Click here for more resources
May 20, 2024

Embodied Wisdom with Cory Rouillard

Embodied Wisdom with Cory Rouillard

This episode features fun conversation with Cory Rouillard of Henson Architecture. Much of her work has been in Demystifying how to work with historic buildings. More recently she’s been studying physical climate adaptations and how various cultures have been able to design for climate and stay comfortable around the world.

We jump right in because its always a joy to nerd out on the intersection of Sustainability, Preservation and Advocacy with her. This conversation was a good reminder that we need to share our expertise in the built environment with politicians to help them create and support better policies.



Bio: Cory Rouillard, AIA, APT RP, LEED AP is a Preservation Architect at Henson Architecture and an active advocate for climate leadership through preservation. Her award-winning work has included the restoration of significant historic buildings, new construction in historic contexts, and work in unusual circumstances, including full building relocation and reassembly from previously disassembled components. In the office and in her professional outreach, she promotes technical guidance for the appropriate care of existing buildings to both protect our cultural heritage and meet our carbon mitigation targets. 

Cory is a Co-Chair of the Association for Preservation Technology’s Technical Committee on Sustainable Preservation. Since 2011 she has spearheaded the development of the Committee’s Online Sustainable Conservation Assistance Resource (OSCAR). Other initiatives during her tenure include the development of the Zero Net Carbon Collaboration for Existing and Historic Buildings (ZNCC) and the expansion of the Sustainable Preservation Bibliography. She is a frequent speaker on topics including tools for sustainable preservation and the embodied wisdom of vernacular design, and the urgent need for the continued use of our built heritage.

**Some of the links above may be Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you.** 


  📍 People have been living in buildings for millennia. It's not a new thing. We've been trying to keep ourselves comfortable for millennia for like, since forever. And so over time,  people in different climates across the world have come up with different strategies to make things work. 

Welcome to Tangible Remnants.  I'm Nikita Reid, and this is my show. Where I explore the interconnectedness of architecture, preservation, sustainability, race, and gender. I'm excited that you're here. So let's get into it.  Welcome back. This week's episode features a really fun conversation with Corey Rulliard of Hinson Architecture.

I met Corey at an APT conference a little over a decade ago and have been enjoying seeing all of the ways that she's been expanding her knowledge and sharing it with the profession.  Much of her work has been in demystifying how to work with existing buildings. More recently, she's been studying physical climate adaptations and how various cultures have been able to design for climate and stay comfortable around the world.

We jump right into this conversation because it's just always a joy when we get together and have the opportunity to nerd out on the intersection of sustainability, preservation, and advocacy.  This conversation was also a good reminder for me that we need to share our expertise in the built environment with the politicians who are creating policies so we can help them understand these things and create and support better policies for the built environment. 

Be sure to check out the show notes for links to the various organizations that we discuss and head over to the podcast's Instagram page at tangible remnants to see images of some of the climate adaptation strategies that she discussed.  So to give you more context on Corey, let me get into her bio core rule yard, AIA, APT, RP, and lead.

AP is a preservation architect at Hinson Architecture and an active advocate for climate leadership through preservation.  Her award-winning work has included the restoration of significant historic buildings, new construction, and historic contexts, and work in unusual circumstances, including full building relocation and reassembly of previously disassembled components. 

In the office and in her professional outreach, she promotes technical guidance for the appropriate care of existing buildings to both protect our cultural heritage and meet our carbon mitigation targets.  Corey is also the co-chair of APT Technical Committee on Sustainable Preservation and APT of course stands for the Association for Preservation Technology. 

And since 2011, she has spearheaded the development of the committee's online sustainable Conservation assistance resource. Also known as Oscar.  Other initiatives during her tenure include the development of the Zero Net Carbon Collaboration for existing and heritage buildings, or the ZNCC, which I'm a proud co-chair of, as well as the expansion of the Sustainable Preservation Bibliography.

She is a frequent speaker on topics including tools for sustainable preservation and the embodied wisdom of vernacular design, as well as the urgent need for the continued use of our built heritage.  Y'all I'm just so excited to share this episode with you and I hope you'll check out the link in the show notes to see her full presentation that we talk about that she gave to the ZNCC.

