New Website Offers Tools to Increase Energy Efficiency in Va. Historic Buildings

Richmond, Va.–A new Web site offers owners of historic buildings in Virginia information on how they can work with existing building materials and architectural features to increase energy efficiency in their properties.

The site was developed through a partnership involving Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources, Sweet Briar College’s Tusculum Institute (which offers educational and outreach programs in historic preservation in the context of environmental stewardship) and Dominion Virginia Power. The site has been launched to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

The online preservation toolkit was created to demonstrate the sustainability benefits of the reuse of historic buildings, and to give tools to owners of historic buildings in Virginia.

A good number of apartment houses and condominiums in Virginia are housed in historic buildings, some of which have been converted from other uses, says Randall Jones, spokesman for Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources. The state offers very generous tax credits for developers who rehabilitate historic properties, he said, which has resulted in the rejuvenation of numerous downtowns.

There is a widespread, and mostly incorrect, perception that historic buildings are energy-burners, Jones says. In fact, many old buildings were built before plentiful, cheap energy was available, and were designed to take advantage of air and natural light.

A key feature of the site is an interactive feature highlighting 12 specific “hot spots” in a historic home that typically present potential energy maintenance problems.

While the hot spots are mostly found in single-family homes, apartment properties share some of these potential trouble areas, such as paint, windows and air filtration.

The site’s online toolkit is organized into five categories relating to historical preservation, and offers downloadable essays and guidance documents for property owners and community leaders interested in additional information regarding historic preservation and energy savings.

A resources page provides links to documents or web sites that offer more in-depth information for many specific problems.

The website’s stakeholders are spreading word of its existence through various methods, Jones said. For example, Dominion Virginia Power will promote it in the newsletter it sends to its customers, while Sweet Briar College will have a link to the site featured on its website.

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