items and research, you mentioned the Secretary of Interior standards, as well as, being a place to start to look at those again and figure out how to use what is existing, but also maybe change that a little bit…any ideas there?
J. Anderson: So we only have two, two challenges. One is an external communication. The preservation community communicating with other people in green building and the second one is internal. How does the preservation community deal with challenges such as window replacement, operational energy improvement? These are really dealt with traditionally through the National Park Service standards and guidelines. And what we really see a need for is guidance from such an over arching body to really provide guidance on that so if a homeowner that is interested in preservation and interested in sustainability, can have someplace to go to and really get some knowledge from that perspective.
J. Guin: So, one of the things that I think I am hearing you say, is that communication is a big part of it and changing perceptions as you said, internally and externally and on a broader scale. How are some of the ways that we could do that?
J. Anderson: Yes, these are great points, and I think a lot of it is just talking to people. So, I think it is moving beyond just preservationists talking to themselves. I gave a talk recently to the U.S. Green Building Council and there we were essentially saying that, you know, reusing a building is recycling a building, and one of my friends went to the talk and she is open to these ideas and she is green friendly and she said, “I had never thought about that.” And now essentially she is on board with us. So I think it is just presenting the idea to people in an objective, clear manner with data and research that shows that we are not just pushing a different agenda, but it is really the case at hand. I think that helps bring people on board.
J. Guin: What you are saying is that if we can explain exactly what is happening to these folks and meet them where they are, then we have a much better chance at having their support in influencing these policies.
J. Anderson: Yes, and we can see this through examples. When you are thinking about urban planning, you think about the real goal now of the new urbanist movement is to build a livable, sustainable communities where you have grocery shops, mom and pop shops, you have restaurants, you can walk everywhere. Where are these ideas coming from? These ideas are coming from historic districts. Historic districts are doing them now, but the problem is that historic districts are not selling themselves or branding themselves in that manner, so it is really an idea of perspectives and really seeing where these new ideas are coming from and often we see they are coming from the past. So, the past is looking forward.
J. Guin: One of the things that I heard you mention is actually harnessing the power of the Web, in that we have the ability now to communicate to everyone in the world potentially with an internet connection and influence those folks too. What are some of the ways that you recommend?
J. Anderson: Yes, I think that is great. I think that is really a useful dialog–communication. I think what we can do, we can get a lot of information out to people, you know, we can put something out about replacement windows, you know. We can have dialog and informed discussions online and then a lot of resources. You know, if somebody needs resources to make their case–if somebody is saying, “well, I think this old building has some value, and I want to go to talk to somebody that is in charge about this–how do I do that? How do I have the information to share this with other people without having to do a doctoral dissertation on embodied energy?
J. Guin: And just as important to that, besides just putting the information out, is to be able to interact about it and have a conversation about it rather than just saying these are the rules…follow them or else.
J. Anderson: That is a good point. Preservation is really about the community and preserving the community and the community is made up of different people doing different actions and then that is what really creates the community around them, and I think that is what historic preservation tries to promote.
J. Guin: Absolutely. Just to follow up with the initiatives that you have been involved with in talking about Pocantico and the Nashville Challenge–there was a group that actually came out of this effort as well that you are a part of. Tell me about that.
J. Anderson: Yes. So we, from national, we drafted an agenda, an action item agenda, and this became the sustained building preservation policy task force or SpitFire for short. This is essentially an advisory council to other organizations working on issues of sustainability and preservation. So, we provide guidance on implementing sustainability into preservation and also as a forum for feedback and holding organizations accountable. When we are saying we want to do these things, we really are there to help people achieve the goals and really move forward in the process.
J. Guin: What are some of the organizations that you have worked with to try to advise.
J. Anderson: Yes. The National Trust for Historic Preservation from the start, Friends of NCPTT has been in form the start and also APT is involved, AIA is involved and we have the American Council for Historic Preservation, national SHPO’s, so everyone that is involved in preservation is getting this picture and this is really a place to come for assistance and guidance.
J. Guin: So if someone wants to find out more about SpitFire or the sustainability initiative, how can they get in touch?
J. Anderson: Either on the NCPTT website or on the National Trust website.
J. Guin: John, thank you so much.
J. Anderson: Thank you very much for the time.
That was Jeff Guin with Jill Gotthelf and John Anderson. If you would like to learn more about NCPTT’s sustainability efforts, visit our podcast shownotes at the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training website. That’s ncptt.nps.gov. Until next time, goodbye everybody.