I figured this out using the neat new calculators at http://www.thegreenestbuilding.org/. These tools estimate the “embodied energy” (the total amount of energy that went into a building’s construction) an existing building contains, and how much energy would be needed to tear it down, dispose of its materials, and build something new. You can then convert those figures into a more tangible scale: gallons of gasoline.
Of course, this is only an estimate, but it’s a great way for preservationists to start putting some figures behind what we’ve known for a long time: as architect Carl Elefante memorably put it, “the greenest building is the one already built.”
Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Advocacy Coordinator