If you enjoy this episode, please subscribe, or even leave a review of the show wherever you listen to your podcasts.  I hope you learn some new things and gain some new perspectives like I did through this conversation. So without further ado, please enjoy this conversation between me and Corey Rulliard. 

I am so excited to have you on the show, particularly because I've known you and known about the work you've been doing since you started Oscar all those many years ago at APT.  So welcome to the show. And how about we start with Oscar? Okay. Thanks, Nikita. Oh my goodness. I'm delighted to be here with you.

I've been looking forward to this. So Oscar is, has been a project that we've been working on since 2011. And it's through APT, the Association for Preservation Technology, which means it's all a whole bunch of preservation, but it's also all volunteer put together. And the intention of it, it's the Oscar is short for the online sustainable conservation assistance resource.

But it's fun to think of Oscar the Grouch. Is there something fun and personifying about that or muppetifying? I totally remember you carrying like the Oscar the Grouch, uh, stuffed animal at the APT conferences in early days. In 2015 in Kansas City. Yes. So the intention of Oscar is to get really good information out into a, to a broader audience about sustainable preservation.

You know, we've recognized for a long time, As we've been developing what sustainable preservation means, it really, you know, there are, there are a lot of people who have expertise in sustainable design. There's a smaller but really awesome group of people who have expertise in preservation, but the intersection between the two is really where things need to happen.

Right. And it also developed at a point in time where,  I think A. P. T. But maybe the profession as a whole has been kind of coming to this realization about how inherently sustainable preservation is. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that we've been talking. We're now talking about embodied carbon along with operational carbon rather than just energy efficiency.

We're realizing that there's a much broader spectrum. with it. And so when I first started, there was an awful lot of discussion about, well, how do we, how do we make old buildings sustainable? How does that work? Can we do that too? Yes, we can. And there's a lot of good ways to do that. We need to do it too.

Oh, my goodness. It's it's by hanging onto your building. It is that is there's a level of sustainability right there too. We need to be leaders in the In the carbon discussion, because we really we are the ones who are responsible for about 40 percent of the emissions of building professions in general, but and the buildings.

And so the longer we can hang on to a building and keep it in in working condition and make improvements and all of that. That is 40%. I mean, 40 percent of the emissions, but half of that, roughly over time, is by keeping those buildings going. So that is a huge slice of this pie that we are trying to figure out how to, how to address our carbon emissions.

First thing, don't tear the buildings down. Hang on to them. Number one. Do that first and then we can talk about things like how do we do that efficiently. How do we do that for what this building is? How it is constructed? What's going to work well in this building and for for the people living in that occupying that building?

But first thing hang on to the building Yeah, but Oscar really started earlier than that it started back in 2011 when that conversation was still kind of developing So it's like well, what do you do with Windows? Can you hang on to them or not? What do you do with a wall? And so when we were developing this, I think we were envisioning it to begin with, to be kind of like this matrix.

In fact, we had this mouthful of a name that we just kept shortening to the matrix, but it was kind of a, well, if you have an, if you have a wall and a masonry wall, what do you do with it? And then we're envisioning it almost being like a checklist, but as it evolved and we were understanding more of the complexity of it, it, the, the shape of what this website.

This tool, it's an online, it's an app really evolved and we went and that also had to do with how the app itself evolved and it really I think the way I like to describe it is kind of, you know, with all copyright everything aside, I like to think of it as a  Pinterest site for WebMD pages for. Existing buildings.

So it's like really pretty and it's fun to access and you've got all kinds of things that you know, like nice squares that are action cards so you can look at it and say, Oh, this is something that's relevant to me. Let me click on the card and it opens up a whole page of all kinds of really good information like the WebMD portion of it.

Here's the thing. And here's what's going on with it.  And so that's the way the website, uh, the, the way Oscar as a platform has developed now, there are two different pieces of there are a couple of different pieces of that. One is that we have three different components that are going on on the website.

