I have had some recent email communication with a reader who writes, “My wife and I are nurturing an Academy of Building Conservation, following research by Donovan Rykema that the greenest building is the one already built because of the embodied energy of materials and past investment. We have an embarrassment of riches which I think of as the blessing and the curse; a blessing because of magnificent historic context, and a curse because the sheer number of sites overwhelms available resources. One example is Woodburne Mansion which is crumbling because the County says they lack the resources to stop the leaks.

I responded by writing, “I agree with you that the greenist building is an old one that has been restored. I live in an old adobe home that I have fixed up. My father, nearly single-handedly restored this building: http://mormonhistoricsites. org/oneida-stake-academy/ . It is painful to see beautiful old buildings crumble to the ground.”

He wrote back, “Painful and often unnecessary. This is a poem I wrote on the topic:”

Old Buildings
 
Eyesore or treasure? With what shall we measure
The value of buildings we see every day?
Some buildings age gracefully, well pointed masonry
With legions of people to admire and to fix
 
While some are neglected, abandoned, dejected
A sad wounded call for a quick coup de grace
Roof gone the water pours, glass broken, missing doors
Awaiting the crumble to rubble and sticks
 
Time, water, and gravity, agents of entropy
Bedevil us all and the things we create
Seeking transcendence and signs of ascendance
Instead we find ruins and piles of old bricks
 
Sometimes outdated, old stories related
Of who we were once and the things we admired
Like Ozymandias , time levels all of us
And takes us away cross our own River Styx
 
So like us old buildings are born, grow, and die
Like us old buildings may fade
But those that remain tell their stories again
And remind us of currents that were once in the mix
 
But unlike us old buildings may continue and live
Unlike us they don’t have to die
Telling stories of craftsmanship, stories of skill
Stories of songs sung in brick.
 
                              John Haigis 8/28/14

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