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Historic green


New guidelines are being considered that would include sustainability concerns in historic preservation.

Clifton Adcock April 20th, 2011

Oklahoma City is looking for ways to “green up” its historic preservation guidelines, and has hired a preservation planning firm to help it come up with ways to do so.

The city held its first meeting April 5 with homeowners in historic districts to get feedback on what they would like to see incorporated into the guidelines governing work on houses and buildings located in historic preservation or historic landmark districts.

Through an Energy Efficiency and Conservation grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Sustainability, the city hired the consulting firm Thomason & Associates out of Nashville, Tenn., to help come up with ways property owners in historic landmark or historic preservation districts can use green or energysaving methods and materials.

“We thought this would be a really good use of the sustainability money … to incorporate sustainability principles into historic preservation guidelines,” said Catherine Montgomery, historic preservation officer and architect for the city.

And while some of the energy saving and green tips are good for any house, regardless of where its located, buildings in those districts must often adhere to strict codes for renovation or repair to keep the building in line with historical standards and surrounding architecture, and therefore the guidelines must be tweaked in order to allow owners to make some of the changes.

The guideline revisions will be unveiled in August at the Historic Preservation Expo, said consultant Alice Johnson.

“We’re going to talk about ways to support your individual residence and your commercial buildings and use sustainable activities on those buildings that will help enrich those dwelling and buildings,” Johnson said.

About 150 people from several historic neighborhoods, such as Heritage Hills, Paseo, Jefferson Park and Crown Heights, attended the meeting.

Sheila Dial-Barton of EOA Architects, another Nashville firm that is working with Thomason & Associates, gave examples to green up older homes, such as the use of solar panels, LED lighting, straw for insulation material and double-paned windows.

“The case for preservation is it’s very, very sustainable,” Dial-Barton said. “It’s really the most sustainable thing you can do. Instead of using new materials, raw materials, you go with the sustainable way and use existing materials and existing houses.”

Many of the people at the meeting were interested in how the new guidelines would affect window replacement, with many complaining that current regulations made it cost-prohibitive to install energy-efficient windows while simultaneously using the same materials for window framing.

“This is a big issue, it’s an issue that you’re trying to address with the green guidelines, and it’s an issue that will be on the top of everyone’s list,” said Phillis Fry, who owns a home in one of the historic districts.

While the changes to the regulations will be unveiled in August, they must first go through the Historic Preservation Commission, then the Planning Commission. Finally, they must be presented to the Oklahoma City Council possibly by December, Montgomery said, meaning the changes would take effect around the beginning of 2012.

Shopping Tips for Windows

» High-performance windows have at least two panes of glass and a low-e (low emissivity) coating.

» Remember, the lower the U-factor, the better the insulation. In colder climates, focus on finding a low U-factor.

» Low solar heat gain coefficients (SHGCs) reduce heat gain. In warm climates, look for a low SHGC.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

 
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