One is we're talking about what we call inherently sustainable features, which I've more recently started calling embodied wisdom. And I think that's maybe a better way to phrase it. The embodied wisdom of what, what we already know and how, not just, um, What the materials are, but how those materials are used and what the geometry is, the whole building ecology of what what's going on here.

And then you have your existing materials and your existing components and parts of the building. What can you do to restore them to keep them in good working order? And then additionally, what we were calling the energy portion of it was what additional things can you do to make it better?  Can you insulate?

Can you air seal? Can you? What does that mean in this context? And so with those three pieces of it, what do you have? How do you fix it? And how do you make it better is kind of the heart of what the Oscar platform is. And so with that, you know, getting that set up, we now we're realizing as we're developing this, we're also realizing, oh my goodness, we can't just have three people write all this.

It's like writing a textbook, right? It's a little crazy. That said. It's a publication really of APT.  And so what we wanted to do is really start harnessing the wisdom in the collective, the collective wisdom of the APT membership. And so we started having these content forum calls. And so it was really, we would pick a topic and we would pair them.

We would have one, the first call we would say, let's talk about wood windows and how to repair them. And then the next call would be, what can you do to improve the energy performance, the operational carbon performance of wood windows and the conversation would really the intention was, let's take what we all know collectively an awful lot of stuff that once you've been working in the field long enough, it's just, well, yes, of course, this is what you do.

But if you're first starting out. It's brand new. But the people who are like, Yes, of course, this is what you do. And here the resource to go. And this is who I tell this is who I send my students. What I send my students to are the junior staff in our office to all of that. That's the stuff that we can come up with off the top of our heads.

But we don't have the time to sit down and write that out very clearly and concisely and effectively.  The younger Sure. Sure. The emerging professionals and the grad students and everybody are trying to learn this stuff. So let's give them a running start and say, here's this stuff from this conversation.

Now, can you distill that and cite it properly? Make it into really clear, coherent language that you understand, meaning anybody else should be able to understand. Well, you know, and, and it's not a dumbing down so much as like, Hey, would your college roommate who is pre-med, who is, you know, Smart, but just not in this field.

Let's, let's get rid of the jargon. Let's talk in clear language, clear English language. And let's just, how do we do that? So we can get that information out. Yeah, exactly. And that's one of the things that I love about Oscar and I love about the work that went into it was how do we demystify working on existing and historic buildings?

How do we make it accessible so people are less scared of it? Because I think that's also, that's something that is often a barrier is that people have this misconception. The first one being, Oh, well, if it's historic, then it can't be sustainable. That's totally wrong. But then the second one is, Oh, well, if it's historic, you're not going to be able to touch it.

Or it's going to be too hard to do anything to it because I don't know what to do to it. Or the contractor friend that I have, who's only done new construction for the past 40 years, tells me that it's going to be too much of a hassle. So I don't know what to do. It's like, I love the fact that Oscar.

takes the time to kind of break it down into those pieces to make it more accessible. Like it's so fantastic. And there's a link in the show notes and all that good stuff. So for any, anyone listening who is not familiar with Oscar, you're in for a treat.  Thank you. I should say with this, we do, we are very careful to not, I mean, there are an awful lot of things.

new construction, existing construction, anything like that, where it's not just you can do do the things that you can't necessarily do yourself. And so we are also very careful to say, this is something that you really need a licensed professional for this. You really need, there's expertise that's involved with it. 

It is possible. Don't tear it down. Exactly. And so it's, it's a distinction between the two. It's like, yes, you can do this. You just probably are not going to be able to do it yourself, hire somebody, but, and there is expertise and there's this thing out there. So you should know about that. Don't tear it down.

Right. Make sure that you're taking care of it.  So I think that's really where the, the, the development of Oscar is right now is really kind of in that mode of harnessing crowdsourcing and, and really turning into a lot of conversations. And we're kind of, we're, we have quite a number of conversations that have happened that we now need to actually distill and do that phase of it.

