Your Green Old House

Historic Homeowner Workshops

The phrase "historic preservation" probably does not immediately bring to mind visions of energy efficiency, sustainability, or conservation—but it should. Construction, operation, and demolition of buildings account for 48% the United States' greenhouse gas emissions. Reusing and retrofitting existing buildings can reduce these emissions dramatically. In fact, our existing buildings are one of our greatest renewable resources. Americans already embrace as common sense the need to recycle aluminum cans, glass, and newspapers. Why not apply that same common sense approach to our historic homes? Many historic and older buildings are remarkably energy efficient because of their site sensitivity, quality of construction, and use of passive heating and cooling. Historic buildings can go green without compromising historic character.

The National Trust's Weatherization Guide is a good place to start looking for resources on these topics, but you don't have to learn about this all on your own. Following the success of 2009's inaugural workshop in the Your Green Old House series, the Norwalk Preservation Trust presented a panel discussion and two hands-on workshops in 2010. These events aimed at helping the owners of historic homes, as well as contractors, to find ways to make older houses more energy efficient, less expensive to maintain, and more comfortable—without sacrificing important historic features like original windows and siding.

Old is the New Green

The first event in the 2010 workshop series was a panel discussion, "Old is the New Green," held June 5 at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk. It featured historical architect Lee Levey, preservation contractor Jeffrey Meier, historic home sustainability expert Rebecca Williams from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and architectural historian Chris Wigren from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. Each speaker addressed aspects of upgrading and greening a historic home from their professional points of view, followed by a question-and-answer period.

You Don't Have to Replace Your Historic Windows!

The second Your Green Old House event was a hands-on workshop held June 26 at the Norwalk Public Library, led by historical architect and Silvermine homeowner Lee Levey. Levey presented a guide to saving your historic windows and what to do to make them as weather-tight and energy-efficient as replacements. "One of the problems that historic homeowners face is drafty double-hung windows," said Levey. "The window manufacturers would have you believe that the only solution is to scrap the old windows and replace them. But the new ones never quite look right on a historic home and, in terms of saving money on heating costs, they don’t return on the investment as much as the companies would have you believe. In many cases, you can make your old windows just as efficient as new ones."

Keep Warm, Stay Historic: Insulating Your Green Old House

The third event in 2010 took place July 17 at the Norwalk Historical Society. This was a workshop led by William Zoeller of Stephen Winter Associates, an expert in insulation using green materials. Stephen Winter Associates is one of the nation’s leading firms in the field of green and sustainable design as well as LEED compliance. Zoeller discussed both the theory and practice of insulating buildings, with special regard to the many insulation options available to the owners of older homes.

To be notified of upcoming workshops in this series, send us an e-mail at Better yet, join NPT today!