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Insight / News

Adaptive Reuse – Teaching an Old Building New Tricks

by Andrew Mairs | Marketing Executive

Adaptive reuse is the process of reusing an old building for a purpose different from which it was built, be it residential, commercial or religious. Considerations are made during every step of the architectural process that allow the building to be as efficient and capable of fulfilling this purpose as possible.

But what happens when said building is no longer efficient and no longer capable? Is it left lifeless? Or worse ripped down and gone with it years of history? People associate memories with buildings and places, be it their first home, school or the place where they met their partner. Whilst a lot of buildings when first built may not have been considered architectural wonders, the memories a community attribute to it can be worth a lot more. Some building somewhere will mean something to someone.

So why waste them? Pouring money into tearing down and constructing new buildings when there are many perfectly good buildings that just need some TLC and a new direction.

As important as preserving history is there are also environmental and economic benefits to adaptive reuse.


Reducing Urban Sprawl

Urban sprawl is the term given to the expansion of populations away from central urban areas such as cities and towns and into rural areas. There are several issues caused by urbanisation.

  • Increased traffic
  • Displacement of wildlife
  • Shrinking countryside/loss of agriculture
  • Higher water and air pollution
  • Increased car dependency

Adaptive reuse whilst it will never stop or reverse the problem can help to reduce the rate of urban sprawl. Repurposing out of commission factories and old warehouse into apartments for example creates housing for the increasing population without the need to spread further out from the centre of the city or town.


Environmental Sustainability

A lot of energy, materials and money are used in the demolition and reconstruction of buildings. Although repurposing projects do require additional construction work it can be considerably less than a new build. Time, energy and money spent on materials, manufacturing and transport to site can be saved and put back into the economy along with the preservation of wildlife and reduction in the dumping of toxic waste.


Economical Sustainability

It’s fair to say that cities and towns with history and a variety of buildings from different periods have more character and are also more aesthetically pleasing. The city of York is a prime example of this. Home to a plethora of gothic, neoclassical and Georgian buildings many have been repurposed to contribute to the cities thriving tourism industry being turned into retail outlets and museums. This brings people to the city boosting the local economy.


Adaptive Reuse and Office Design

Over the past few years the number of adaptive reuse projects has risen with companies on the hunt for a space that is unique and speaks to their brand as much as any logo or colour pallet whilst letting them find their place in densely populated metropolitan and urban areas. However, there are things to take into consideration before undertaking an adaptive reuse project:

Suitability: Not every historical building is going to fit the purpose of an office space. It is important not to force the issue. It may be the ideal location and the ideal building aesthetically but if it’s not suited for the day to day running of the business and not accommodating for its employees it could lead to difficulties further down the line.

History: Exploring and incorporating the buildings history into the interior design of the office is not only a great way to keep the history of a building alive but to also marry the modern feel of a new office space to the historical in a way that allows the two to complement each other.

Materials: This fits nicely with the incorporation of the building’s history. Whilst it is recommended to keep original materials in place when repurposing a space. There will be opportunities during restoration and construction for original materials to be rehomed. These materials can be fashioned into decorative yet functional elements such as desks, tables, floorings or railings just to name a few. Doing this further shows off the history of the building whilst enhancing the unique interior design.

Space: Make the most of the space, if a warehouse is being repurposed there are going to be wide open floors and very high ceilings, so it is important to fill this space in a way that fits comfortably without seeming empty or overcrowded. Large focal points such as large bespoke staircases or lighting fixtures can be installed to draw people into the space.

As with any office move there is lots to take into consideration and adaptive reuse isn’t without it’s downsides. In terms of environment, economy and office design it really does make a lot of sense. In a time where space on our planet is becoming more and more of a premium we need to stop thinking outside of the box and instead think about how we can reuse it.

If you would like any further information on how Officeinsight can help with your adaptive reuse project or to discuss your requirements, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on 0161 233 0030 or fill out our enquiry form.

Carlie Dunbar

Written on the 23rd May 2024 by

Working behind the scenes, Carlie assists with the purchasing and setting up of new projects and looks after day-to-day tasks within the office.

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