But the enthusiasm that we've had, and we had a number of these calls during COVID, you know when we had a lot of people who were all super excited, not only to talk to each other but to actually just do something with all of this. And I think all of that was really amazing. Yeah. Oh, that's fantastic. And so I know one of the things that came out of the work that you've done on Oscar and a lot of the embodied wisdom that.

You put into a presentation that you recently gave to the ZNCC, and I know it's had a couple different reincarnations, but it was amazing and mind-blowing. And I am so grateful that you've done this. So can you talk a little bit about what brought that presentation on is kind of some of the some of the highlights from it for you as you were going through it.

Oh, sure. Oh, thank you. Yeah, so I will say that, that the genesis of that actually started way in the early days of developing Oscar. When we, before we had a, a, a website framework, and we were just still trying to talk about what it was going to be. Mm-Hmm. . We were kind of breaking down some of this stuff just to have that first. 

outline. And so the team of people who were working on it, it was kind of a, well,  somebody is going to take windows and talk about what can you do with windows and go through what, if somebody is going to do walls, somebody is going to do roofs. And, and I kind of was like, well,  I want to look at climates.

I want to go across the board in the other direction. And so, you know, because there are things that aren't really necessarily window specific or wall specific, there are. Climate specific. And so I really started thinking about things that way. And, you know, some of that came from, you know, my education, you know, architecture school back in the day, you know, there's a lot of those initial building concepts and, you know, the geometries and the, you know, thoughts about hot, humid climates are different from hot, humid climates.

Arid climates and, and what you can do and what you can't do in cold climates. All of those things.  And it, and it really turned into starting to gather some of those things. And you know, in school you kind of learned, I, at least for me, I felt like we learned about it conceptually, but also a lot of the examples were like. 

Ugly 1970s, let's post energy, post-oil crisis, what can we do type things, which, you know, it's great that all that stuff was going on.  These concepts have come from way longer than, longer ago than that. They didn't, they weren't invented at that point. If anything, a lot of this stuff was really just forgotten in the 20th century during this era of cheap fuel that we've all grown up in.

And so at a certain point when, when it was easy enough to just, Oh, let's build a box, let's throw a bunch of air conditioning into it because we can, because it exists and it's affordable and we can do, you know, then a lot of the, Earlier wisdom had kind of been forgotten because we didn't need to. But people have been living in buildings for millennia.

It's not a new thing. We've been trying to keep ourselves comfortable for millennia for like since forever. And so over time people in different climates across the world have come up with different strategies. To make things work. So in a hot climate, you're going to want to have lighter colors to reflect the sunlight off.

You're going to want to have shading. You're going to do everything in your power to keep the heat from coming into your building to begin with. And then once it's there, spit it back out. In a cold climate, you're freezing. You want to do everything you can to keep yourself warm. So you want to, you want to keep the cold out.

You want to insulate. You want to, you don't want to have Places where that cold air is going to come in and you don't want to have ways that the hot air that you're trying to create that the warmth that you're creating with us in the air and the materials is going to escape. And so a lot of these things, when you really start thinking about it.

Um, when it really comes down to it, there, there's this wisdom in all of the, that comes down to very basic concepts, but the way it translates into built form is magnificent. Yeah. And you really start looking at it and you know, some of them, you know, for example, underfloor heating, you know, it's so much more efficient to heat a thermal mass like of a, of a stone floor than it is to heat the air.

And if you keep your feet on the ground, if you're touching something warm, that's going to warm you up so much more for the same amount of energy. And so you see that across the world. You see ancient Rome, they had Hippocasts. So they'd heat underneath the floor in, in Korea, they did something similar.

They would have the, the, where they cook and that the heat, the fires to, to, to, for, for in the kitchen. Then the, The exhaust rather than going straight up a chimney, it would go under the floor under a heated stone floor slab that would be heated by this, this fire and it would go under and keep the floor.

So you would have radiant flooring, right? And then it would be spit out on the other side and it should be. In Japan and in Afghanistan and Iran, they had these ideas of a heater that would sit under the table and you would have like a,  like a quilt. It's like, you'd have a big blanket for a tablecloth and you'd trap the warmth under it.

