Posted by: wadahp | October 7, 2009


On October 5, President Obama issued an Executive Order that defines the federal government’s role in sustainability.

The 15 page document clearly establishes the federal government as taking a lead in implementing sustainable practices that will help to reduce the nation’s overall carbon footprint. A quick read of the Order reveals very specific actions and timelines that federal agencies must take to plan and implement actions to reduce carbon emissions and conserve resources in order to meet sustainable goals.

Several sections of the Order target federally owned facilities and buildings as areas that agencies must focus attention in meeting their “Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan.” Much of the text is devoted to adoption of strategies for locating, planning, designing, constructing, and operating/maintaining buildings that reduce energy use and emissions and encourages seeking alternative energy sources.

Although historic preservationists have worked over the past several years to tout the benefits of historic preservation principles as key tools to reach sustainability goals, the Executive Order does not devote as much language supporting preservation as could be hoped for. The most direct reference to historic preservation can be found in Section 2 (g) viii (“ensuring that rehabilitation of federally owned historic buildings utilizes best practices and technologies in retrofitting to promote long-term viability of the buildings:”). The Order is very strong in directing federally owned facilities to be located in center city districts and neighborhoods served by transit. Other items of interest to preservationists are references to reducing the amount of construction and demolition debris going to landfills. See Sections 2 and 10 for much of the language that focuses on federal agency facility location and management.

Port Angeles Post Office

Port Angeles Post Office



  1. I am very concerned about the virtual omission of historic preservation in sustainability order, and other related federal initiatives. In particular, I am very worried about the local impact of the energy directives and programs that will result from the stimulus strategies. I fear another wave of locally administered one-size-fits-all weatherization programs that result in window replacements, insulation-related siding removal and other impacts–all in the name of energy conservation.

    Here in Friday Harbor we are working to organize a day-long workshop called Rehab Green: Historic Preservation, Building Rehabilitation and Sustainability. We are targeting local contractors, the local Power Co-op, property owners, and sustainability advocates.

    The goal is to address greenwashing and educate the community ahead of the energy conservation re-hab wave. We would also like to open it up to a limited number of historic preservationists from local communities on the mainland. We are hoping to get Ralph DiNola from Portland, as the speaker.

    The problem we are facing, besides resources, is creating a program, and finding resources, that speak to small cities and towns, rather than the larger-scale urban context. If the examples and case studies we use are Seattle-scale, we won’t win the hearts and minds of the people who make critical rehab decisions. And there are very few resources available for small towns and cities.

    I would welcome any feedback, information, and support that DAHP can give. And would be happy to hear from preservationists in our area who might like to attend. We are looking at mid-March or early April 2010.

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