With the rapid growth in population and urbanization the demand for modern developments has escalated and traditional infrastructure has been under threat of demolition to make way for new construction. However demolition of buildings often leads to a loss of heritage character that was originally associated with the place and is also necessary at the same time. This creates a dilemma between demolition and conservation of the existing structures.

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Image Sources: Conservation or Demolition? ©HSF Notes

There are many fore fold layers to this decision-making process which ultimately leads to the final call. Preserving or conserving old buildings not only benefits a community’s culture and identity, businesses and local economy but also saves the embodied energy within it.Beyond surviving demolition and revealing a treasure trove of details, the daylight reminds us that even eyesores can be valuable for a community’s future.Demolition or conservation of buildings depends upon many factors such as cost analysis, flow of users, market share , environmental condition, scope of expansion and heritage factor. All of these factors along with a few more are considered by the facility management team which is comprised of a range of stakeholders and decision-makers, with various statures identifying these as engineers, architects, environmental managers, planners, developers, quantity surveyors and urban designers, who will often have different opinions and criteria to focus upon and judge accordingly. Many tools have also come up now a day to make this process easier such as the IconCUR and the Transformation meter.

All buildings undergo a 5-stage lifecycle which helps the facility management team or the tools to consider during the decision-making process. In this regard, five general life cycle stages have been identified and, using the analogy of the human body, they are summarized conceptually in the figure below.

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Image Sources: RDH Building Science ©RDH Building Science

The tool Transformation meter, is divided into five stages which require yes/no answers. Stage 1, the quick scan, identifies eight criteria. If any of these are met, then that building should not be considered for adaptation. These criteria include the following: the free ceiling height is less than 2·6 m and the zoning plan does not permit modification. If the quick scan is passed, then stage 2 assesses the overall feasibility of adaption using a combination of building and location criteria – some examples are provided in Table 2. A transformation class is then assigned in stage 3 by calculating how many criteria have been met using different values for the yes/no answers (see Table 3). If the building is found to be transformable or has excellent transformability, it is recommended that a financial feasibility study as stage 4 and an identification of risks as stage 5 are undertaken.

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The following tables are taken from Decision-making for the demolition or adaptation of buildings ©Institute of Civil Engineering
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The following tables are taken from Decision-making for the demolition or adaptation of buildings ©Institute of Civil Engineering

IconCUR uses multiple criteria to assess the performance of an asset during its life cycle in the early stages of decision-making and has been integrated into commercial asset management software. It identifies what action should be taken: renovate/preserve, retain/extend, reuse/adapt or reconstruct/dispose. Scores (1 = very low; 5 = very high) are assigned to the three axes: condition, utilisation and reward by using a range of weighted criteria. To assess the condition (x axis) of the building, the design standard, maintained service level and regulatory compliance are scored for the building’s structure, exterior envelope, interior finishes, engineering services and external works. For utilisation (y axis), the demand and relevance; fitness for purpose and user satisfaction of the internal space, external space and outdoor site area; equipment and fit out; and engineering systems are assessed. The z axis, reward, has two scores – one score for the collective utility which takes into account the economic performance and cultural, heritage and environmental values; the second score considers different stakeholder’s interest in the short, medium and long-terms. The reward is calculated by multiplying the collective utility and stakeholder interest scores together and then dividing by five. The action to be taken is determined by the x and y axes, and the value of this intervention is determined by the reward, z axis. The overall score is used to plot the decision within a 3D framework.

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Image Sources: The following tables are taken from Decision-making for the demolition or adaptation of buildings ©Institute of Civil Engineering

The analysis of the Transformation Meter and IconCUR compared with real-life decisions shows that both tools are useful in giving an indication of whether a building should be adapted or demolished, within their intended purpose of assessing a portfolio of building assets. However, potential improvements could be made by integrating other factors. One of these is to give a stronger weightage to intangible values, such as heritage, to reflect reality better. It is a complex process involving a lot of pros and cons to look for and consider, but the intangible factors that often play a very prominent role in the existence of a structure which also create an aura in and around it should not be forgotten.


Sakshi Agrawal, a thorough enthusiast and an architecture student, she has a fascination for exploring the diverse Indian art, culture, food, people and places and their relationship with the architecture of a space. She is happy go lucky, fond of reading, sketching and a lot of coffee.

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