Essay Title - Adaptive Reuse Building

Chapter 1 Adaptive Refuse

This chapter defines adaptive reuse and its evolution. It attributes the nature and reasons for conversion, extension and rehabilitation of the Built form. Types of building conversion will be discussed below. Advantages and disadvantages of the adaptation are contemplated and the chapter highlights the principles of building adaptation.

Adaptation is derived from the Latin word ad (to) apt are (to fit). Adaptation is described as “developing the potential of additional use and wear for functionally obsolete building “(Snyder, 2005). There are seven levels of intervention for maintaining heritage buildings. Building Adaptation is one of the seven levels of interventions for maintaining old heritage buildings.

"Adaptive reuse is often the only economic way in which old buildings can be saved, by adapting them to the requirements of the new tenants. This could sometimes involve radical intervention, especially in the internal organization of space"(Fitch, 1982). It can be considered recycling of the building.

This is closely associated with historic restoration and conservation. The process helps property to regain life and become compatible with present surroundings through repair, al conversion, extension and rehabilitation.

The important parts, which convey historical, cultural and architectural values, are to be preserved. With adaptive use, a building is sustained with new use. The main concept behind the adaptation is to respect history and structure by providing new programs according to requirement (Snyder, 2005).

Adaptation is considered sometimes to be sustainable for old buildings and has the ability to establish a link between new developments and old traditions. Reshaping of old buildings create a platform, which provide valuable sense of connection with the past and present and makes a new way for the future (Wikimedia Foundation, 2001). There are many old buildings, which are not sustainable to new environments, and are unable to derive sense from one generation to another (Cantacuzino, 1975).

When a building is no longer used for its original function, it is wise to adapt a new use, which helps to sustain it in the new environment. It is a process, which helps to retain energy and the quality of the original building whether it is a special architectural or historic interest or simply redundant building .New use can bring new energy and life to exhausted buildings (Latham, 2000). The process includes pre and post condition of a building, Pre- condition gives an idea about state of building and post -condition will give new identity.

Adaptive reuse provides a second life for historic structures in a same way as body with a new spirit, where body represents structure of the building and spirit appears as the function of the building. It can resuscitate historic structures with new functions, which yet can be viable and desirable for places. Programmatically, each project can be linked to the location's heritage and aesthetically each can become a symbol of host's identity (Snoonlan, 2004).

It is important to blend existing structures with new buildings so that it lives in the imaginations of the people and be able to provide service to their communities. The interior, function and immediate environment of the building help in blending with the new developments. This depends on how the community accepts the new development of the old building. For sustaining old buildings in the present built environment, it is important to go hand in hand with new developments.

There is no single formula for successful renovation and are many ways to deal with building adaptation. Adaptation can be achieved by informing rather than dictating the design (Snoonian, 2003). Adaptation of old buildings for new uses is a tough job because architects and designers take care of so many aspects such as overhauling of existing buildings in respect of conservation principles affection of people towards the building / space and creating new programs over the present function of the building.

According to Antoine de Saint, “freedom and constraints are two aspects of the same necessity.”(Snoonian, 2003) I agree with this quoted line. Projects can progress with the help of freedom and restrictions and they are able to give new sensation in the old building. Automatically we can consider the project on an advanced level.Mostly renovation projects have been done with a subtle approach, but sometimes it can be done in a more radical approach.

It all depends on the original building and existing state of the building. Restoration of important historic buildings or carefully updating old buildings for new uses is not only the way but also renovation can be done for problematic piece of non architecture. It could be transformed into designed artefacts, which can give good affects to the immediate surroundings (Stephens, 2006).

For example, an aeronautic building in an industrial waste land renovated into an office complex by Webb architects in Downey, California. This innovative idea changed the waste property into the waste property into useable contemporary space.

Reuse of buildings has different scales and complexities. Each project can be considered as springboard of creativity. Freedom and constraints are two aspects, which we can apply in each building restoration project. Adding new space for new programs, find new solutions of old materials and freshen an interiors and neighbourhood are the keys to make buildings more sustainable in the present world.

Past time and interest give birth to enthusiasm, which can keep the flame of history alive in the present modern world. These kinds of works will be done if architects and clients both will not be scared of future vision on the existing narratives. Therefore, it can be considered as respectful departure from the past to future to worth remembrance (Snoonian, 2003).

