Historic Building Efficiency and Sustainability

Energy efficiency improvements to an historic house
Energy Efficiency Project
How can historic buildings support my community’s efforts to reduce energy use? 

Historic buildings are inherently sustainable. Constructed with traditional materials and methods historic buildings have minimal carbon impacts. Approximately 11% of global C02 emissions can be attributed to new building materials and construction. Maintaining and rehabilitating existing buildings will extend the life cycle of these materials and reduce the growing carbon impacts of new construction. 

With strategic planning that is building and site specific you can assess the existing energy-efficient characteristics of your building and create a treatment plan that will reduce energy loss without compromising the interior air quality safety or structural condition.  

Historic buildings were built to last and with maintenance and a few improvements we can reduce the C02 emissions from building use without shortening the life cycle of the existing building.  

How can I weatherize my building while protecting its historic character? 

Recognize that historic buildings were designed to be efficient when originally constructed, and these same elements continue to contribute to excellent energy efficiency today. Quick and inexpensive retrofits that generally will not impact the historic character of your building include installing storm doors and windows, adding weatherstripping, replacing incandescent light bulbs, replacing old appliances, and adding shade trees to the property. The replacement of windows and addition of insulation are not always the best generalized solutions, so please consult with your historic preservation partners for advice specific to your historic building and budget. Keep in mind there are some dangers in weatherization alterations that can do more harm than good by inadvertently trapping moisture, introducing materials with shorter lifespans, exposing occupants to toxins, damaging the structural integrity of a building, or undermining the inherent efficiencies put in place decades ago. Remember, each historic building is unique and requires individualized solutions for energy efficiency.  

Guidance from the State Historic Preservation Office and the Preservation Trust of Vermont:

Energy Conserving Features Inherent to Older Buildings

Homeowner’s Guide: Contractors and Old Buildings

Homeowners DIY Energy Efficiency Tips for Older Buildings

Improving Energy Efficiency in Vermont’s Older Buildings Research Guidance

Additional resources to help guide your sustainability planning: 

The Secretary of The Interior’s Standards For Rehabilitation & Illustrated Guidelines On Sustainability For Rehabilitating Historic Buildings

NPS PRESERVATION BRIEFS 3 Improving Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

Whole Building Design Guide: Sustainable Historic Preservation

Old House Online: How to Weatherize Your Windows

Efficiency Vermont: When to Repair or Replace Your Windows

Saving Windows, Saving Money: Evaluating the Energy Performance of Window Retrofit and Replacement

Energy Conserving Features Inherent In Older Homes

If you need to comply with the Energy Code (RBES & CBES) and the changes may adversely affect an historic building, please complete the The Historic Buildings Exemption Form and submit to ACCD.projectreview@vermont.gov.

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