So you'd have, you'd be sitting there and you'd have nice cozy feet while you're eating. I'm like, how brilliant is that? And how, why were we not doing this? During the pandemic, when we had, when everything, if you were going to get out of your house, it was outdoor dining because that's what you could do.

But why didn't we have this? Because it's something that's been known forever, but we didn't know about it or weren't thinking about it. And that would have made things so awesome,  but it's this kind of stuff and, and it happens all over the world. And the things that we know about are either the things that are within our own culture.

Um, within our own context, or there are things that somebody has latched onto and written about for me, you know, it's, I, I've not super multilingual, but like the things I typically it'll be something that I'll reading in English. Right. And, and so it will be. And so sometimes it's something that will be very visible and striking.

So you see an awful lot of articles about bad gears in the, in the Middle East, which are these wind chimneys. So they're set up where it's. hot and typically hot and dry and some are more hot and humid. There's a there's a spectrum there, but it works with the principle of heat rising. So the hotter gets sucked out one side and in doing so it creates a vacuum and the fresh air from higher up gets drawn down and then it goes down underground into a cannot, which is an underground canal.

So the thermal mass of the ground and the cooling water going under the air goes past that gets cooled. And then when it comes back into your living area, it can be 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler.  How amazing is that? But it's this very visible, very distinctive thing. So we see, we'll see articles about that, but there's so many other things.

And there's so many things that happen in all these cultures around the world. And if it's not the dominant culture, if it's, if it's not, Overlaid by modern buildings from the 20th century in the era of cheap fuel. And it's forgotten about if it's an indigenous population, if it's somewhere where, you know, it's like, I have to tell you, I don't know much about what was done in South America because it's not stuff that's readily there.

And, and, you know, I have a list of my, a lot of things I want to research, but they're not the ones that, but I've been capturing the low-hanging fruit first. And now I need to dive into some of the other ones. But that's one of the things I loved about the presentation because it was such a more worldview.

Whereas I feel like particularly in the U. S., most of our architecture education is very Eurocentric.  And like the, the presentation that you're going through and the different techniques that you were highlighting, they were very, you're right, very beautiful, magnificent and practical, time tested, like happening in multiple different places.

And it was just wild to me to be like, Oh, right. Why aren't we doing that here? And then as climate is shifting, I also was thinking about how so much embodied wisdom and so much knowledge from around the world is going to need to kind of be shared more widely and be picked up as climate shift, because you know, the climate that's in New York right now, it's going to be different in a while.

But it's going to be similar to another climate that already exists elsewhere on the planet, hopefully. So it's like, there's going to be a lot, there's going to be a lot of this learning and shifting and there's so much there already. So I was, that was one of the reasons why I super loved that presentation.

And I think we can link to it in the show notes as well. Well, you will make sure to link to it so people can see it because it was astounding. And the other thing that you had mentioned was the fact that there's a lot of what you've been researching. It has to also be in English, which makes such a good point.

And that's a really great distinction that for those of us who aren't bilingual or multilingual, like we are relying on things that have been translated. And so for things that haven't been translated yet, that's a whole nother layer of language and knowledge that What this hasn't been passed on to English speakers.

There's just so much there. There's so much information to still get into. And I have the sense that there's stuff that's out there that's, you know, the other languages that I speak are European languages. So it's still going to be the same focus area, right? And so there's so much that's maybe in other languages that why that I wouldn't have the opportunity to learn just because they're only 24 hours in the day.

And there's so many cultures in the world and so much out there. Mm hmm. And. I think part of this that I hope is that in getting some of this information out there, I also hope to, you know, I will always keep my eyes open for things and always look at things from a very different perspective now than I have and hope to pass that on to other people as well, but also hope to hear from other people.

And, you know, every time I read an article, every time I see anything that's involved with this, or, you know, even just other buildings that has, that have, That I haven't seen something written about yet. I just see the pictures. I'm like, Oh yes, I see what's going on there. Oh, and I bet that this thing is going to work really well like that.

