It is a fact that the second major air polluting industry is the construction industry which contributes up to 8% of the total carbon dioxide emission of the world. This number is expected to see a hair-rising increase in the coming years. We have been creating buildings and discarding it without considering its detrimental effect on the earth and search for new replacements for man takes his shelter to be a reflection of his wealth and looks only at the aesthetical point of view. It is highly important for architects to realise this environmental impact. Despite this, reusing buildings is also cost-efficient, less time and energy consuming. It is of momentous realisation we have to start reusing buildings.

Honorable Mention | RTF Essay Writing Competition April 2020

Category: Adaptive Re-Use As A Way Forward
Participant: P. Karpagam
Profession: Student
University: Anna University, SAP

The main reason why we are looking into adaptive reuse as a way forward is that all the multi-storeyed buildings that man constructed was done using concrete. The strength, durability, ability to withstand any weather, toughness and availability of the material are the key reasons for its wide usage. But on the contrary, we are not considering the terrorizing carbon foot print concrete leaves. Most architects use aluminium sheets for the facades of office buildings for its aesthetic purpose but it is important to analyse if it is required as the material is not got easily. We are destroying the resources that took years to form. We also deplete the vegetation of that area for that particular mineral. Every material is obtained from a mineral which was a part of the earth and energy has been spent to derive it. Every building cannot be destroyed just because its usage or the owner’s interest changes. In such a world where global warming is increasing day by day it is of utmost importance for us to understand and deal with it in the right way. If man relied on natural materials like wood, bamboo, mud, stones etc for construction he could give it back to the earth without harming it. The environment is a part of us and also a common belonging. It should be treated with respect and care. Reconstructing under such a scenario would not be a chaos. We have already chosen otherwise. Reusing buildings now becomes essential as it less burdens the earth. An architect must realise this and try to make his clients understand the need for this in a convincing way.

Secondly, it is extremely cost-efficient compared to the new construction costs. The amount of money required will depend on the degree to which it is going to be changed. All buildings are flexible and can be made to benefit its use by just adding icing to the cake. There are many ways to reuse a building. The existing building can enhance with very minimal changes to make it functionally as aesthetically pleasing. The Punta Della Dogana museum sitting at the meeting point of the Grand Canal and the Giudecca canal in Venice is a classic example of minimalistic change. The Japanese architect Tadao Ando was assigned on this mission. The former customs house was refashioned into a museum by just installing a single huge concrete piece to make it more functional. The beauty of the building was also not lost in the process of reusing it. The Gemini house is another appreciable example where the two old silos are converted into a residence by creating more openings for air circulation and by giving it a skin cover. Primarily the problem is solved, that is air flow. Secondly, the access, the transition are all considered and it is joined to fabricate it into a single functional building. The actual cost to build a house from scratch would have been enormous and the time for site analysis, laying foundation etcetera have been saved. Another fascinating example is the CaixaForum in Madrid which is a museum and a cultural place. The most amusing part is that this building used to be a power station. The museum has incorporated the walls of the existing building and extended it on both the sides, under and above. All these buildings have had small to huge transformations in them. Nevertheless, a place can me redesigned and used with even the minuscule changes. Changing the amount of light, its entry, the focal point has different effects and moods on the user. The walkways can have dull lights and the spaces intended for gatherings can have spotlights.  The surfaces and planes can be placed in such a fashion to give certain views and block a few. the furniture can be placed in a way defining the circulation path creating spaces and voids. Creativity has no limits. It is essential this is taught to students studying architecture as this is high time for change.

In the future, as the population quadruples, the need for housing will escalate. This is not the case only in the dynamic, always fast running metropolitan cities but also in the hamlets of a country. I recall from my rural educational trip that the people living there abandon their old houses and move into a new one. It is neither rented out nor rebuilt, but just left to degrade. But thankfully at least they are made of earth materials and can be returned to the earth without any harm. Man has always been excited by new things. An old place can be made new with just little changes. A building must be rebuilt only when its stability calls for it and not when status calls for it. Architecture courses should teach more about creating long lasting buildings and its maintenance. Intense research has to be done on construction of buildings using more natural materials and less concrete and its preservation. People are not aware about the ways by which an old building can be effectively reused like the old dilapidated ford assembly building which was transformed into a vibrant entertainment centre which had offices and restaurant in it. The huge sea facing window increased its beauty. Fenestrations, interior and exterior lightings were worked upon to enhance its beauty. Even a new building intended for its specific use would not have looked so appealing. This thus eliminates the need for new materials which reduces the energy consumption and resources exploitation.

Everything in the ecosystem is very intricately interconnected and I believe architects have a huge role to play. Let us leave memories of buildings in this world and not carbon footpath. This may seem as a very small topic which has not faced much repercussions but it’s time, we realise its value. The design and suggestions of an architect should be reasonable and minimalistic of materials with huge carbon emissions and also allow future expansion or changes to a certain degree. The idea of adaptive reuse as a way forward should be taught in educational institutes as this is even more difficult to design than designing one from the scratch without any constraints. Population burst is inevitable and a way to face it is adaptive reuse. The number of government buildings left unused due to improper maintenance is huge in every country. If we could find ways to reuse these buildings and also preserve them then we have succeeded as an architect.


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