WillScot’s corporate headquarters is in an area of Baltimore City that’s rich in history. Fell’s Point was a busy seaport from the earliest days of our country, populated by warehouses, hotels, pubs, homes and small businesses. Today the neighborhood is bustling with both new construction and renovation/restorations. It’s a unique location; commercial and residential customers alike appreciate its character. New is shiny and bright but there is a charm and sometimes intriguing link to the past that only older architecture can provide us with. But in light of our pursuit for more energy efficient and environmentally respectful construction – is building new greener than refreshing/renewing an established building?
Carl Elefante, a leader in the green preservation movement, is a firm believer that “…the greenest building is the one already standing.” The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse report supports this point of view and states that environmental savings can range from 4% to 46% based on a building’s type, location and its approximated level of efficiency. For comparable building types, repurposing what exists has less of an environmental impact than new construction. It can take as many as 80 years to overcome the impact of the initial construction when you replace an average, established building with a new more energy efficient one. Renovation also uses twice as much labor – good for the local economy – and half as much material as new construction.
The greenest building is the one already standing.
Richard Moe, a former president of the American National Trust for Heritage Preservation, maintains, “The retention and reuse of older buildings is an effective tool for the responsible, sustainable stewardship of our environmental resources.” He asks us to consider, “… the amount of energy required to manufacture, transport and assemble the pieces of the building. When you destroy an old building, all that energy is utterly wasted and now additional energy is required for the demolition itself not to mention the new construction. Preserving a building is the ultimate act of recycling.”
What role do modular solutions play in this renovation/restoration scenario? While contractors work their magic on bringing new life to existing structures, modular offices support the hundreds of local laborers gathering on site to get the work done. Storage containers house new materials and protect precious saved findings until they are ready for repurposing. In the case of a company renovating an existing building, modular complexes provide necessary swing space to comfortably and safely allow employees to continue their daily work uninterrupted while the renewal is taking place. To further strengthen the green stance, these mobile units can also be outfitted with energy-efficient enhancements, eco-friendly materials and systems.
At the end of the renovation/restoration process, the environment is less disturbed, the temporary workspace is removed and repurposed for another job, and new life is bestowed on an elder architectural statesman of a city.