But I mean, you also, there's also a wisdom in the material use.  So it's climate. Based, but it's also material availability. It's also durability. You know, I, I have some really excellent colleagues around the, you know, all over the place who have done a lot of things in terms of looking at durability. Hey, if you can, you can have.

Stucco that's, uh, you know, 2000 years old, that's outside in one place. They provided it's protected, you know, in,  you know, in ancient Rome or something, but yet you put that somewhere else and that's going to crumble in no time flat because it's not protected because it's not.  Thoughtfully, because it's not just what the materials are, but how they're used for durability, for repairability, for all of the things that can be done, all of these factors come into play.

And, you know, in theory, we're all doing that. We should all be doing that as designers, as architects and all these things, but there's always so many pieces to it. And we are so accustomed to working with the materials we're comfortable with and familiar with. And at this point here, an awful lot of that is really, really hard.

pre-manufactured stuff with carbon-intensive materials and often a lot of that.  And sometimes that makes an awful lot of sense, but I think sometimes we need to question that again. Absolutely. Absolutely. And so one of the things that I am excited about knowing your new role, and so you are now at Hinton Architecture.

So shout out to Hinton Architecture and the team. So I would love to hear more about the work you're doing there. Also, because I know that the firm in general does a lot of passive house in New York City and also just really deeply sustainable things. So really kind of walk in the talk in terms of sustainable historic preservation and how the two can blend together. 

Thank you. And yeah, I think that's one of the things. I mean, I work for a pretty amazing office right now. We have this focus that goes across three different, different areas of expertise that really are blended together, right? So we are at the heart where preservation architecture firm, but we, and we have a really, you know, we have quite a, an interest and expertise in technical assessment in general, which gets back to that durability conversation that we were just having.

And also the safety and all of those things in terms of understanding how something, how the building works and keeping it. Going and keeping it safe and keeping it lasting and keeping water out and all the performance things that need to happen. And with that, we're also taking all of that and pushing that forward in terms of the operational carbon.

So we have quite an expertise in the office about passive house. And it's really passive house in an existing building context, and that I think is the really important distinction, and it's really amazing, you know, when you get everybody here talking about everything. So, I mean, so we work across, we've got buildings, yeah, all over New York City with, with, different aspects of that um, you know, we have some like full-on pristine preservation projects.

We have an 1804 townhouse that is, you know, brick and it's slate roof and all of that and going into the details of finding all the evidence of things that we can find inside the dormers and all of the things that are always really fun there. But we also have things like passive house retrofits of individual apartments rather than whole buildings.

I mean, we do whole buildings, but you know, in a place like New York City, where you have people who don't necessarily own the whole building, but they want to do something within their unit, it's something that's not as commonly done, but it's something that we have done before. And it's pretty amazing.

We also, right now, we have a project that. You know, we just set a set of drawings out the door for it to get it, get it going. So get construction started where it's a building where there was the exterior, it was reclad back in the seventies. That exterior was not in great condition. It wasn't well-performing and we were going to need to, to take that outer white off anyway and redo it.

And so in looking at it, it's like, well, this would be a perfect opportunity to do exterior. exterior insulation on a building. You don't get to do that very often. Yeah, you really don't. And especially when you're dealing with preservation very often, because that's, it just, it doesn't work well. But this building didn't have, it's, it's a really cool, in fact, it's a combination of two existing buildings, but it didn't have historic significance.

It's just cool that it's a couple old buildings. Yeah. And in recladding it, which we were going to have to do anyway, we're having a chance to really create continuous exterior insulation in a way that really makes sense there. And so, you know, we're working on a lot of different things across a lot of different areas.

Areas of expertise and, you know, running the energy numbers and running and putting that into perspective. You know, here in New York City, we have the Climate Mobilization Act, which is really a suite of laws, local laws, one of which is this idea of stepping down what is allowable in terms of operational carbon emissions.

And so it's come into effect. The first. Phase of it right now is this year and and going going forward at set targets set in a set timeline the amount you were allowed to emit from your building per square foot based on the type of building and all of that is going to get more and more stringent and whatever you emit beyond that you're going to have to pay a fine for.

