What is the history of the building, why is it interesting and valuable and how can it become part of a new identity?

What is the next chapter in the building’s story? What are the key physical elements and ideas necessary to tell this new chapter?

How, through art, design, architecture and the guest experience, will guests understand the identity and story.

Honorable Mention | RTF Essay Writing Competition April 2020

Category: Adaptive Re-Use As A Way Forward
Participant: B.Steffi
Profession: Architect
Country: India

In an age when energy conservation and climate change are the new buzz words for policymakers and occupy a fair share of the Mindspace of world leaders and at discussion panels, we seem to constantly talk of recycling water, waste and natural resources. However, recycling of buildings is something not so often discussed.

As time changes, the need for various types of spaces diminishes. These buildings, whose function is no longer required, become subjects of abandonment. In many situations, the types of buildings most likely to be forgotten include industrial buildings, political buildings and community buildings. One of the possible lifelines for such buildings is adaptative reuse as it reaffirms their presence in the neighbourhood. By doing so, one less building is added to the urban fabric and there is a lesser negative impact on the environment. The context, though undergoing a change, can still hold onto a bit of its past.

An amalgamation of uses occurs when adaptive reuses is carried out creating a more vibrant atmosphere. Adaptive reuse, when done correctly, will ensure that the identity of the building undergoes a transformation, but it still retains its integrity. Through understanding why fail it can be made possible to stop further buildings from becoming abandoned. And this new lease of life can come in the form of renovation, restorations, retrofitting or just reuse. Though adaptive reuse is just one solution, it seems to be the popular option due to its wide array of positives. it can encompass all the prior said solutions. and in retrofitting is the fastest spreading option is the process of integrating photovoltaic. By looking at these two as a solution for the increasing mismatch in need for land and the need for use, a more sensible and logical answer is formed.

The building when built with a specific function in mind, faces a threat of becoming obsolete when the need changes. At the same time, when a building is open ended and serves a mere shell, it fails to garner the attention of the people. There is thus a necessity to understand the context during the initial stages of design, even if a conscious effort is made to ensure the longevity of space the building can become obsolete. In such situations of abandonment, the approach to shaping the building’s future is crucial to the life span of the building that is somewhat similar to human, namely the “cradle to grave period”,

Anything the designer’s power to prolong a building’s life span must be carried out. This is because the building is already built which is well-connected, and it failed predominately due to a change in the political, economic context. If the building had become a subject of obsolescence due its structural failure then the investment in its future is questionable.

The building, that contains a steady and sound function and the structural system is the best contender for the processes of adaptative reuse. They have been in their location for a long time period and thus have layers of local context and history added to them. They are centrally located, have a sense of community, they also contain necessary services that are mostly outdated and are already constructed, by retaining the sound members of the buildings, retrofitting the outdated ones, introducing the complementary members and restoring the landmark features of the structure gives a new lease of life. As the building is now restored to suit the changing needs, adding an environmentally friendly element can improve its sustainability factors that the building can sustain itself and over a period cover the cost incurred in its restoration. existing buildings in general can be 16 percent less costly than other forms of construction. Many of these spaces also become ideal settings for start-up businesses because cost efficient shell space can be made available at a lower leasing rate than the market for new construction.

These buildings integrated factors can either replace existing elements or can be coupled onto them as secondary features. These need not be purely functional and can also have the aesthetics of the space in mind. A best suited example for a growing trend in adaptive reuse and retrofitting is the Building Applied Photo Voltaic panels.

While green buildings and leed certification are in vogue in the construction industry, conservation emerges as a decisive opportunity for recycling buildings. For, what could be a greener building than one that is already built? Adaptive reuse of buildings is a phenomenon of recycling old buildings, often retrofitting them with the introduction of modern services to cater to a new contemporary usage. It is one of many options where the building begins to reduce its carbon footprint by being more aware and conscious of impact.

History should serve as a reminder and should not be repeated. Buildings that are on the path to obsolescence should be weeded and this disuse should be stopped in its track. A few steps to do so are by creating ancillary uses, renovating, adapting, and involving the building with its surrounding. These buildings can optimize the function they were designed for if they are more open and interactive to the users. By creating spaces that are flexible that trend of falling into a derelict stage can be curbed early.

The essence of a building is what leads character to the space, which sets it apart.  This should not be sacrificed when adapting building to be functional. If this satisfied the process is successful in the fundamental sense. Also, the identity of a building is important. The old use of the building provided it with established identity and the architects’ aims to rework this identity in favour of their design. While altering the identity of the structure the architect must ensure that he stays true to the integrity of the space.

The decision whether to reuse a building entails a complex set of considerations including location, heritage, architectural assets, and market trends. The role of building conservation has changed from preservation to being part of a broader strategy for urban regeneration and sustainability.

As times are changing, population growth is increasing. Technology is rapidly advancing. But the amount of land available stands at the nearly same amount that it was years ago. Thus, land value increases and vacant lots are reducing. These factors coupled together have pushed adaptive reuse into the spotlight as the most preferred solution to tackle abandoned buildings. Thus, it is time to embrace a trend that is holistic and creates spaces that amalgamate what was and what is.

The subsequent data show that despite many positive outcomes in terms of sustainability, the adaptive reuse of heritage buildings is considered to create many problems; not the least of which is whether heritage buildings are icons that should be conserved or whether they are in fact eyesores and unviable for adaptive reuse.

Adaptive reuse and rehabilitation need not be limited to an individual building, but can be applied in a neighbourhood or city quarter to re-invigorate an entire urban precinct or an inner-city area. A conservation policy for these cities therefore has to begin to detach itself from a ‘monument-centric’ approach of focusing only on individual monuments, taking a wide-angle view of the entire urban precinct, engaging with issues of planning, infrastructure, density and height.

Adaptive reuse isn’t always the best solution, but more and more often we believe it’s an option that should be seriously considered. A smart way to conserve materials, protect the environment, and preserve the past, adaptive reuse can be the solution you’re looking for, especially when you’re sold on a building’s location or charm.

Hence to conclude adaptive reuses as a way forward are centric on these points.

  • Seasoned building materials are not even available in today’s world. Close-grained, first-growth lumber is naturally stronger and richer looking than today’s timbers. Does vinyl siding have the strength and quality of old brick?
  • The process of adaptive reuse is inherently green. The construction materials are already produced and transported onto the site.
  • Architecture is history. Architecture is memory.

When done well, adaptive reuse is the bridge that connects past to present, history to future. Adaptive reuse projects can bring the best of modern-day technologies and innovations to beautiful, historic buildings in prime locations. This type of holistic approach ensures existing buildings and materials are honored without sacrificing today’s needs and styles.

“The greenest building is one that is already built” Carl Elefante


Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.