Tara Mosby: Think about what it would be like to step into a building where Alex Haley spent hours writing fiction. Imagine what it would be like to sort through your thoughts in the same place Martin Luther King Jr. had his dream of equality. How would it feel to touch the antique walls of the room where Rosa Parks began her college education?
This history is preserved in the many historical landmarks that adorn the campuses of America’s historically black colleges and universities. Each of the famous African Americans mentioned not only walked the campus of an HBCU, but achieved something that improved the lives for the next generation.
HBCUs and their students can create a better environment for the next generation who walk these halls. One way to follow in the footsteps of our historic alumni is by reducing the carbon footprint of our historic buildings.
Since many HBCUs are home to historic buildings that won’t be demolished, why not make them sustainable? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 160 million tons of debris is generated per year because of new construction and demolitions- that’s over a quarter of our annual non-industrial waste.
The EPA also reported that nearly 40 percent of the total U.S energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions come from buildings. Upgrading a historic building with sustainable features such as solar panels, rainwater collection systems and weatherization uses much less new building materials than building from scratch.
LEED is an acronym meaning Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. This system rates the sustainability of buildings.
George M. Sampson Hall (left) at FAMU received a $700,000 grant for historic preservation. Both Sampson and Young Hall (right) are being remodeled. (Photo: Tara Mosby)
The United States Green Building Council awards buildings with LEED certification for being energy efficient, conserving water and other resources, and reducing carbon emissions. This program awards energy efficient buildings at one of three levels: silver, gold, or platinum.
Administrations at HBCUs are already considering LEED retrofitting as a practical way to preserve their historic buildings. In the stimulus bill, twenty HBCUs received a total of 15 million in federal dollars to repair sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The United Negro College Fund is supporting energy evaluations at HBCUs through their Building Green Initiative. And currently, Home Depot is accepting votes to divvy up $150,000 for sustainable building projects at HBCUs.
The historic buildings at HBCU’s are already standing; retrofitting them has the potential to save energy and continue the use of present materials.
So imagine that you are touching the same antique walls of the room Rosa Parks started her college education! Those walls have been weatherized! Step into to the building where Alex Hayley spent hours writing fiction- now look up! Those are compact fluorescents. And remember where Martin Luther King Jr. had his dream of equality- I’ve you been to the rooftop… and its covered with solar panels. Not only are Earth’s resources being preserved, but so is history.
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