As a 20-something, my friends and I like to daydream about the future. What kind of great careers we’ll develop, how well we plan on aging and how awesome our dream houses will be. While most of my friends are years away from taking the dive into a mortgage, it’s still a hot topic of conversation.

Everyone is looking for something different. My husband and I often dream about a home in DC, on the metro, with a big yard and lots of character and history. But a close friend recently told me that she and her husband want a brand spankin’ new house, something that they helped design themselves, that no one has lived in before them.

Repairing existing residential buildings produces about 50 percent more jobs than building new. (Photo: Flickr user AdamFranco/preservationnation.org)

I understand why people might lean towards brand new. The thought of a “fixer-upper” can be overwhelming and chances of hauntings are higher in older homes (just kidding! OR AM I!?) But stop! There are soooooo many positives to buying a historic/older home or renovating/rehabilitating an existing structure:

1. It is less wasteful to rehabilitate a building rather than build new. When you tear down an old home, all those materials go in a landfill. Demolition debris was estimated to be 325 million tons nationally in 2003. The EPA estimates that residential demolition creates 115 pounds of waste per square foot, and non-residential demolition creates 155 pounds of waste per square foot.

2. Older buildings typically have inherently sustainable characteristics such as high thermal mass and ample daylighting. It is a common misconception that older buildings are less energy efficient than more recent construction. The US Energy Information Administration tells us otherwise – buildings built before 1920 are approximately equivalent in energy efficiency to buildings built between 2000 and 2003. Buildings constructed in the 1970s and 1980s are actually the least energy efficient.

3. Performing energy efficiency retrofits results in an average of “19 percent savings on fuel bills and a 10 percent savings on electricity” (According to a New York Times article). It’s easier, cheaper and greener to simply replace boilers, fix windows and use energy-conserving lightbulbs rather than tear down and rebuild a house from scratch.

4.  Repairing existing residential buildings produces about 50 percent more jobs than building new. Renovating uses twice as much labor, half as much materials.

5. The rehabilitation of vacant or decrepit buildings help to  increase property values and decrease safety risks.

6. Most older/historic properties are located in urban, walkable neighborhoods. Rehabilitating these properties encourages more homes and jobs in these energy-efficient areas. Being close to work and play helps save money on commutes. The Abell Foundation found that historic preservation projects reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMTs) 30% to 40% as compared to new suburban development.

7. Federal and State tax incentives encourage the preservation of historic buildings through tax laws that benefit qualifying historic preservation projects. Thirty states now offer rehabilitation tax credits.

8. Since it was enacted in 1978, the federal historic tax credit has stimulated the rehabilitation of 37,000 vacant or underutilized historic buildings, created two million jobs and attracted $90 billion in private investment.

9. The Abell Foundation studied Maryland’s Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit and found that there’s a $8.53 return on every state dollar invested. Rehabilitating creates jobs AND makes $$!

10.  Preserving history, local culture and greenfields (farmland, virgin land and open space outside of urban city centers). The less we rehabilitate already existing structures, the more residential developers will continue building in suburban areas. By restoring an older property, not only are you saving a beautiful field somewhere, you’re also preserving an important part local history.

– Ann Erling Gofus

Advertisements