But having that set in a framework like that, where you know what's coming, it allows you as a building owner, it allows us as the design professionals to talk together and say, look, you can do this thing. That's going to work now. But in 5 years, you are going to start paying fines for it. So instead of doing that, why don't we talk about making this a little bit better?

Since you're going to, the cost is really going to be an awful lot in the work that's being done anyway. Don't reinvent that. Let's just do that a little bit better. That'll get you that much more time in terms of being in compliance. So you're not paying fines.  And that I find to be amazing. Yeah, and I'm really glad that New York is leading the way on that, because I know that's happening in other cities now as well.

So like, D. C. and even some cities in Maryland, they have an act, or they will enact the Building Energy Performance Standards, or BEPS, which is a similar concept, where you know it's going to be a renewable cycle, and so you have to, you know, there's a baseline, you have to reduce your emissions and it's, you know, every five or six years kind of thing.

And, but that's really helping to give designers more of a leverage point with owners to be like, Hey, instead of doing the code minimum, why don't we actually plan bigger interventions that are actually going to be more energy efficient in the long run because you have the cycle coming up. And so I know that advocacy is something that you are amazing at and particularly in getting architects to be able to talk to the policymakers because as.

As we've talked about offline, the policymakers need to know more about what they're creating policy on, particularly when it comes to the built environment. So I would love to hear more about some of the efforts that you've taken as you've been learning more and talking to more politicians.  Sure. You know, I think part of that is just that realization that there is that, that the. 

Technical expertise and the policy sides are really two different areas of expertise, but they really need to work together. And, you know, so I live in a very politically active district, both on the national level and on the very, you know, the city council level. A couple of years ago, for example, former city councilman had run into term limits.

And so suddenly his seat was open. There were 20 some odd people who were running for his seat. Oh my gosh. Amazing. And they would all show up at our farmer's market on Saturdays. So, you know, so I would just go every Saturday, pick up my vegetables and everything. And then I'd talk to them because they're all eager to talk to everybody walking by.

I'm like, okay, we'll give me your platform. Okay. Awesome. Awesome. What do you know about embodied carbon? I don't know. What's that? Okay. This is what embodied carbon is. This is what it means in comparison to operational carbon. So hang on to your building. And, and so we have this huge bank of carbon in New York City.

We have, you know, buildings in New York, you know, I was talking about 40 percent of carbon emissions globally in a building-intensive place like New York City, it's more like 70%.  So it's a huge piece of the puzzle.  And what I've been learning is that it sounds like that's kind of like, if you look at big cities anywhere, that it's really just when it's a very building-intensive place, it's a much larger percentage.

So in talking about that, it's like we in New York City have this huge resource. We have a bank of carbon that's already here that has already been built, meaning we don't have to start from scratch building it, meaning let's take care of what's there because as soon as you tear it down and build it back up again, you are starting from scratch and it will take us decades.

If ever to recoup that cost, that carbon emission cost and financial cost and everything else. But, and so giving a quick,  like an elevator pitch of that, like, this is what this is. Okay. So you're running for office. So what are you going to do in, in, as a policymaker, what are you going to do to provide incentives to hang on to our existing buildings?

And we were talking a little bit about, you know, how New York City has this, you know, the local laws that are, you know, stepping down what's allowed for operational carbon. I would love to see a similar thing happen for embodied carbon, meaning you have, you have to hang on to your buildings or like you have huge incentives to do so.

And you really need to, and when you are building something new, think about more about what those materials are. And what I've been finding is that in Europe, they're actually starting to do that. A number of European countries. Got a similar step-down thing for embodied carbon, and I think the Netherlands is way ahead with that.

There's a group in the UK who's created a.  proposal for a part Z or part Zed of their building regulations saying the Zed or the Z for zero net carbon or zero embodied carbon, I think. But they're doing a similar thing where they have a, you know, looking out over a number of years, like let's quantify what we have, let's know what we have.