Evolution of Adaptive Reuse

The concept of adaptive reuse of buildings is quite old and there are many successful examples like Sophia Church had been transformed into a Mosque in 1453 and Cordoba Cathedral had been converted into Mosque in 1523. Adaptive reuse of buildings has become more popularized in the last decades. First, because of the conservation movement, many architects prefer to practice adaptive use of old buildings (Latham, 2000).

Secondly, public attitudes have influenced by the notion of 'pleasing decay'. The market for old buildings itself has changed significantly and building prices have increased surprisingly (Markus, 1979). The story starts when the conservation movement was born in Britain in 1957. Duncan inaugurated the civic trust ,which helped people to understand the importance of the movement .There were many trusts and architects who supported this movement like architect Clifford Wear den , Derby county council, etc.

When the movement was fully flourished, desires of many architects, conservationists, and historians were fulfilled. After 20 years later, the conservation movement had acquired greater meaning. Initially many trusts were concerned with 1930's architectural modern movement but slowly and steadily, everybody was in favour of conservation.

Even adaptive reuse was developed because it is one of kind intervention. Now it is most popular because it is, consider most sustainable and economical (Latham, 2000). According to Professor James Douglas adaptive reuse is a part of sustainable built environment. Adaptive reuse helps to minimise constructional waste and pollution, and results in successful restoration project, which are now easily acceptable by most people.

Reaseon of Daptive Reuse

Firstly, it is often the only economic way in which old buildings can save by adapting them to the requirements of new tenants. This can sometimes involve radical intervention, especially in the internal organization of the space. Usually extensive interior and exterior renovation are necessary (Shopsin,1991). Secondly, it is the cheapest and most convenient option to retain the fabric of the building.

Archaeological motives

This approach is integrated with itself. In this approach, a building is considered as a piece of historic evidence and intrinsic value of architecture for future generations. For such buildings, documentation and analysis of existing features is essential towards proper preservation or transformation.

Aesthetic Appreciation

This motive can be divided into three groups:

1) Visual motive is more subjective and it depends on public taste so it does not have particular fixed criteria. It always helps in positive improvements and explorations for our benefits and for future generations.

2) Regional character- every building has some characteristics that are related to the local region or community.

These characteristics shows the relation of the building and local culture of the place. 3) Cultural Value- old established buildings are rooted firmly, which sends message for present and future community. The identity of old buildings closely associated with the identity of the local community. The result of reuse will show cultural references, mutual architectural respect and a shared sense of historical narrative.

Economic motive

Conservation of buildings is mode to raises the economy of the community and country, especially if that place is cultural and historically rich. Adaptive reuse is the cheapest mode, which contributes to local economy.

1) Tourism, leisure, and conservation directly relate to one another. Good services and improvements in visual amenity can attract tourism to the place or country. Therefore, a historical town can have a valuable resource for leisure and tourism, which contributes to income generation.

2) Reuse is cost effective, and saves significant amount of time, and hence the change in use of the old buildings is considerably cheaper than construction of new once. If we save on construction in this manner, we can save on so many things such as material, labor, resources, time, money, and energy.

3) Old buildings are energy resources. It is good idea if we slow down our consumption and conserve all our resources as much we can. Building conservation helps to conserve energy. 4) Reuse means more habitat space and to achieve demand for more work. As we reuse the buildings, it needs labor and workers and hence increases employments opportunity in the local area.

Functional Value

A new function for the old building can act as a catalyst. New uses can give new functional value to the building, which is very important for the old buildings.

Psychological Need

New use can be developed according to need. New functions can introduce public demand. In that case, buildings and resources should be used properly (Latham, 2000).

Types of Adaptation


As time passes, clients can alter their requirements and can be only satisfied by the intervention of the building. Reuse is necessary for the buildings so that client make beneficial use for long term.

Code compliance

Good quality alterations bring old property to contemporary standards and enhance facilities for disable access, fire safety, sound insulations, structural stability, and thermal efficiency to satisfy local building regulations.

