Our Industry

Old Meets New: Balancing Preservation with Smart Technologies

By Brian Uher


Preserving historic buildings, while modernizing the services within or the performance of, can be a challenge. Traditional materials and methods and operating schemas generally run counter to modern standards and operating practices, leaving gaps in operational strategies. Engineering approaches used in older buildings, such as passive ventilation, low internal loads, and natural light, have been replaced by newer approaches such as controlled ventilation, high internal loads, and more artificial lighting. Building operations teams must balance preserving historic buildings while accommodating tenants’ needs and modern business processes. Energy efficiency, while desirable, is often a lower priority than tenant satisfaction and preservation in capital allocation and operation.


Historic buildings can implement smart building technologies to support the balance between preservation and modernization. Three benefits of integrating data in complex buildings include:

  1. Allowing inter-operable data flow, thereby creating operational solutions previously obscured by data silos. For example, monitoring weather, occupancy, and HVAC performance data helps manage energy. By integrating this data with zone layouts, humidity readings, and temperature patterns, a smart system can integrate all the data and find ways to manage humidity to protect the building while maintaining comfort and managing energy waste.
  2. Quickly finding operational answers. This process takes minutes, saving time, allowing for evaluation in real time and reducing or eliminating compromises between comfort and energy savings.
  3. Driving value for historic properties by preserving the building while balancing comfort and efficiency (in unique sites like these, real-time data is critical in finding and maintaining this balance).


Our team develops solutions specific to our clients’ expectations and building constraints, so solutions are customized to help drive optimized outcomes. If we believe Carl Elefante and the idea that “the greenest building is one that is already built” (which we do), then we should accept the challenge develop the best solutions for historic buildings. If you’re curious about how to integrate smart technologies into your historic building, contact me at buher@wbengineering.com. I’d be happy to share our expertise. We also have information about how we can help make your building smarter on our service page here.