And then we're becoming over time, we're going to step down and become more and more stringent in terms of what's allowed. In the UK, they last year, they actually turned down The request to, to tear down a significant building and build new on the site, not because of the historic significance of it, but because there was going to be such a loss in embodied carbon. 

They said that they couldn't tear down that building because of that. That's amazing. Amazing. It is so amazing. Like the, like just nerding out on that for a second, like the fact that it's already happening where we're not just looking at the cost of buildings, but they're also like, no, no. What's the carbon costs?

Not just financial. Right. Because we don't have that kind of carbon time to just demolish things and try. Oh my gosh, that's amazing. Right. We don't have the time. Like realistically, when you're, we're looking at the climate, we don't have the time to do that. I mean, we're, we just, I think this past week something came out where, you know, we've been talking about, we've got, we've got a couple of years out to get our act together before we hit that 1.

5 degrees Celsius threshold. We've passed it. Yeah. We have passed it already. Yeah. We don't have time to do this. We have to do things the right way. We have to do things thoughtfully and carefully and appropriately in a way where we're not just talking about the efficiency, the energy efficiency of things, but also what this is going to mean for the climate, but, you know, when you're doing this, this also means you're taking care of that built heritage that you have and the embodied wisdom of what's there and all the cool things that you like about old buildings and why, you know, all the personality and all the heritage and all the stories.

But also when you make things more efficient and retrofit them to make them, you're also making it more comfortable and more quieter, cleaner air, you know, cozier, all of the things that you want, you know, creature comfort, all of that comfort. comes from all of this as well. So, you know, there's, there's benefits in all directions to all of it. 

And the more we can do in terms of hanging on to our existing buildings, I mean, we also have, we have an affordability crisis in an awful lot of places. We certainly have it here in New York. The more you can hang on to your existing buildings. That is so much more, you're not going to build a new building and make it affordable.

Like let's, let's be real, but hanging on to what you already have, that cost has already sunk into it. And so it's there. Take advantage of that, make use of it. And that is going to be much more affordable and address a lot of our, all of these other interrelated issues that we have to deal with in terms of, you know, our built environment and society and all of these things are all connected.

Okay.  Anybody, we've got such a short period of time to actually make something happen. And any of us architects or engineers or anybody who's working in the building industries, we have such a huge responsibility and such a huge opportunity to do something we can, we can, and are making a difference. We have to make a difference.

We've there, you know, because of the things that we do, that Have such a large percentage of an impact on where we live globally or even more, you know, in certain areas like building cities that are much more building intensive 70%. That's a huge portion of our of our carbon footprint. And like what we're doing here.

And so we have so much that we can do and we have the knowledge to do so too. It's not like it's brand new stuff that we're coming up with, like silver bullet pie in the sky, whatever we have.  We have the resources and the, the.  Knowledge to do so. It's more of that matter of getting that knowledge out to a broader audience so that we're all enabled to, to understand more of what we have, what we can do, what's already there that we can work with and do so.

And I think that's a lot of where the, where the embodied wisdom part comes in. We're not reinventing the wheel here. Sure. There's some things that can make things better in some things. So, and, and other things that like, but let's work with all of those together. Let's work with the things that we have.

To make a difference and hang on to our buildings, keep them going, keep them more efficient, make them more efficient, and in doing so, make them more comfortable, make them more valuable to the people who are living in them and inhabiting them.  Thank you so much for listening. Links to amazing resources can be found in the episode's show notes.

Special thanks to Sarah Gilberg for allowing me to use snippets of her song Fireflies from her debut album, Other People's Secrets, which by the way is available wherever music is sold.  If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to the show.  And now that Tangible Remnants is part of the Gable Media Network, you can listen and subscribe to all network partner content at gablemedia.

com. That's G A B L media dot com.  Until next time, remember that historic preservation is a present conversation with our past about our future. We don't inherit the earth from our parents, but we borrow it from our children. So let's make sure we're telling our inclusive history.  I saw the first fireflies. 

Right then  I thought of you.  Oh, I could see us catching them and setting them free.  Honey, that's what you do. 

That's what you do to me.