Historic buildings add character, history, and aesthetic value to cities. Fifty one years after New York City created its groundbreaking 1965 landmark law to preserve older structures (the law was a response to the razing of the original Penn Station), historic preservation continues to be a relevant topic in New York City.

Many people don’t realize that older buildings can be just as sustainable, if not more so, than new ones. By leveraging new technology and the human imagination, older structures can be adapted in ways that increase their energy efficiency while preserving their historic value. From functional design strategies to lighting and insulation upgrades, here are three strategies and ideas for developers who are interested in sustainable preservation to explore:

Make a concerted effort to incorporate new technologies that are multi-functional. Air conditioning and heating systems which are connected to the Internet can provide useful feedback can save money and energy energy in the long run. Before installing new plumbing fixtures in a building, research your options. These days, the market is flooded with new fixtures and systems that are designed with water conservation in mind!

Strengthening the connection between nature and the built environment is a recurring theme in sustainable preservation. Implementing green design elements within an historic building is easier than most people think. Consider outfitting your building’s roof with natural vegetation, or a rooftop garden; installing a green roof not only improved your building’s energy use, it adds natural beauty to your building structure, too.  

Make intentional choices when it comes to selecting source materials and ensure measures and processes are in place to keep waste generation to a minimum. It can be counterproductive to use extraordinary amounts of new materials to construct energy efficient buildings.

The idea of sustainable preservation is not new, but the subject continues to be relevant as urban populations increase. It’s important for those in the real estate and development industry to  understand to consider the intrinsic value of historic places and how that value can complement environmental and social landscapes of cities. When historic communities maximize their energy efficiency potential, everybody wins.