“The Greenest Building is the One that is Already Built”

Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Over 15 national Caribbean trusts and heritage organizations met to share ideas, tools and techniques for cultural and natural conservation. During his address, Senior ECPA Fellow Jeff Soule noted that “through adaptive re-use of buildings, compact settlement patterns, walkability and mixed use, the historic places show how we need to develop new areas and focus on infill.”

Each country presented their current situation and there were many similarities. One area everyone agreed needs more effort is citizen involvement. By educating the public about the value of reusing and preserving the built environment, is possible to gain more political support for the investments and government rules and regulations needed to encourage conservation, as opposed to green-field development. At the conclusion of the program a declaration was drafted, to which Soule successfully added the following: “Noting an urgent need to carefully use our land resources, we commit to promote the value of historical settlement patterns and traditional building techniques in new development and redevelopment.”

Furthermore, Senior ECPA Fellow Jeff Soule mentioned that land conservation is the flip side of center city revitalization. “If we make it hard for builders and investors to redevelop and make it easy for them to develop in the agricultural land, it’s no surprise that the historic city centers decay and decline.” Many case studies of revitalization and the change in thinking especially of the young generation were discussed. For instance, the Woodbrook neighborhood in Port of Spain is a vibrant commercial, residential area adjacent to the center city. If the governments and international entities are serious about climate change and energy conservation, they need to pay attention to investments and support for historic cities and towns.

The ECPA Fellows initiative is building a hemispheric network of technical experts working on energy and climate change by bringing together diverse actors from governments, civil society and the private sector to better engage and cooperate with each other and to identify energy and climate change issues in the region and work towards sustainable solutions. The main objectives of these visits are to facilitate technical assistance, innovative solutions and technologies related to clean energy, sustainable urban development, climate change adaptation, and deforestation. The first project phase comprised 46 visits to 20 countries that fostered the transfer of knowledge among the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean. Partners of the Americas (PoA) implements this ECPA initiative, which recently started a second phase.