In 2011, Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, left her post as chief architect for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 29 sites to start her own design firm, Barbara A. Campagna/Architecture+Planning, PLLC (BAC/A+P), with locations in Buffalo, N.Y.; Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Washington, D.C. It’s not the first time she has been in private practice, but BAC/A+P is one of the first to focus exclusively on finding sustainable solutions within preservation, and keeping preservation at the center of the conversation about sustainability. A former chairwoman of AIA Seattle’s Historic Resources Committee and an AIA Young Architect of the Year Award recipient (2002), Campagna recently completed her term as president of the Association for Preservation Technology International .
There is still a lot of work to be done, but I have seen lots of changes in five years. The U.S. Green Building Council has made huge strides in looking at whole-building reuse. But what we need to do is operate and maintain our buildings better. Not everyone can afford a rating system like LEED—and that’s an issue. But even if rating systems are expensive, the cost of not doing good architecture is much higher. People on both sides need to understand that a rating system—any rating system—adds costs because you’re being a better steward. If an existing building seems inefficient, it’s probably not because of its original design—it’s because of how we’ve been maintaining it.
It’s an amazing time right now. There are a lot of organizations and agencies out there that are actively thinking about preservation and sustainability together. As a firm, if you have the energy and the resources to help people understand the relationship between the two, you can find a niche for yourself. Continuing education is also hugely important for everyone, but particularly emerging professionals. Organizations and companies need to find money to certify and educate their staff members, which is going to make a difference across the board. You can’t do any of this without money, unfortunately. But people who are affecting change are finding that money.
The fact is we have to find organizations, companies, and clients—as they try to find us—who understand that they have to spend some money in the beginning for long-term benefits. If you believe that you need to make an impact, it takes people like executive directors who are willing to take a stand. The people I’ve been working with are all extremely principled. And, of course, there are compromises along the way, but you can compromise without jeopardizing your principles about sustainability and preservation.
If we can recycle aluminum cans without thinking, why can’t we apply the same principle to buildings? I talk a lot about avoided impacts if you reuse an existing building and mitigating our waste stream problem. My goal is that one day we won’t make a distinction between preservation and sustainability. We will just call it good architecture.