Balancing Historic Preservation and Energy Efficiency in Affordable Housing Projects: New Hampshire Style!

A few of us from Buffalo Energy spent the week in New Hampshire basically doing final testing and final inspections of a major statewide energy efficiency renovation of their affordable housing apartment buildings. The program has been very successful so far with over 20 buildings participating!

Not only are there now several energy efficient buildings throughout NH, many of them are very historic!

This is where my two worlds really collide…energy efficiency and historic preservation. Combining these two topics is very hard to do and both of them end up bending a little ultimately to make the project work.
None of the projects used the historic tax credits (i tried but NH does not like gov. programs…) and unfortunately a few of them have new windows.. But in a place where you are lucky if the place is still standing, seeing a historic building stay alive for the next 50 years or so through reduced utility costs and building upgrades makes me happy because it is a form of preservation. Its maybe not hardcore preservation that we all dream of, but it’s still setting these buildings up for a positive, extended future in the affordable housing world.

The best part about affordable housing is they own their buildings for a long time and provide stability to an area and a building for years to come. Being energy efficient reduces the need to raise rents to pay for high utility costs which does ultimately keep the building affordable, occupied and alive.

An important note: Many of these historic buildings have very little interior details left (usually due to bad rehabs in the 80s..) so saving what exists such as the existing stair case, clapboard siding etc..is important to retain historic integrity and character, which we always push for.

We try to balance this preservation/energy efficiency issue all the time as best as we can. It can include this type of scenario: save the tin ceilings, wood windows and exterior details… add energy efficiency measures such as lighting, insulation and air sealing.. And you’ve pretty much mixed both together in a successful manner. Both topics give in a little to have a successful project in the end, which is good!

Anyhow, here are a couple photos of my week. I am probably going to get some bruises for posting this but who cares. We all can’t rehab buildings like the Lafayette hotel.. Right? We have done some incredible projects such as AC Lofts and 257 Lafayette which are historic tax credit rehabs and energy efficiency which are my favorite type of projects however we usually don’t get that lucky in affordable housing projects…

Lastly, this post primarily exists because I think a lot of people don’t know what I do for a living.. I make historic buildings energy efficient. It’s a daunting task but one that is well worth it.

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