Are historic preservation projects greener for the environment?

There’s an old saying that still rings true today: “The greenest building is the one already built.” While it may be every architect’s dream to design a building that stands out in a city’s skyline, we find there’s more to brag about when transforming an old building to look and feel new again. Our hometown of Memphis is full of history. Now, imagine if there was no fight to preserve many of these buildings from years past. While those stories would still exist, it may be easier to forget them without a physical representation. We’d lose a piece of our history.

Construction projects are major contributors to climate change, but not all projects have equal impact on the environment. Historic preservation projects have proven to have fewer results in carbon emissions. Before demolishing an old building and starting fresh or clearing an untouched greenspace, there are several things to consider – including the environmental impact it could have on a community.


According to the EPA, “to pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.” As crucial construction materials and natural resources deplete and costs of goods and services continue to rise, there are some instances in which historic revitalization is not only more eco-friendly but cost-efficient as well. Using salvaged, recycled or repurposed materials is a step in the right direction when it comes to reducing waste and preserving materials for generations to come.


The U.S. Energy Information Administration discovered half of the country’s commercial facilities were constructed before 1980. When you look at an older building, you’re getting a glimpse into that past. As of August 2022, Memphis has 199 properties included in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. These are churches, houses, apartments, banks, neighborhoods and schools that define us as Memphians. Preserving these buildings means preserving a piece of history. These properties create a sense of community, belonging and pride, and they communicate our values with the rest of the world.


You know the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” The same can be applied to revitalization and preservation projects! By abstaining from demolition, valuable resources are saved and the need for building and construction materials is reduced. It also conserves fossil fuels and other resources needed to acquire and transport materials to the job site.


Older buildings are major contributors to rising carbon emissions, but it’s up to those of us in the building industry today to address it. Many of these buildings have outdated mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, and their structures may not be up to code. By restoring and updating them to current standards, we can give back the love these buildings gave to our communities over time. GBD Magazine said it best: “For every new building we build, there are hundreds of existing buildings that need the same level of care and design.” Designers have the expertise and capability to further bring new life to these buildings that are standing tall and remaining empty.

If you need assistance with your purchase of an old building, give us a call at 901-791-2432. Tioga is often involved in the due diligence phase of a property purchase. We can help with environmental assessments, hazardous materials testing and much more.

Posted by Carlee Smith at 07:00