photo by: Amy E. McGovern

Climate & Culture

Preservation is climate action.

By bringing old buildings into the future through reuse and retrofitting, we can prevent and reduce harmful carbon emissions. And by adapting our historic places to withstand increasing climate-related impacts—from sea level rise, storms, and floods, to drought and wildfire—we can help historic communities become more resilient.

Revitalizing History: Emerson School's Sustainable Transformation

Explore the careful transformation of the Emerson School building in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood, an 1885 historic institution turned eco-conscious office space. In 2010, the National Trust for Historic Preservation embarked on a mission to create an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly workspace, harnessing ground-source geothermal technology. This sustainable retrofit not only added minimal cost to the project but also significantly reduced energy consumption, demonstrating a model that can be replicated in other historic buildings. The Emerson School demonstrates how modern technology and environmental consciousness can coexist harmoniously in a historical context, offering a greener future while honoring the past.

Understanding Climate Change:
This workshop provides a basic understanding of the role of cultural resources in climate change mitigation and adaptation and specific resources and guidelines to begin climate work. From PastForward 2021.

Using the CARE Tool to Calculate Carbon Savings from Reuse:
The CARE Tool estimates the operational and embodied carbon emissions associated with reusing and upgrading an existing building or replacing it with new construction. Hear from the developers of this new resource and learn how it can inform decision-making.

Read more about two historic places experiencing the damaging effects of climate change, and learn how the National Trust and its partners are working on solutions that can provide lessons for other historic places, too.

View of a digger at the National Trust Historic Site Brucemore as it prepares to install Geothermal systems.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

In 2022, Brucemore, a National Trust Historic Site in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, completed the installation of a geothermal HVAC system. Upgrading the heating and cooling system of the 1880s mansion represents a fundamental investment in long-term preservation and addresses systemic causes that threaten both the structure and the artifacts within. Learn how this investment is helping to ensure Brucemore's relevance and protection for the next century.

Flooding along the seawall of the National Mall Tidal Basin.
Sam Kittner

National Mall Tidal Basin
Washington, D.C.

As part of “America’s front yard,” the National Mall Tidal Basin is one of our nation’s most iconic, significant, and beloved public cultural landscapes and commemorative spaces. But subsidence, daily flooding, increasing visitation, and crumbling infrastructure threaten its long-term sustainability. Learn how the National Trust and its partners are developing an integrated vision for a resilient future for the Tidal Basin.

Historic property owners face distinct challenges in responding to climate- and weather-related disasters. While they can rely to a certain extent on local, city, and state agencies to provide post-disaster services, they are ultimately responsible for their own properties. These resources can help building owners respond quickly and effectively to minimize property damage and ensure a safe return home.

Learn how to prepare for—and recover from—a natural disaster.

Read More