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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Updating a Historic Building for a New Use
or why Historical Preservation and Adaptive Reuse is the most Sustainable things we can do.

Below is a photo of Beaufort, South Carolina's Carnegie Library. This building was built via the Carnegie Foundation as a gift to Beaufort with the Building opening in 1918. This is one of a handful of Carnegie Buildings built in South Carolina.

We have assisted the Great Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce in up fitting the building to allow them to occupy the building. The above interior photo shows a nice clean up of the formal Foyer space with historic trim and doorways remaining. We were unable to return the entire building to its full grand reading room configuration but are hopeful that funding can be secured in the near future.

Reusing this type of building is very sustainable for many reasons. First, it simply makes sense to not fill up a landfill with the building while having to build an entirely new building. That point makes some sense to most on the surface level, but fully consider that much of what a new building is going to be built with, is going to be very expensive in terms of energy. How much energy is a new foundation with all its steel going to cost? How about raw transportation costs? It really adds up quickly.

Second point is that historic buildings are in many ways just plain built better. This building is relatively new by 300 year old Beaufort Standards but, it has withstood many bad storms and a few minor seismic events as well. Most of the windows are original wood and the core building is a full masonry shell. With proper maintenance (which has to factored into any building) this building really can be maintained for almost ever. How many buildings built in Beaufort in the last few years can be expected to last even 30 years?

Lastly, as a civic building, this Library has become a landmark of Beaufort. It contributes to the Street scape of the Old Commons area and forms a great ensemble with the Arsenal and Firehouse Buildings. Not using and maintaining your landmarks and civic buildings & spaces is a path of decline for communities.

1 comment:

  1. Good article, Eric... thanks! The program is one of the most overrated things in architecture, because if a building lasts for centuries, it's likely to be used for many things other than its programmed purpose for most of its life. So we shouldn't focus so much on doing a good day care center, or a good post office, but on doing a good building (that can then be used for many things.)