Environment enhancement

Upgraded services to improve interiors and energy efficiency. Excellent services provide to improve internal comfort and indoor climate so that building can acquire sustainable interiors.

Spatial modifications

Modification to the internal space according to client requirement and respond to the building regulations. Like vertical and horizontal alterations, expansion of existing space, increases overall floor space for new function.

Structural and fabric

To refine the outer shell of the old property and additional elements can improve the load bearing property.

In today's world there are many changes happening because of new technologies and complex materials to achieve long-term sustainable solutions. Innovations have a great impact on the building sector.

Developers are providing contemporary solution to their clients with a modern outlook but on the other hand, people would like to think about conservation. Issues like carbon footprint and global warming help to increase the awareness of energy conservation and building adaptation among the people (Douglas, 2006)

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are five advantages and disadvantages of building adaptation over new construction.

·Economic- If the property is in good structural condition adaption of old property is usually cheaper than to demolish and redevelop of the site. It is much quicker than new developments. These include lower construction cost, lower land purchase cost, and less time. It also helps to conserve the energy and resources. However, if the property is not in a good state then it could happen that the maintenance cost is higher than cost of new construction. Installation of new materials cost a lot to match existing materials. Moreover, sometime it is difficult to maintain insulation standards.

Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them. By old buildings, I mean not museum piece old buildings, not old buildings in an excellent and expensive state of rehabilitation…….but also a good lot of plain, ordinary, low value old buildings, including some run down old buildings(Janes,Snyder,2005,pp19)


The skeleton and fabric of the building can be fully used. If the condition of the building is good then only little alterations are sufficient for contemporary standards. The project team needs to modify the buildings space according to the new program. The use of old material and fittings will conserve energy and cut the cost of new components. Nevertheless, sometimes old buildings have hidden defects that may be difficult to prove and expensive to solve. In addition, there is no guarantee to overcome all the defects.


Old buildings with good space benefits clients to make full use of existing internal and external space. Large spaces can subdivide according to the function. Sometimes large space acts like negative space and cannot meet clients with requirements to make a full use of space because of scale, layout, and openings.


building adaptation is environmental friendly, if it is designed carefully and sensitively, it leaves a good impact on its build environment. Sustainable adaptive buildings are energy efficient.

Old buildings have good thermal capacity (because of heavy mass) and some of them conserve energies, if they have been made of local natural material. Thick walls, natural lighting, ventilation, and small windows are the elements, which help to consume less energy. It helps to reduce energy consumption and fresh materials.

Adaptation avoids demolition, pollution, waste and encourages better use of material and time. Achievement of good environment depends on the existing condition of the old property. It is not necessary that every old building attains an improved internal and external environment.


Old buildings have architectural, cultural, and historical characteristics and retaining some important character of the building is the best achievement of the adaptation. The successful adaptation brings back life to the building and offers hope to the community, who has relation with building. However, not all adaptation schemes are successful. Sometimes adaptation is not successful because new programs are not appropriate for the building or because of poor quality of the previous structure (Douglas, 2006).

Type of Construction

Potential of an old building mainly depends on the type of construction. Process of building adaptation is combination of traditional and modern construction. Type of construction determines the suitability for adaptability. It is necessary to understand form of construction for successful building adaptation scheme. Here is a brief description about traditional and modern construction.

Traditional method consists of load bearing masonry construction with no damp proof course. Fabric of these buildings is porous and permeable and walls use to be thick and heavy. Traditional buildings are having bay or sash windows with single glazing. Likely buildings made before 1919(English heritage, 2007) Mostly, heritage buildings were constructed with old traditional techniques with natural and environmental friendly materials.

It is necessary for building to breathe to release and absorb moisture; otherwise, fabric holds moisture and caused dampness that is why old buildings required large openings, fireplaces and unsealed openings of the external fabric. Old buildings have property of breathability through fabric, which is in uncontrolled manner and the natural balance of internal and external environments was depended on the natural draughts.

Whereas, modern construction associates with insulated paneled and it gives important thermal efficiency and weather tightness with good finishing. The aim is to provide higher degree of comfort. Fabric of modern construction is thin, light, non-porous, and impermeable.

Modern impermeable building products obstruct breathability, because they trap moisture inside instead to keep out. New buildings can breath in more controlled manners such as ventilations, air conditioning, or combination of the two (Douglas, 2006).

