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Adaptive Reuse of Historic Buildings

India Needs To Look Into This Aspect Of Building Reuse In A Serious Way..

In an age when energy conservation and climate change are the new buzz words for policy makers and occupy a fair share of the mindspace of world leaders and at discussion panels, we seem to constantly talk of recycling water, waste and natural resources. However, recycling of buildings is something not so often discussed.

Adaptive reuse, a process of retrofitting old buildings for new uses, allows structures to retain their historic integrity while meeting the needs of modern occupants. From historic power plants to breweries to schoolhouses, the adaptive reuse potential of old buildings is seemingly limitless.
It's important to understand that adaptive reuse is different from restoration or preservation. While a restoration or preservation project involves restoring a building to its original state, adaptive reuse actually changes the intent of a structure to meet the modern user's needs.

It's inevitable that structures will age and outgrow their original functions. With changes in technology and lifestyle, construction and design are constantly updated to meet modern demands, and older structures are left in the wake of change. Those sensitive to history may prefer to restore older structures to their former glory; however, costs often make this plan unrealistic. An alternate concept is "adaptive reuse" - a process of retrofitting old buildings for new uses, which allows structures to retain their historic integrity while providing for occupants' modern needs.

In the pursuit of sustainable development, communities have much to gain from adapting and reusing buildings. Bypassing the wasteful process of demolition and reconstruction alone makes adaptive reuse attractive. Environmental benefits, combined with energy savings and the social advantage of repurposing a place with valued heritage, make adaptive reuse an essential component of sustainable development.

Historic buildings provide a glimpse of our past while lending character and serving a new practical purpose in our modern communities. An old factory may become an apartment complex, a rundown church may find new life as a condominium, or an old office building may be transformed into a vibrant retail facility. In many ways, an adaptive-reuse project can invigorate a community by meeting the changing needs of the population.

Some adaptive-reuse projects do include restoration of the building's façade or parts of the interior to look as it did in times past. Older buildings often showcase aesthetics that modern buildings simply cannot afford. Built when skilled labour was cheap, these structures often boast a higher attention to detail than those built today. Adaptive reuse of such buildings allows a building to retain much of its character and aesthetics by incorporating these elements into the new framework.

Although examples of successful adaptive-reuse projects include industrial facilities, factories, strip malls, schools, churches, offices, hotels, condominiums, grocery stores, big-box retailers, theaters, and other facilities, not all structures are ideal for reuse. What determines if a project is a fit? While there is no checklist of what makes an ideal candidate, the majority will agree that the most important factor is clearly starting with the overall project goal. Is the goal simply to reuse the space because it appears to be a cheaper solution, or is the hope to capture the building's character and transform it for a new purpose? There is no right answer, but the answer does guide the decision-making process. It's crucial to understand the net result after the modifications and be sure it matches the project goals.


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