Reimagining, restoring and refurbishing existing structures is vital to the sustainable development for communities. The basic concept behind recycling is that it reuses an existing item. We can apply the same concept at a larger scale — with even greater impacts rippling out. When buildings are adapted for reuse, this can benefit both the companies and the communities involved by reducing environmental impacts, improving quality of life, and maintaining a sense of place.  

By its very nature, adaptive reuse avoids unnecessary sprawl, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Adaptive reuse refers to the process of reusing an existing building for a purpose other than which it was originally built or designed for. It is also known as recycling and conversion. New buildings placed on previously unused land remove vegetation that would otherwise help filter out pollutants and help reduce flooding. It also necessitates the use of some new building materials which are going up in price and are often held up in erratic supply chains.

Breathing Life Into Older Structures through Restoration

Restored Building

Environmental Friendly

Concerns for the environment are growing. Storefronts and offices remain empty as a result of the pandemic, changing consumer behaviors, the opportunity for adaptive reuse is profoundly felt across many communities. Opting to reuse existing structures, rather than build new ones, has a myriad of benefits.

Renovating aging structures poses a wide variety of challenges but also opportunities for developers and contractors. In some cases, a building that would otherwise have reached its end-of-life may be sustained for historical reasons. In others, the location itself is the main driver, and the renovation is the way to make the space usable. The goal of renovation may be to make a useful space out of something that might otherwise be abandoned.

It’s frequently hard to imagine that a structure can be used for anything other than what it was intended, yet when they’re left abandoned, having outlasted their original purpose, many dilapidated structures cry out to be converted rather than fall foul to obliteration and blight.

Improves Quality of Life

Another major benefit relates to the quality of life for those who use the building or live nearby. For example, reusing buildings that are already in the heart of the community help make the area more pedestrian friendly and help with overall well-being of the area. And when convenience is a major driver in how consumers make decisions, keeping businesses in a central location is more attractive to individuals. Building reuse can also create jobs, which is clearly ideal for a community’s quality of life.

Building from scratch may be a more expensive option than renovating as you need to spend money on hiring a general contractor who will then sub out a roofer, painter, etc. Satisfying modern building codes and usage goals doesn’t mean that an older building needs to trade-in its “soul.” With careful hardware choices, designers, architects, and building owners can maintain the charm and long-lived character that comes with the building materials and designs of yesteryear.

The ability to take a building and reuse the shell, is a huge ecological benefit. Which means there is no “build”, sourcing, shipping or use of too many new materials. In addition, one can also recycle some of the buildings original fixtures and fittings. Which preserves the character of the space and provides a sustainable benefit to the reuse project. Upgrading used materials and installing a greener HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning), energy saving lighting system, which is beneficial for all.

If we look back at the cyclical nature of recycling, it’s easy to see the business imperative in adaptive reuse. If opting to reimagine an existing building is good for the environment, quality of life, and a community’s sense of place, then it will attract more talent, residents, and visitors to the city, thus improving the local economy. It’s a case of reduce, reuse, recycle, and revitalize.