I recently read an article that points out the logic behind and the challenges facing non-historic building preservation (urban sustainability). In a January 2016 article in the Harvard Business Review, Iain Campbell and Koben Calhoun argue that "Old Buildings are US Cities' Biggest Sustainability Challenge". They note that the vast majority of our current building stock will still exist 2030, with over 75 percent of existing large commercial buildings will still be in use. The authors challenge that existing buildings will need be retrofitted for energy efficiency to reduce energy strains and greenhouse gas emissions. The biggest hurdle to successful retrofitting such buildings is in creating industrial efficiencies, essentially scaling up quickly, to foster sustainable urban growth.
Criteria for Success - Urban Sustainability Retrofit Must Be:
Affordable (simple payback in 2 to 4)
"It is not new technology that we need to drive down energy consumption in buildings and the carbon footprint of our cities. The technology we need is already here, it is the market mechanisms for scaling that are missing." state Campbell and Calhoun.
Responding to the Challenge
To get owner buy-in on retrofit plans, smart designers and architects will ensure, even as they implement the latest technologically advanced, energy efficient upgrades into the retrofit, that easy access for continuing upgrades is built in so that the building owner add more retrofit upgrades as time goes on. Tax credits for improvements must remain in place to encourage continuing urban sustainability.
It is also clear to all that designers and architects must ensure that buildings remain in service in their environment for a period of time long enough for to owners may recoup their investment, and hopefully beyond. To do so, designers and architects must ensure that the buildings will be preserved and protected from the encroachment of destructive environmental factors like acid rain, graffiti, corrosion of internal steel, crumbling stone and concrete, moisture damage, and ultraviolet degradation.
Lacking the necessary expertise in many of the areas (plumbing, wiring and architectural design), I will content myself to offer a solution to one tiny facet of the job which seems to meet the criteria for success: preserving building integrity by protecting building surfaces from destructive environmental factors. Low VOC Ionyx Coatings (industrial coatings for wood, concrete, natural or polished stone, brick and masonry, metal ,etc.) are relevant in that the coatings exist in formulations specific to the types of substrates requiring protection.
They are quick and easy to apply, in a relatively wide range of temperatures, even under high humidity; these coatings cure quickly. Price per square foot runs from fifty cents to less than a dollar. Moreover, return on investment has occurred in actualcase studies in a period of just two months. Depending on the type of application and substrate, these figures would necessarily be unique, as each building's situation is unique. Still, it is easy to see that the criteria for Relevant, Fast, Capital-light and Affordable can be met.
They do not change the appearance of the substrate. These hard, quartz based nanocoatings last for years, with no chipping, flaking or delamination. They do not add weight or bulk to stress structures. In addition, they offer protection from and resistance to the destructive environment factors mentioned in the previous paragraph. Moreover, maintenance is less, requiring no (destructive and wasteful high-pressure washing or harsh chemicals, adding to the green component of these protective coatings.
Both interior and exterior areas benefit from proper protection, including using Ionyx coatings to protect high-tech circuitry, new ductwork and piping, leading to less maintenance overall, less wasted water, and longer service life for the retrofit building as a whole. I'm with Carl: “The greenest building is the one that’s already built”.
My take on this: Revolutionary advances in coatings technologies can preserve existing buildings as we scale up other existing technologies from across sectors to make retrofitting them with energy efficient upgrades part of a better plan for urban sustainability