Abstract: The research or essay is based on Adaptive reuse as a way forward. Through this topic the following context explains the adaptive reuse of the historic structures and the value associated with it. How adaptive reuse gives positive and negative impacts on heritage structures also. What conservation charters say about the adaptive reuse. Multiple dimensions and arguments discussed below through this topic.

Runner-Up | RTF Essay Writing Competition April 2020

Category: Adaptive Re-Use As A Way Forward
Participant: Anjali Ahirwal
Profession: Architect
Country: India


Old buildings express the continuity of human society as they are symbolic of their permanence, and as expressive of the deep roots of society as a late Graeme Shankland, an architect and planner, once said that “a city without old buildings is like a man without a memory

As we saw historic structures are the identity of the cultural, religious importance. Most of the heritage sites are preserved but not in use and some sites are abandoned because of the negligence. The new dimension to protect our heritage should be in use or function. Where heritage buildings can no longer function with its original use, proposing a new function is inevitable to preserve the significance of the heritage building. Adaptive reuse of the heritage building enhances the life of the structure.

Some researchers say adaptive reuse of the heritage structure degrades the authenticity and integrity of the structure for this it is very important how it will be used. The decision making plays an important role to reuse the structure in different functions. Choosing new use and materials should be compatible with the original and should be maximize retained the original fabric of the structure. For this it is very important the conservation guidelines and planning legislative should be followed as per laid guidelines. In today’s time, there is a need to protect our heritage which are rare examples of historical importance. Adaptive reuse also enhances the economic and cultural viability of the structure in terms of community participation. Community plays an important role to protect our heritage. Heritage is all about people and places. Adaptive reuse is a holistic approach in today’s context it engages social, economic, cultural aspects. Adaptation has been seen as a way to improve social values as well as economic values in many countries. Consequently, it is asserted as a strategy to promote sustainability but it’s remarkable to see to what extent it will be able to improve social values because many investors and developers are interested in economic values to gain profit from adaptation and reuse of historic buildings rather than social values.

Adaptive reuse not only involves the preservation and restoration but also conservation that aims to safeguard the quality of values of the resources. Conservation and preservation share a concern about adaptive reuse. While conservation is associated with the protection of material, historical and design integrity of historic buildings through carefully planned interventions, preservation refers to the set of activities aimed to prolong the usable life of historic properties with little changes to the original state. The preservation often talks about the “value” of historic properties: the social values, the cultural values, aesthetic values, urban context value, architectural value, historic value, and the value of a sense of place.

Burra charter also offers the guidelines for adaptive reuse in section 21 says that:

Adaptation is acceptable only where the adaptation has minimal impact on the cultural significance of the place.  Adaptation should involve minimal change to significant fabric, achieved only after considering alternatives.

Explanatory note:

Adaptation may involve the introduction of new services, or new use, or changes to safeguard the place.

Significance of adaptive reuse to promote values of historic building

The study has indicated that adaptive reuse is an effective strategy to influence many values in society through different ways.

Social interaction: Most survey respondents (49 percent) showed that complete restoration to adaptive reuse is a very good way to increase the social interaction in the society because individuals living near the historic buildings interact together through works associated with adaptive reuse. On the other hand, only 7 percent of respondents did not agree, and believed that adaptive reuse is the worst strategy. Furthermore, most respondents expressed sincere appreciation to the government that decided in 2010 to restore old market and gave it to individuals to work at that place for their artistic activities; the move that increased the social interaction among the individuals working there and those living around the market.

Customs: The majority of people living in the area believed that, though adaptive reuse is not a very good method to change the customs of individual, but believed it is a good method to conserve historic buildings. Only 30 percent of the respondents believed adaptive reuse to be a very good method to promote customs, 56 percent agreed that it is a good method to promote customs and only 5 percent said it is the bad method to promote customs and none said it is a very bad method and this shows that adaptive reuse has an impact on promoting customs in the society though not in a very good way but in a good way anyway.

Cultural values

These are values that are passed from one generation to another generation and are preserved and kept in society; these are explained below.

Historic legacy value (option value): Adaptive reuse of historic buildings can help buildings create a distinct historic legacy, identity and character. Many respondents in Bagamoyo believe that if the historic buildings are kept in good condition they will remain a legacy to the coming generation and will be remainders of different stages of life experience they have passed through. 41 percent of the respondents believed adaptive reuse is the best strategy to promote the historic legacy value and only 5 percent of the respondents believe that it is a bad strategy.

Architectural value: Architectural value refers to the look, feel and functionality of the design of the building. 42% of the respondents agreed that adaptive reuse is the very good and good method to promote architectural design, style and material and none of the respondents said it is the bad process and this is due to the reason that historic buildings have remained for so long in the way they were left by the colonies in terms of design, style and material.

Advantages of adaptive reuse 

  • The ability to reuse the materials is mainly due to the fact that older buildings are often constructed with materials of a higher grade and quality that therefore have a longer lifespan than those used in current construction.
  • Moreover, with the envelope of older buildings generally consisting of stronger materials and containing numerous windows, the energy efficiency of the heating and cooling can be improved.
  • The social benefits of reuse projects include rejuvenating the historical and cultural values of a building.
  • During the time period when the building was originally in use, it served a specific purpose in the neighborhood to which people, in one way or another, were connected. Older buildings have the ability to provide character to an area and create a ‘sense of place’.


This explanatory study has managed to reveal valuable findings that are important for adaptive reuse which is investors and developers with more values to consider during making a decision about adaptive reuse of historic buildings and how individuals in the society respond to the changes. The study finds that, if done properly, adaptive reuse of historic buildings can have a significant positive impact on the economic socio-cultural, and economic, values. The values which are most important to the individual about adaptive reuse are those that they help to promote social interaction among the society, change attitude, improve lifestyle, increase tourism attraction, increase aesthetic values as well as architectural values. The adaptive reuse of historic buildings, however, requires a fundamental shift in how people in the local communities are tacitly involved in creative acts of adaptation.

At the end I want to summarize the whole topic through this line “heritage is all about anything we want for our future generation.” And for this, this is really important our heritage will not always remain in photos, it remains also in real for longer.


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