Environmental protection through stewardship of historical buildings was the message of Jean Carroon’s presentation to the James River Green Building Council on Tuesday.

“Stewardship is the heart of the environmental movement,” Carroon said. “The only way we can really take care of nature is by taking care of what is all around us and believing in the power of preservation.”

Jean Carroon, Goody Clancy

Carroon, an architect and author, leads the preservation and renovation practice of Goody Clancy, a Boston-based architecture, planning and preservation firm. She has completed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified renovations on historic buildings for Champlain College, Harvard University and the National Park Service.

“Every time we extend the service life of a building, we avoid the environmental impacts of creating something new,” Carroon said. “We avoid the environmental impacts of our throwaway culture.”

“[The JRGBC] wanted the public to be aware that it is possible to do historic restoration in a green manner,” said Ned Ormsby, sponsorship chair of the JRGBC and project coordinator for Lithic Construction. “They are not exclusive.”

Ormsby also commented on why adaptive reuse is especially relevant to the Charlottesville-Albemarle region.

“There is a large volume of historic buildings in Charlottesville and it is important that they are recognized for their value as historic structures, and that they be rehabbed instead of torn down,” Ormsby said. “There is a lot of work going on in historic restoration in this area.”

Carroon was recently involved with the renovation of the University of Virginia’s New Cabell Hall. Her firm proposed installing solar-paneled awnings on the southern face of the building.

The awnings in her design would have directly powered lights and fans in the building, but she said the design was ultimately rejected because the project would have had a 99-year payback period to recoup the upfront cost. Carroon said one reason the payback period was so high was because of Virginia’s relatively low energy costs.

Carroon said that historic preservation goes hand-in-hand with environmental protection.

“The reason to reuse an object is to avoid the creation of another,” said Carroon. “Buildings hold millions of pounds of already created materials. We have to reuse our biggest objects, which are buildings.”

Carroon named historical preservation policies that are being used in other American cities as potential ways for the Charlottesville area to improve its sustainability while protecting its historical sites.

She named an energy-limiting policy for privately owned buildings that will soon be implemented in Seattle and a law in Massachusetts that outlaws the dumping of commercial construction materials in landfills as a way to generate jobs.

“All of a sudden there was an economic basis that handled construction waste and changed the attitude about how much construction waste you created and what type of construction waste you created,” Carroon said.

The JRGBC’s next monthly meeting will be about green roofs and will be held at noon on May 8 at CitySpace .