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The Benefits of Adaptive Reuse

How repurposing existing buildings can have financial, environmental, social, and historic impacts

Adaptive reuse of buildings is an increasingly useful specialization in architecture, and for good reason. Not only does it provide a sustainable option for building design, but it can also benefit the bottom line for their clients, including building owners, operators, and real estate developers. Moreover, in the current economic climate, conversion of existing property is far more viable than constructing new buildings. In this exploration, we will examine the environmental and economic benefits of adaptive reuse, and provide evidence of its effectiveness in the industry.

Baran Studio Architecture’s 950 Lofts maintained existing concrete walls and foundations, preventing a large portion of the building’s potential carbon emissions

First, let's look at the environmental impact of new construction. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings are responsible for 39% of carbon emissions in the United States, as well as 73% of electricity consumption. Furthermore, the construction industry is a major contributor to landfill waste, with an estimated 40% of all landfill waste coming from construction and demolition. Adaptive reuse, on the other hand, reduces both resource consumption and landfill waste by repurposing existing structures.

Furthermore, adaptive reuse can have a positive impact on the well-being of occupants. By repurposing existing buildings, adaptive reuse projects can reduce commute time and distance, as many buildings that are suitable for adaptive reuse are located in urban areas. This can lead to improved quality of life for occupants, as well as reduced greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. This can also improve return in investment with higher rent or sales numbers

Baran Studio Architecture’s Armory Lofts project reused an existing historic facade, preserving a part of Oakland’s history

In addition, adaptive reuse can also preserve the historic and cultural significance of existing buildings. Many older buildings have architectural and cultural value that can be lost with demolition and new construction. By repurposing these buildings, developers can maintain their unique character and history, while also reducing the environmental impact of new construction. This can also improve the image and public relations for the owner or developer.

Adaptive reuse is a useful development strategy during a down cycle in the economy for several additional reasons. First, it allows developers to save on the high costs of new construction, which can be particularly prohibitive during an economic downturn. According to a report by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, adaptive reuse projects can be up to 20% less expensive than new construction in any market. This is due in part to the fact that existing structures often have features such as foundation and structural elements that can be repurposed, reducing the need for new materials and construction. The value of these existing materials is even greater in a down market.

Baran Studio Architecture’s Hollis Street project converted an empty warehouse in to a robotics research facility

Reuse can also provide opportunities for developers to reposition underutilized properties in a way that meets the changing needs of the market. In the current market, the value of commercial office has dramatically decreased, creating opportunities to convert those structures into warehouse, industrial, lab, and even residential uses.

Overall, the benefits of adaptive reuse are numerous. It provides a sustainable option for building design, reduces resource consumption and landfill waste, and can be more affordable than new construction. Furthermore, adaptive reuse can improve the well-being of occupants and preserve the historic and cultural significance of existing buildings. As a result, it is no surprise that adaptive reuse is on the rise in the architecture and real estate industries.

Baran Studio Architecture’s Finless Foods project converted an empty conventional office in to a food science lab facility

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