Journal of Comparative Urban Law and Policy


Stewardship of the built environment emerged in the mid-1990s (Young 1994) when preservationists and conservationists needed to broaden their qualitative emotion-based arguments and adopt quantitative environmental and economic evidence to counter proposals that threatened the viability of both the built and natural environments. Social, environmental, and economic (SEE) concerns at the turn of the twenty-first century formed the triptych of the metrics found within the philosophy which: “…recognizes that the preservation, rehabilitation, and reuse of existing older and historic buildings contributes to sustainable design; respects the past, present, and future users of the built environment; and balances the needs of contemporary society and its impact on the built environment with the ultimate effects on the natural environment” (Young 2008a, p. 3; Young 2012, p. 2).

This philosophy moves beyond the singularity of defining benefits in just financial economic terms and expands the now necessary holistic perspective to include social and environmental benefits. The wealth-borne origins of the preservation movement in the United States still cast a long shadow on appropriate efforts towards stewardship of SEE resources today. Despite numerous advances in the past 50 years, the public perception of historic preservation and building reuse limits preservation’s effectiveness as a SEE planning tool. Many people view preservation and reuse as (1) being accessible and worthwhile only to wealthier citizens; (2) having little influence on more important issues like climate change; and (3) creating a hindrance to economic revitalization efforts focused on new construction only. Quite frankly, they are wrong.

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