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Wednesday: Talk Green Preservation with the National Trust's Richard Moe

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, November 10, 2008, at 08:08PM
The Judson Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Mike Buhler cites The Judson, on Broadway, as a favorite green rehabilitation project Downtown.

Downtown's revitalization has been built on adaptive reuse -- taking old commercial buildings and refashioning them to contain residential uses. That movement was driven largely by the availability of the buildings, but did historic revitalization also have a green outcome?

On Wednesday evening, the L.A. Conservancy will welcome National Trust President Richard Moe for a talk about historic buildings as renewable resources. We asked the Conservancy's Director of Advocacy, Mike Buhler, a few questions about what Downtowners can still learn about sustainability and reuse.

ERIC RICHARDSON: Downtown's revitalization has been largely driven by the reuse of existing buildings, but when we hear about sustainability it's usually in the context of new buildings and LEED certification. Why is that?

MIKE BUHLER: Much of downtown's revitalization happened before the current mainstream focus on green building technology. Initially, LEED standards assigned relatively few points towards certification for retaining existing buildings. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and others are working with the US Green Building Council to make sure that the LEED point system reflects the tremendous energy savings realized through preservation. However, existing buildings can certainly achieve LEED certification, such as the recent rehabilitation of Pasadena City Hall (which received a Preservation Award from the Conservancy earlier this year and an Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation last month).

ER: At this stage in the process of Downtown's adaptive reuse, are there lessons that we still need to learn about preserving buildings and sustainability?

MB: Past adaptive reuse projects have already taken a big step by reusing existing buildings and conserving their embodied energy (all the energy it took to build the structure in the first place). At the same time, these projects have provided the opportunity to upgrade to more efficient building systems, like heating and air conditioning, lighting, and low-flush plumbing fixtures.

For potential new adaptive reuse projects, there's room to experiment with sustainable technologies and make a conscious effort to incorporate additional green building technology and achieve LEED certification.

For downtown buildings in particular, historic preservation provides community connectivity, doesn't consume undeveloped land, and benefits from businesses and services that are within walking distance or easily accessible by public transportation. It can strengthen a sustainable community in downtown with residents, offices, retail, entertainment, and restaurants all reinforcing each other and supporting a livable, walkable neighborhood.

ER: We'll end on a fun one. Downtown's full of reused buildings, but what's one conversion that you particularly love?

MB: I really like The Judson (on Broadway), which took advantage of several different preservation incentives -- such as the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance and Rehabilitation Tax Credit -- in completing a meticulous and comprehensive rehabilitation of the building. The project is also noteworthy for incorporating other green features in the choices they made for paints, finishes, and landscaping.


Wednesday's event takes place at Los Angeles Center Studios (1201 W. 5th Street) at 7pm. Admission is $5, and tickets can be purchased online. A reception follows the discussion, which is part of the Conservancy's 30th anniversary celebration.

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