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Adaptive reuse

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Adaptive reuse is conventionally defined as “the process of adapting old structures for new purposes.” This process has a history that stretches back to antiquity and is so universal that we often fail to recognise it.

To prolong the period from cradle-to-grave for a building by retaining all or most of the structural system and as much as possible of other elements, such as cladding, glass, and interior partitions. Reuse, readaptation, reappropriation of existing or built structures has remote historical precedents. In antiquity, durable, sturdy structures of stone and masonry outlived empires and often changed program many times. In modernity, the desire to preserve historical buildings and neighborhoods emerged in many Western countries out of various romanticist, nationalistic, and historicist streams. Today, the imperative to extend the life cycle of a structure is related to various sustainability goals: sprawl minimization, preservation of virgin materials, and energy conservation. Also, many Western cities are changing dramatically as industrial operations more often than not move to the South and the East leaving massive, sturdy buildings vacant. Institutional nature is also changing with many old hospitals, sanatoriums, military buildings, and even office blocks becoming redundant. AR becomes a means to revitalize urban life and declining neighborhoods.[1]

Adaptive reuse was regarded as a conservation and heritage issue until comparatively recently when the implications for sustainability became more obvious. Although conservation remains a priority when dealing with buildings of historical, architectural or cultural significance, adaptive reuse is now considered a priority for less significant structures if only to maintain the embodied energy of the building materials. In many cases older buildings were also designed to be more energy efficient or to use natural heating and cooling systems.

Related issues are building deconstruction (the managed process of demolition aiming to preserve as much of the building materials as possible) and building material reuse and recycling.

The term is also increasingly used to describe many of the processes by which human technologies and memes evolve.

  1. [(from MIT Greening East Campus)]