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Building Rehab and Restore: The Highest and Most Sophisticated Form of Recycling

October 6, 2008 – In his new book, Historic Preservation Technology, Robert Young, University of Utah associate professor of architecture demonstrates that historic preservation and the rehabilitation of buildings is one of the most sophisticated means of materials recycling on the planet.

“Demolishing a building and replacing it with a completely new building of equal size and materials – with no recycled content – creates a significant material flow (new materials into a building and demolition debris removed from a jobsite) that is more than seven times greater than when simply rehabilitating or restoring the existing building,” says Young.

Recycling on this scale means considerable savings of materials and energy, with positive economic and environmental consequences.  Not only does historic preservation or rehabilitation save the energy first used to construct a building, but it prevents new energy from being spent on the extraction of raw materials and the construction of a new building.

New construction also continues to extend the built environment into rural and often pristine natural areas, which are lost once developed.  This sprawling growth generates a vast array of new infrastructure costs, air pollution hazards, and social costs that have largely been ignored or dismissed.

“Before destroying a historic structure to make way for new construction, everyone with a stake in the project — architects, engineers, designers, contractors, public officials, and home owners — should consider preservation and rehabilitation,” says Professor Young.

“At a time when construction costs are soaring, when competition for resources is dramatically increasing, and when we are more conscious of our global environmental challenges than ever before, this book provides an important approach to consider when deciding how to build,” remarked Brenda Scheer, dean of the U’s college of architecture.

The book, however, is not an academic text, nor a step-by-step how-to. It is intended for a broad audience – from students to developers to citizen preservationists. Anyone with an interest in preservation can read and understand its concepts and principles. Says Professor Young, “It will completely change your mind about what preservation is and how it can aid in the quest for a healthier global environment.”

Historic Preservation Technology provides insights that help professionals and property owners who are unfamiliar with preservation technology develop a better understanding of preservation practices and therefore enhance the sensitive integration of design solutions into older and historic buildings.

“The book was also written to clear-up broad-based misperceptions by both the public and a number of professionals who were unfamiliar with historic preservation technology,” Young continues, “Indeed, many buildings get destroyed simply because owners, architects, engineers, designers, contractors, and public officials do not fully understand how to successfully rehabilitate them. This combination of misperception and unfamiliarity frequently leads to design solutions that are insensitive to historic preservation and the sustainability aspects of reuse.” 

Historic Preservation Technology is currently available for sale and has reached the number one position for Amazon’s books on preservation.