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Stacey Contoveros

Sustainable Re-Design: The Holistic Approach to Historic Preservation

           Traditional construction practices of the 21st century are hazardous to the health and future of Americans and their environment. Buildings account for 35% of the hazardous carbon dioxide emissions and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions that are the cause of disease and birth defects in the United States, in addition to worldwide Global Warming. As a result, an environmentally responsible design philosophy known as “sustainable design” was born.

            The goals of sustainable design are about maximizing the quality of the built environment while minimizing or eliminating any negative impact to the natural environment. While new sustainable buildings are appearing everywhere in the United States, existing buildings are already one step ahead of any new sustainable design project. Existing buildings not only embody high amounts of energy that would be wasted during demolition and reconstruction, historic buildings often contain common sustainable practices such as abundant natural light, use of local materials, and proximity to public transportation.

            Emerging simultaneous with the social unrest of the 1960s, the environmental and historic preservation movements have been fighting along a similar path for the past 30 years. Advocates of these movements encourage the notion that our future relies on the preservation and protection of our cultural heritage. The driving principals behind these movements are far more important than many understand and are too similar not to join forces.  In order to gain an understanding of the common goals and characteristics between sustainable design and historic preservation this thesis is focused around the similarity between the two social movements while investigating ways in which the two can join in order to be more successful and environmentally responsible.

            The content includes a comparison of the National Park Services’ Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) Green Rating System. A bulk of the investigation will be dedicated towards finding and implementing common practices and goals shared between sustainable design and historic preservation. Along with understanding similarities, the third section focuses on problems and obstacles that have occurred during conducting a project involving sustainable design and historic preservation

            The most important concept behind these studies is to come up with an understanding of how historic preservation can be executed in a more holistic manner. The preservation of our natural and built environment are too important to be seen as frivolous activities. It is time to return to our roots in order to protect our future.


           Stacey received a BS in Architecture from Kent State University in 2003. Prior to SAIC, she attended a semester-long study abroad program in Florence, Italy, that sparked an interest in historic urban environments.


Thesis Advisor: William Latoza,Instructor, Historic Preservation


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