Do solar panels belong on historic buildings?

If you’ve spent any amount of time in buildings with historical significance (and you probably have), you recognize that such structures are more than the sum of their physical parts. The confluence of design, material, and human action that occurred in those buildings allow you to step out of time momentarily, and experience how past generations imagined the combination of form and function as they created a built environment.

Now, imagine those same buildings with solar panels on the roof. Does that take away from the experience?

The New York Times‘ Green Inc. blog dove into that question this morning, and attempted to dissect a hot debate among preservationists. From Al Gore’s Nashville mansion to a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed cottage in Wisconsin, the preservation community is wrestling with “where the line is between acceptable and unacceptable green improvements.” Entries into the debate include:

The act of preservation is green in and of itself, no doubt. Is that enough? Does incorporating green technologies designed to reduce energy use, or provide electricity from renewable sources undermine a building’s historic character? You be the judge… let us know what you think in the comments.

Image credit: Bill Fitz-Patrick and