The risks of traditional constructions are 1) moisture can be stored within the materials 2) insufficient thermal insulation 3) insufficient ventilations and heating are available to remove moisture. Condensation can happen at unheated places and thermal bridges. Thermal bridge creates when one area has fully insulated , while an adjacent area is not insulated then cold bridge or thermal bridge is created.

External impervious coating interrupts in the process and even sometime cement creates problem, therefore during the adaptation work we should take care of breathability property for moisture movement in historic buildings and use of compatible mortar. Adequate ventilation and hydroscopic materials (which allows moisture movement into and out of the building materials) and minimum barriers of moisture flow should considered for controlled moisture level (Drewe, 2007).

Lime based mortar usually is the best mortar for the masonry building. During restoration, we should remove old toxic material with compatible and sustainable new material with minimum disturbance to the existing fabric. If reversing is needed then it should be without causing further damage. There are some basic requirements for building accessibility

Criteria and constructions always help to understand actual condition and status of adaptability. It is very important to understand the condition before moving the further step.

Deterious Materials:

Products, which are harmful for health and may be, affect the building environment. These types of materials are available in old heritage building so it is important to identify all hazardous materials. It effects on the implementation process of adaptation and might be cost of value can go low. Examples are given below.

Criterua of Building Adaptation

Here are criteria for building adaptation, which helps in the process. These criteria are guidelines for the building adaptation and the process will become easy, by following these criteria.


2.Current property value

3.Value after adaptation

4.Cost requires for adaptation work.

1.Building regulation: planning control

2.Office shop and railway premise 1963

3.Fire precaution act 1971

4.Health and safety act 1974

5.Disability and discrimination act 1995.

According to conservation principles, there is minimum intervention for listed buildings. (Douglas, 2006, 87)


Building adaptation is old concept and has more popularized in the last decades. It is closely associated with heritage conservation and restoration. Building adaptation is an economical way to save old buildings by making some changes according to the requirements of new tenants. The trend of architecture helps to reuse and recycling of building and its resources and preserves historical, cultural and architectural value of heritage buildings.

The process helps to conserve energy and natural resources. Building adaptation is effected by local surroundings of the building and vice versa. It has ability to make bridge between new developments and old traditions. Adaptive reuse of heritage building is good way to maintain archeologically, aesthetically, economically, functionally and psychologically values of a building.

The process also includes post and pre building phase. Ecological, economical cultural and socials aspects should be considered for successful building adaptation. There are some criteria for building adaptation, which makes process easy as previously discussed in this chapter. Type of building adaption is depending on public demand, local condition and building type.

Many heritage building were constructed with the traditional techniques with porous, permeable friendly materials. Old construction consists with load bearing masonry with thick and heavy walls. Old structure has good thermal mass, natural ventilations and poor thermal insulation. It breaths though fabric in uncontrolled manner. The whole process increases the cost of traditional old property.

Overall building adaptation is good for old building , natural environment and community, but it has some negative aspects also such as presence of toxic old materials, difficult to maintain insulation standards in an old building, not all places is accessible by disable people. Building adaptation tries to maintain comfort living with health and safety regulations. Adaptive reuse is flexible, durable, and feasible for natural system because it reduces demolition, waste and pollution.


The chapter explained the concept of the Adaptive reuse and tried to find advantages and limitation of the process. Preservation of historical buildings by introducing new functions and developments and making bridge between old traditions and new developments are the main features of adaptive reuse.

I like to say that adaptive use is a good option for conservation of old buildings. Day by day demands of buildings are increasing. New buildings are more expensive than the old buildings. If an old, building is in the good condition, so it might be better to adopt old buildings. Adaptation is generally economic and less time-consuming than the new developments.

It saves energy, labour, time, money and resources. Alternately, if the existing property is not in a good condition then it will be a very expensive deal. It might happen that it will need heavy maintenance and is not durable for the future.

Adaptation work should be done very carefully and sensitivity so it can become an important component of sustainability strategy. It is a process, which brings back life to old building and able to preserve their important characters. Overall, it is feasible to natural system. I will discuss about the principles of sustainable design in next chapter.

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