Why Adaptive Reuse of Historical Buildings is More Sustainable and Benefits Immeasurable
As so many cities have expanded, old buildings are left behind. Instead of demolishing these structures, many builders are choosing to reuse these historical buildings.
Authentic From & Function explores this issue in-depth, and why adaptive reuse is so important:
Historic Preservation is Imperative
According to Gordon Olschlager, a Minneapolis architect as well as a former member of the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission and the American Institute of Architects Historic Preservation Committee:
Preserving historic buildings is important because buildings are part of our collective cultural patrimony. Just as we recognize the value of art and artists, historic buildings embody a vast array of crafts and artistic skill that is no longer utilized in modern construction.”
Saving buildings by repurposing them is a fantastic way of keeping the culture of an area alive. These new buildings can be a bridge between old and new. The outside of the building reflects the history of the area while the inside is utilized for a modern purpose.
Preserving old buildings in many cases is more sustainable than demolishing a building and starting from new. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, it takes about 65 years for an energy-efficient new building to save the amount of energy lost in demolishing an existing building. Re-using an existing building also means less construction materials in landfills. Reuse is more sustainable than new construction.
Challenges of Adaptive Reuse
However, there are a few challenges in reuse, like any project. When reusing an existing building, careful planning is required. Unlike in a new project where the materials are new and mostly predictable, repurposing an old building requires working around an existing frame. There may be materials that are harmful to humans, which requires extra care to remove and replace safely. The other challenge is one that occurs early on in the project: deciding the use for the building. As Authentic From & Function explains:
I think the biggest challenge is finding a compatible new use, so that important historic character is preserved,” Olschlager said. For example, he said warehouse adaption is usually easy as there is not a lot of significant interior spaces. But, changing a church into housing would not be a compatible use since much of the interior would have to be significantly altered, he said.
While there are challenges with reusing buildings, the benefit is immeasurable. Instead of old buildings sitting unused, they’re given a fresh new live. Giving new purpose to a historic landmark draws the attention of the community. It’s a fantastic way to preserve the past while looking ahead to the future.