New Southeast Historic Preservation Program Launched, HVAC Updates a Focus

Two Atlanta based organizations have started the first green building certification project for historic homes, focusing on historic buildings in the Southeast.

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and Southface are teaming together to form EarthCraft Sustainable Preservation certification program, which aims to evaluate and highlight the sustainable features of historic buildings, while preservationists and green building experts provide guidance for appropriate upgrades.

Two major alterations that face many historic buildings are making them more energy and water efficient, while preserving their valuable historical features. The EarthCraft preservation project aims to help historic building owners make these decisions.

According to the National Park Service’s Technical Preservation Services, updating HVAC systems can be particularly challenging. That’s because HVAC systems are usually developed and installed with new construction in mind; historic homes are often more complex in the way that they interact with their surrounding environment, nor do they always have the hidden infrastructure systems to support and hide HVAC systems.

Paying Mind to Humidity and Heat Control

For example, because historic homes are not very well insulated, the home’s temperature and humidity remained closer to external conditions. If a new heating and cooling system is installed without the expertise of preservationists and HVAC contractors, the dryness of forced air heating could cause damage to finely crafted woodwork. Improperly installed air conditioners can potentially cause condensation problems.

Beyond these common considerations, other historic buildings have the particular challenge of preserving collections or artifacts. In that case, special care must be given to a building’s humidity and temperature in order to provide the best environment for the preservation of the collection.

Ensuring Seamless HVAC Integration into the Home

Furthermore, historic buildings often don’t have the infrastructure present to hide ductwork or the electrical systems of a heating and cooling system. HVAC contractors and building preservationists must give thought to how to install equipment without damaging or signifcantly altering important historical elements of the home.

Big HVAC systems are harder to incorporate into a historic home. Besides the difficulty of concealing them, they can also prove a burden to the structure if too heavy. That’s why green preservation makes sense: improving the building’s energy efficiency can help lower the heating and cooling load of the home.

The newly formed EarthCraft certification program reminds everyone who owns or is purchasing a historic home that alterations to the home, particularly HVAC upgrades, have to be approached with care and consideration in order to protect the value and historic nature of the building.

If you have questions or concerns about the heating or cooling system in your historic home, contact the expert HVAC contractors at Gagne Heating and Cooling. We’re here to help every home, historic or new, in the Alpharetta and metro-Atlanta area meet their comfort and energy efficiency goals.