Saturday, June 7, 2014

It's all about the money: How greed drives the "green" machine

Do you care about historic buildings?

Proposed changes to the International Energy Conservation Code threaten to cause irreparable harm to thousands of historic buildings in the United States.  I refer you to “International Code Council Approves Stringent New Requirements for Historical Structures” from Architect magazine ( 
If you don’t understand how contemporary insulation practices damage historic building fabric, please read “Is Greener Always Better?  Problematic Use of Modern Materials in Traditional Building Systems” (  According to the article referenced above:

“The changes, proposed by a team of industry representatives from the New Buildings Institute (NBI),the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Institute for Market Transformation strip the exemption language from the code. The group added a requirement that project teams file a report with a code official when seeking immunity on specific areas of the design or construction.” 
Who are these organizations that made this recommendation?

According to their website, the New Buildings Institute “is a nonprofit organization working to improve the energy performance of commercial buildings. We work collaboratively with commercial building market players—governments, utilities, energy efficiency advocates and building professionals—to remove barriers to energy efficiency, including promoting advanced design practices, improved technologies, public policies and programs that improve energy efficiency. We also develop and offer guidance to individuals and organizations on designing and constructing energy-efficient buildings through our Advanced Buildings® suite of tools and resources.” 
I didn’t see anything that indicates an understanding of traditional building systems so I checked out the Natural Resources Defense Council’s website.  Still nothing about old buildings.  They’re an environmental action group whose mission statement is “to safeguard the Earth: its people, its plants and animals and the natural systems on which all life depends.”   Admirable, but where’s the expertise determining what’s right or wrong with energy conservation relative to older building stock?

That left just the Institute for Market Transformation … would they be the ones with demonstrable knowledge and expertise relative to traditional building systems?  According to the website, they’re “a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization promoting energy efficiency, green building and environmental protection in the United States and abroad. IMT's work addresses market failures that inhibit investment in energy efficiency and sustainability in the building sector.”  Lobbyists in DC!  If historic buildings are exempt from the IECC, this special interest group’s sponsor/members can’t make any money selling the materials that the proposed code changes will require.
Like so many things, this has nothing to do with right or wrong: it’s about big businesses making money.  The Codes Council appointed three organizations who know nothing about how green building practices will adversely impact traditional building systems and destroy historic fabric.  Why wasn’t the Association for Preservation Technology or a similar entity included?  Why?  Because the Council doesn’t want to hear what they have to say.  Under the guise of energy conservation, those who profit from “green” building practices are determined to cut into the historic restoration market.  The end result will be the catastrophic loss of centuries-old buildings.  What do they care?  The ruined, old buildings will be razed and a “green” one can take its place.  Consider this quote from the article:

“In Boston, for example, more than 8,000 properties are either located in one of the city’s nine Historic Districts or are designated as a local landmark, according to the Boston Landmarks Commission. For Manhattan alone, New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission lists 65 historic districts; Kerr adds that approximately a quarter of all lots in that borough are landmarked.”
Implementation of IECC 2015, in the proposed form, will be disastrous.  I implore everyone reading this to spread the word.  Will the NTHP, MHC and other state SHPO’s lead the charge against elimination of the preservation exemption?  Perhaps, but we must all be leaders and cannot rely on others to advocate against this change.  This is our fight and the time is now.

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