The push for sustainable development has led to the adaptation and re-use of old buildings. It makes sense. Why demolish and rebuild, if adaptive reuse is possible? Generally, aesthetics and sustainability are weighed against the cost involved, to decide if a building is a good candidate for reuse.

Adaptive reuse is the process of retrofitting old buildings for new uses; the construction retains its historic integrity AND meets the needs of new occupants. The building retains its structure but has a new intent for that structure.

Griffith Film School, Griffith University, South Brisbane. Source: wilsonarchitects.com.au

 

Griffith Film School, Griffith University, South Brisbane. Source: wilsonarchitects.com.au

Advantages

First and foremost reuse saves on waste. The process is much more resource-friendly than a demolish and rebuild and also saves on energy.

There is a social advantage to re-purposing historic buildings. Older buildings give us a glimpse of our past. When a building is brought back into use, it is invigorated with new life and purpose and provides character and context to a modern neighbourhood.

Re-use means retaining architectural elements of a by-gone era. Older buildings often contain more attention to detail as well as features that would be cost-prohibitive today.

Griffith Film School, Griffith University, South Brisbane. Source: wilsonarchitects.com.au

The How

Where possible, minimal changes are made to the building. Historic character should be retained. Building elements are generally repaired if it is practicable, rather than being replaced.

Griffith Film School, Griffith University, South Brisbane. Source: wilsonarchitects.com.au

The Building Envelope

The building envelope refers to the roof, walls, windows and doors. To assess how these should be adapted, a condition assessment is vital. The useable life of the building envelope will be determined and assessed against replacement costs.

Griffith Film School, Griffith University, South Brisbane. Source: wilsonarchitects.com.au

Structural Integrity

The structural integrity of the building will also need to be thoroughly assessed. When changing a building’s use, a structural analysis of the strength of the structure is required.  Materials may need to be replaced to suit the new usage requirements. Innovative structural strengthening solutions are often devised in response to the needs of a project.

The adaptive-reuse process can mean lower costs as well as value-adding culture and memories that can help revitalise communities. Win-win.