Monday, June 2, 2014

Building Recycling at UNCG

Like most universities, UNCG's campus has grown and expanded over time. This growth usually involves the periodic building of new structures necessary for all the various activities on campus. Spaces for teaching, learning, living, eating, researching, health services, recreation, and even all the support services, such as facilities and grounds, have to be accommodated in a campus setting. We tend to think of our buildings on campus as having fixed uses, but that frequently isn't the case. As some buildings grow older, they are no longer suitable for their original purpose. The very difficult decision then comes when a new building is built to replace an older one. Fortunately, many times the answer can be found in re-purposing the older building. This kind of refurbishing an old building to fit a new purpose is adaptive reuse. In effect, it's the recycling of an old building, instead of demolishing it, when it no longer fulfills its original purpose, but is still worth saving.

Foust Building, 2010 (Photo-UNCG Image Collection)
There are many reasons why saving an old building is preferable to demolition. One of the most obvious is the building may be deemed important for its own aesthetic, cultural, or institutional importance. The oldest extant building on campus, Foust, would fall into this category. Built in 1892, and expanded in 1895, Foust (then known as Main) was a jack of all trades building. It housed the library, classrooms, offices, and auditorium, and a gymnasium. The building is an iconic symbol of the university and underwent a window restoration in 2008 to restore its exterior appearance, among other upgrades. Foust is now home to various campus offices. Other examples of adaptive reuse at UNCG include (but are not limited to): Forney, which was a Carnegie library and is now used for campus IT, Curry, which served as a training school, Petty, which housed the science departments for many years, the Chancellor's house, now serving as the Admission's office, and the Brown Music building, which is used for various offices.
Aside from saving buildings deemed worthy due to their significance, there is research that shows that adaptive reuse, when done correctly, has considerable benefits and advantages from an environmental standpoint. Architect Carl Elefante said in his 2007 article titled, "The Greenest Building...Is One That Is Already Built," that, "Taking into account the massive investment of materials and energy in existing buildings, it is both obvious and profound that extending the useful service life of the building stock is common sense, good business, and sound resource management. To fully capture the value of the existing building stock requires merging two disciplines: historic preservation and green building."1

Forney, 2011 (Photo-UNCG Image Collections)

Recent research is proving this true. A 2012 report from the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Green Lab finds that- 1) building reuse typically yields fewer environmental impacts than new construction, 2)  adaptive reuse provides substantial absolute carbon-related impact reductions when done on a large scale, 3) new construction green buildings can take 10-80 years to compensate, through efficient operation, for the climate change impacts created by their construction, and finally, 4) buildings that tend to use the fewest materials have the most significant environmental savings.2

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