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Preservation vs. Conservation

Brief by Allen Best

Preservation – July 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

Breckenridge has been fiercely protective of the historical integrity of its 19th-century Victorian architecture. But it has had a hard time reconciling that goal with the growing emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy in the 21st century.

For the time being, the town is striking a compromise, reports the Summit Daily News. Photovoltaic collectors can be installed, but only parallel to existing roofs. Also, they must be coordinated with the roof’s color.

Is this Solomon-like justice? No, says Sean McPherson, a mechanical engineer with Innovative Energy, a Breckenridge firm. Solar collectors already have a long-term payback, even when gathering maximum sunshine. To gather maximum sun they must face south, tilted to an angle of 45 degrees. Custom-colored panels might be available, but the cost would be through the roof.

At the risk of alienating purists, council member Jeffrey Bergeron supports the revised guidelines. “In the old days, we could be very rigid about maintaining a precise historical character,” he told the newspaper. “When you look at it in terms of today’s times, in terms of escalating energy and costs and just what’s the right thing to do for the planet, I think you have to be a lot more flexible.”

The town has been trying for several years to align form with function. A case in point: windows that are replaced must be true to historical antecedent, which strictly speaking would be single pane. Single-pane windows leak heat like sieves. Tim Gagen, the town manager, said the town has worked for several years to make the code conducive to energy efficiency.