“How can historic preservation be green?” “Can efforts toward a sustainable future embrace and respect historic preservation?” While adherents to the preservation movement and the environmental movement argue these questions demonstratively from their particular perspectives, a growing number of successful historic preservation projects have begun to provide clear evidence that preservation is indeed green, especially when the broader view that encompasses social, environmental, and economic sustainability is understood. Ironically, the historic preservation movement and the environmental movement both derive from the same intent to provide stewardship of the environment. The preservation movement largely has focused on the built environment with some more recent efforts recognizing the broader environment of cultural landscapes. Conversely, the environmental movement has largely been seen as a tool for stewardship of the natural environment. At the surface, both movements may appear to be opposite sides of the same coin with overlapping and at times seemingly conflicting agendas. For those familiar with the long-term tenets of the preservation movement, this is a false perception since within the historic preservation movement it has long been known and accepted that reusing existing buildings is one of the most sustainable forms of stewardship of the environment.
This article explores the growth and emergence of the preservation movement as an increasingly recognized and important form of sustainable design in contemporary society. The efforts for historic preservation and environmental conservation have resulted in two programs—the Federal Tax Incentive Program for Historic Buildings, administered jointly by the United States Department of the Interior and the United States Department of Commerce, and the LEED Rating System administered by the United States Green Building Council—that each separately defines a model for stewardship of the built environment. The article provides an overview for the preservation and environmental movement that would appear to some as two entirely divergent strategies for proceeding with construction activity for a more sustainable future. The truth is that a number of synergies exist that can be used to multiply the benefits of historic preservation and environmental stewardship. This synergy will be further explained in the case study that explores the successful rehabilitation of the W. P. Fuller Paint Company Building completed by the Big-D Construction Company for use as its office headquarters in Salt Lake City. This project (see Figure 1) is among the first to simultaneously incorporate LEED and Historic Preservation Tax Incentives to achieve a “Gold” rating by LEED while meeting conformance requirements to the Secretary of the Interior's Standard for Rehabilitation and earning a 20% historic preservation tax credit.