Architectual design and construction awareness

adaptive Reuse-Reduce sprawl

What is it?

The practice of re-appropriating existing structures for new purposes, is a concept that has become an important factor in the reduction of sprawl and the survival of our environment. 

In several instances, the technology of Industrial and manufacturing processes has altered space and configuration requirements.  Perhaps a company has gone out of business.  Often times, and for economic purposes, the manufacturing has moved over seas.  What ever the case may be, hundreds of buildings are left abandoned and unused. 

Does it help?

As well as being environmentally conscious, repurposing is often a less expensive alternative for an owner or developer.  It can be extremely advantageous to utilize existing core elements of an existing building to help reduce the costs of new building materials.  The obvious are the main structure and building skins, but many other features such as the glazing systems, interior partitioning, mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems are often suitable, or at minimum, can be retrofitted to meet the requirements of the current codes.   Existing parking and loading zones are typically another key quality and often times the locale is ideal with existing road systems, public transportation, sidewalks, highway access, as well as adjacency to other building and businesses.  Existing structures also have ‘place’ within in a community that building owners may be able to capitalize on.

Extending a buildings lifecycle is only one piece, but imperative for the survival of our environmental pie.  Repurposing poses less impact on our surrounding eco system and habitats.  It also minimizes the impact on the adjacent infrastructures, such as; roadways, the electrical grid, water supply, drainage and waste systems.  Not to mention it is helping to preserve and maintain our open and green spaces.

Zoning Considerations..

Cities and towns across the nation have also done a great deal of work with carefully considering and developing their master plans and altering their zoning by-laws.  In many instances today, zoning by-laws that have been in place for several decades prohibit adaptive re-use practices.   Cities have always divided areas into single use zones where residential, commercial, industrial and institutional are separated from each other.  With changes in these laws, areas that were always considered ‘single use’ are now becoming ‘mixed use’ zones.  Therefore allowing project owners and developers to look at buildings they may have never considered.  Consider the once abandoned masonry/post and beam textile buildings you see bordering your downtown rivers, that have since been converted into residential or office condos with first floor retail at street level. This is a prime example of adaptive reuse and product of altered zoning.

What ever the project may be, explore your alternatives and take advantage of what may already exist!!


Paul M. Velandry, AIA


One Response to “adaptive Reuse-Reduce sprawl”

  1. Another fine article, Paul.

    For property owner-developers who are pursuing LEED certification on a project, building reuse is a great way to start!

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