Historic Preservation: The Overlooked Climate Imperative

In fall 2022, Carl Elefante, FAIA, former president of the American Institute of Architects and a leading expert in the convergence of historic preservation and sustainability worldwide, delivered the inaugural Duda Center Lecture. It was he who coined the phrase, “The greenest building is one that is already built”—which might well serve as the Duda Center’s motto. Carl is also a member of the Duda Center Board of Advisors.

Carl’s lecture was so well received that he was invited to be the inaugural Duda Center Visiting Fellow. During fall semester 2023 he joins us to pursue his research on a book in progress, meet with students and faculty, offer talks and workshops, participate in classroom activities, and keynote the Duda Center-sponsored conference on historic preservation and sustainable new development.

“Global response to climate change is accelerating astronomically, arguably with over-reliance on technological solutions and building-our-way to a decarbonized future,” he explained. Carl’s presentation, entitled “Historic Preservation: The Overlooked Climate Imperative,” views today’s challenges through the lenses of stewardship and traditional knowledge, the foundational values of historic preservation.

Carl’s mission while he is at the School of Architecture is to “send a message to the architects in the Global North that we are not yet on the right path.” Carl will be working on what he describes as a “Call to Action,” a “manifesto” urging a change in direction by architects who have an essential role to play at the center of the nexus between heritage conservation and new sustainable technologies.

Carl writes: “Indigenous and traditional building principles and practices have shaped a breathtaking array of built form worldwide. These traditions have stood the test of time and predate industrial-era dependence on fossil fuels for manufacture, construction, and operation. The challenge of the climate crisis provides new relevance to these cultural perspectives and regionally adapted solutions. Far too little is known about them and even less is understood about opportunities to evolve and scale them to address 21st century circumstances.”

Carl Elefante, FAIA, FAPT, principal emeritus with Quinn Evans Architects

School of Architecture

November 2, 2022

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