Environmentalism And Architecture, Hand In Hand

One of the myths about creating green infrastructure, cars and buildings is that the originals must be completely replaced, offsetting any benefit to their more energy efficient counterparts.


How a White Elephant Can Go Green

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes a small, relatively simple change and make an old product energy efficient. Take the recent renovation of some of New York’s white-brick apartment buildings. When the time came to fix the facades of the decaying buildings, the owners realized that making a change now, would reduce their carbon footprint in the future.

What is a White Elephant?

Criansnewyork.com published an aritcle recently titled “Green Facelfit Eyed for White Eleplahnt Buidlings.” The buildings in question article are owned by the Rudins, a New York real estate family. They built the apartment complexes in the post-war era.

A white elephant is anything that is valuable and important, but expensive and hard to maintain. In the real estate world, they were the Rudin family’s white buildings.

Over the years their facades have fallen into disrepair and a recent performance audit required by New York City found they needed improvement in their use use of energy. The buildings needed aesthetic and environmental updates. But how can that be done without changing the historic exterior?

What Simple Fix Will Work?

The solution came in the form of a rain screen where the outer panels are separated from the building by a few inches, insulating the structure and keeping water out. Basically, a rain screen functions as a building to protect the building. The outer panels would mimic the old exterior to keep the original appearance. Blind rivets are often used in building construction.

This system is both easy to install and repair in the future, as the panels can be replaced individually if they ever need to be fixed in their 50 year lifetime. The system ensures maintenance costs and waste, as well as heating and cooling costs will be lower in the future.

The Rudin family hired Western Façade to install the rainscreen and their Senior Operations Manager, Michael Radigan, says they have received more inquiries about the system.
I hope to see more rainscreens in the future. They reduce energy use while making minimal changes to the building's appearance, keeping the environmentalists and historians happy.

Reusing and Reducing

There are two schools of thought when it comes to conservation: make new energy efficient product, and don't be wasteful. Do I keep my older car or buy a new hybrid. Do I get a new thing or keep the old one out of landfill?

The option of using a wasteful product or creating a new product and all the trash that goes along with it is not appealing to anyone, and it can be hard to find middle ground between the two.

But sometimes there is a place in the middle. There are many ways to improve a car’s gas mileage and a building energy use without gutting the entire system. Compromise and a little creative thinking can create alternatives that appeal to the reducer and the reuser in us all.

Author Bio:
Dusty Hunter is a vegetarian carpenter. He writes about the things he loves.
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