09/09/20

Do not demolish, repurpose! How to develop adaptive reuse and flexible building design

Webinar Recording & Slides

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Hear from Dominique Alba, Wiebke Ahues, Aurélien Delchet and Yvan Okotnikoff. During the webinar, we analysed the topic or flexibility through a multi-angle approach: planning & construction; ecology & quality of urban life; heritage & future; regeneration & new development; aesthetic, technical & financial considerations; policies & tools.

Please find below the recording and the slides here.


Also find below a quick recap of what has been presented and discussed during the webinar:

  • It's important for cities to monitor the use rate & vacancy rate of buildings to consider the real need for new construction and to develop a holistic strategy to reduce demolition 
  • Develop policies to limit buildings vacancy and to facilitate the repurposing of buildings. Example of the French Loi ELAN and Paris Climate Plan - see details in Dominique Alba presentation.
  • It is key to build flexible/adaptable structures but as well to develop mixed-use. Mixed-use at the building scale is a good way to maximize the building use and to improve urban life. 
  • The specialisation of buildings intensified in the past 50 years. For instance, in Paris, the 'Haussman buildings' are very easy to transform and repurpose: their structural grid and ceiling height allows easy repurposing. Also, their facades are more neutral. In contrast, more recent buildings, and specifically offices buildings, have become more specialized in their aesthetic as well as in their structure. These are therefore much more difficult to transform
  • There are two main types of adaptable/flexible buildings:
    • reversible in the long term to allow change of use over time (i.e. transform offices to housing). This is key to reduce the need for demolition due to the change of use
    • flexible on a daily/weekly basis to allow several uses over the day/week, with a chronotopic approach. It is extremely important to maximize the use of a building and therefore reduce the need for new buildings (see both examples of the Morland project and the Collective for Climate project)
  • The main challenges to build reversible:
    • Need to design the project twice to make sure the two configurations are working
    • As your building space must work for two or several purposes, you need to design and build according to the most constraining rules (fire regulations...)
    • The key points of reversible design are the ceiling height, configuration of the structural grid and quality of the construction materials (some buildings cannot be transformed because the quality of materials is too scarce, for instance, the poor quality of concrete)
    • Because of the three previous points, it is more expensive to build "reversible". However, the building will last longer, so the developers/investors must develop a new way to integrate this consideration in the balance/return on investment of their projects
  • To accelerate the development of flexible/adaptable design and repurposing of existing buildings, policies are, of course, key. It is also essential to develop innovative processes, such as the Reinventing Cities competition, for implementing lighthouse projects that serve as a model and prepare the ground for future policies. This model has been very important in Paris (cf Morland and The Collective for Climate projects presented during this webinar)
  • Adaptive reuse and flexible building design is one element of a holistic strategy to reduce embodied carbonSybren van den Busken from the City of Amsterdam proposed the following universal strategy,which aligns with the construction hierarchy of the C40 upcoming Clean Construction Declaration:
    • Reuse before demolishing
    • Use existing materials. Buildings of today are resources for the future (urban mining)
    • If new, build flexible
    • Use sustainable materials
    • Administer used materials, for the future (two ideas discussed: passports for materials and sites to collect and store materials from deconstruction)

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