Preservation represents commitment to remembering the past and preperaring for a sustainable future.

The benefits of historic preservation and energy conservation are often overlooked because they come to societies as a whole over time rather than directly and immediately benefiting a developer or property owner. Developers often find it more financially advantageous to tear down and build new, but because of the amount of materials used and wasted, it is not possible to sustain this practice indefinitely. Preservation of historic properties demonstrates long-term vision by preserving irreplaceable cultural resources and promoting sustainability practices by conserving our limited environmental resources.

Environmental Benefit

On its most basic level, the practice of historic preservation is the practice of conserving resources. Not only do restoration and redevelopment consume less energy than demolition and new construction, but preservation also recovers the worth of past energy investment. Demolition and new construction not only consume present-day energy, but negates and wastes the past energy investment made in a building.  Preservation is an remarkably effective method of sustainability.

Cultural Benefit

Architecture is a direct and substantial representation of history and place. By preserving historic structures, we are able to share the very spaces and environments in which the generations before us lived.Historic preservation is the visual and tangible conservation of cultural identity.

Architecture is one aspect of our heritage with which we can interact and adapt. Some buildings have specific historic context and must be meticulously and exactly preserved. Most buildings, however, must be lived in, interacted with and maintained by the public. These buildings change with us, thus recording a piece of each generation’s story. We have an obligation to respect this community resource and preserve it for future generations. Preservation works within the established history and location of cities and towns to build on the rich culture already at hand.

In addition to solidifying a community’s past, preservation can help strengthen a community’s future. Historic buildings help create vibrant, cultural downtowns that draw tourism, art, festivals, and other activities which in turn draw investment, revenue, and economic growth. A dynamic historic downtown can be the centerpiece of community life: a place to shop, invest, create and live. Simultaneously, preservation can be a tool to boost economy and quality of life.

Local residents benefit through interpretive components such as learning and recreational activities that complement an historic site’s didactic offerings and illustrate a special meaning between its past, present and future. The more the community is involved, the more attractive and effective an area will become for locals and visitors.

Economic Benefit

In the past, historic preservation has been considered a luxury practice, but in recent years, research of the economic and public benefits have revealed that it is a powerful tool in sustaining local economy, creating jobs, and even generating capital. The aesthetic, cultural and historical benefits of preservation are well known, but now, communities are realizing that there are positive economic effects also.

A number of sudies have been conducted throughout the United States in recent years, analyzing the economic benefits of historic preservation on property values. The results, on both state and local levels, have consistently reported that properties in historic districts appreciate significantly faster than comparable properties not located in historic districts. Property value is determined by the buyers and sellers of the market and when dealing with historic properties, those buyers and sellers must recognize the significance of the historic properties in order for the value to remain high. Studies have given evidence that we, as a society, value those buildings and homes that represent our collective history. These findings make investment in historic properties economically beneficial.

Historic districts do have aesthetic stipulations, but they are not intended to hinder property owners. Bylaws help ensure that the character of the neighborhood remains intact. The stability provided by these standards usually raises property values because investors can be assured that the historic nautre of the district will remain intact. According to Donovan D. Rypkema, a scholar in the field of preservation economics, “it has been found that when a local district has the greatest positive impact on property values four variables are usually in place: clear, written design guidelines for the affected properties; staff for the preservation commission; active educational outreach by the staff and commission to property owners, real estate brokers, architects, builders, etc.; and consistent and predictable decisions by the commission.”

Specifically in Washington state, economic activity invested in historic preservation has provided millions of dollars worth of sales and wages, supporting thousands of jobs. The Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation conducted a study conducted on the economic benefits of historic preservation in Washington state between the years 2000-2004. The Executive Summary of that study can be found here, along with other studies and reports.


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