Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Preservation Perspectives : Donovan Rypkema

Donovan Rypkema is a recognized expert in the economics of preservation. Currently principal at PlaceEconomics, a real estate and economic development consulting firm, Rypkema has extensive experience in historic preservation. Far from seeing historic preservation through the lens of luxury as so many critics do, Rypkema tells it like it is. His research and experience both show that historic preservation is key to sustainable development.
"I'll put it in context for you. We all diligently recycle our Coke cans. It's a pain in the neck, but we do it because it's good for the environment.Here is a typical building in your downtown- 25 feet wide, 120 feet deep. Today we tear down one small building like this in a New Brunswick neighborhood. We have now wiped out the entire environmental benefit from the last 1,344,000 aluminum cans that were recycled. We've not only wasted an historic building, we've wasted weeks of diligent recycling by the people of this community. And that calculation only considers the impact on the landfill, not any of the other sustainable development calculations..."
- From Donovan Rypkema's lecture given in New Brunswick, June 6, 2008
The waste associated with the destruction of buildings for the sake of putting up new construction is simply enormous- as many of us in the field are already aware. However, it is Rypkema's method that sets him apart. An expert who is through being "polite," Rypkema's methodical, aggressive, activist approach should inspire many to stop making apologies for supporting preservation initiatives. It is time to take a different tack, and defend the logic of preservation for what it is- the most effective means of revitalizing neighborhoods and cities, using the materials that are already on hand. Creative reuse of buildings is the ultimate recycling, it is the heart of preservation, and it is a testament to the sustainable development that preservation exemplifies.

You can read Donovan Rypkema's blog here. Please join us at Rhodes Hall for more perspectives on historic preservation this May as we host free lectures each Wednesday for Preservation Month. Watch this blog for more upcoming Preservation Perspectives.

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