Summertime brings picnics, baseball games, family vacations, and, increasingly, record-busting temperatures. Each of the 10 hottest years on record has happened since 1998, including the hottest of all, 2014. As a preservation community, we are starting to grapple with the effects of this changing climate in very concrete ways.

Beloved destinations are confronting the new reality of rising sea levels, which contribute to coastal Louisiana losing a football field of land every hour. Powerful storms such as Katrina and Sandy are damaging historic places with tragic regularity. And roughly 100 of the National Park Service's more than 400 park units are already experiencing climate-related transformations.


Much of historic Annapolis, Maryland is threatened by sea-level rise as a result of climate change


In the face of this growing climate crisis, our work as preservationists is twofold.

First, we should encourage the use of historic buildings as a way to reduce carbon emissions—the engine that is overheating the planet. Nearly half of the greenhouse gases in the United States are produced by the construction and operation of buildings.

It makes no sense for us to recycle newsprint, bottles, and aluminum cans while we’re throwing away entire neighborhoods. Our Preservation Green Lab has conducted groundbreaking research that emphasizes the environmental value of reusing historic buildings, which is far better for our planet than demolition and new construction. As the saying goes, “The greenest building is the one that is already built.”

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