In Building Reuse: Sustainability, Preservation, and the Value of Design, Kathryn Rogers Merlino makes an impassioned case that truly sustainable design requires reusing and reimagining existing buildings. The construction and operation of buildings is responsible for 41 percent of all primary energy use and 48 percent of all carbon emissions. The impact of the demolition and removal of an older building can greatly diminish the advantages of adding green technologies to new construction. Reusing existing buildings can be challenging to accomplish, but changing the way we think about environmentally conscious architecture has the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, Merlino calls for a more expansive view of historic preservation that goes beyond keeping only the most distinctive structures and requiring that they remain fundamentally unchanged to embracing the creative reuse of even unremarkable buildings.
In support of these points, Building Reuse includes a compelling range of case studies-from an eighteen-story office building to a private home-all located in the Pacific Northwest, a region with a long history of sustainable design and urban growth policies that have made reuse projects feasible.
Kathryn Rogers Merlino is associate professor of architecture at the University of Washington.