Analysis of Adaptive reuse of historic buildings
and changing facade for sustainability
Research Paper (Individual)
Fall 2017, Changing Buildings
Professor Dr. Michael Holleran, The University of Texas at Austin
This paper examines an adaptive reuse of historic buildings for sustainability. It is natural that buildings become redundant for many reasons, such as changes in economic and industrial practices, cost of maintenance, and people’s perceptions. Most of these buildings are no longer suited for their original function and a new use has not been decided for them.
Adaptive reuse enables for the conversion of existing, obsolete buildings and sites into new, mixed-use developments that will play an essential role in enhancing their community. Recently, many coal-fired power plants in the United States have been retired because of the environmental regulations and the increased availability of natural gas. Furthermore, the declining industry have made industrial buildings be abandoned. Through adaptive reuse, coal-fired power plants and abandoned industrial sites can contribute to life enhancement as a new source of vibrancy for the community, especially through focusing on the adaptive reuse of industrial facades.
Firstly, I started writing this paper from drawing four sketches which represent the types of solutions to use old buildings (see Illustration 1). The left diagram shows retrofitting type of dealing with old facade, which is the method to consider the historic significance and improve the energy performance of old buildings. The second drawing represents common type of demolition, it means that many developers definitely want to demolish non-sufficient or non-profit old buildings. The third one, the type conversion of the ground level, is current solution to consider historic significance of the old buildings and make more open public space for visitors and neighbors. Many architects and planners have been making ground level open or public use, which it attracts to people and enables a city to be walkable. The last one that I analyzed is the type of addition, and it might be a great solution to have more floor areas in a dense city and also help to keep the old buildings from demolishing.
I explored the changed ratio of facades comparing old facades to new proposed ones. Based on Bollack’s diagrams of architectural transformation (Bollack 2013), I re-categorizes the diagrams and add other types of adaptive reuse dealing with historic facades. Additionally, analyzing several adaptive reuse projects, I would like to evaluate adaptive reuse projects based on these diagrams. The findings of this research show design criteria for industrial facade preservation and illustrate the positive effects of adaptive reuse. Through analysis of the case studies, the paper proposes that the sustainable adaptive reuse of old facades has great potential social benefits.
My main research questions start from new uses for abandoned buildings. Especially, post-1900 industrial buildings are now facing abandonment because of the decline in the manufacturing sector (Douglas 2006). Two main research questions are below.
· How do architects and planners deal with adaptive reuse of historic abandoned buildings for sustainability?
· Why are adaptive reuse projects important, what benefits do they have?
The common characteristics of industrial buildings are large and single-story buildings. The capacious spaces often make some industrial buildings suitable for a sports center, industrial museum, or art galleries. With large open spaces and volumes, these areas can provide ideal settings for displaying art exhibits or opening for community use. However, adaptive reuse of industrial buildings also has many challenges in converting into housing or offices. The size, condition and structural configuration of these are not suited for those uses (Douglas 2006).
Especially in the United States, retired coal-fired power plants and industrial sites are waiting for gaining new functions through adaptive reuse methods. Lengthening the life of buildings through adaptive reuse has positive effects that include lowering energy consumption, pollution, material costs, and transportation fees and distances, while creating new residential areas and contributing to sustainability. By giving a historic building a new function and promoting greener practices, many buildings could benefit from new economic, social and environmental values. These benefits are not limited to the developer but are expanded to the community and the local government. Adaptive reuse may be considered as a catalyst for the renewal of distressed urban areas by positively stimulating the local economy through creating new public areas and jobs. These reasons enable private and public developers in the U.S. to choose adaptive reuse as a tool for urban revitalization and urban resilience.
The method of dealing with industrial facades comprises a large proportion of the adaptive reuse of industrial buildings. Because people tend to recognize buildings by the materials and patterns of their facade, adaptive reuse can help preserve the historical significance of industrial facades and repurposed buildings. Through exploring the successful adaptive reuse of industrial facades, this paper combines the adaptive reuse of industrial facades with sustainability.
Cities have been continually changing politically, ecologically, economically and culturally. Especially in downtown areas, which were planned to have more density and more high buildings for offices and commercial spaces, urban sites have been changing speedily, while their original functions have been abandoned or new uses are emerging for them. Currently in the United States, many coal-fired power plants are being retired because of environmental regulations and the increased use of natural gas. As these industrial sites occupy strategic locations in urban areas with access to valuable waterfront, these sites have potential opportunities for neighborhoods, such as riverfront residences, shops, and offices, as well as museums, parks, and other community spaces. In Stewart Band’s book, ‘How Buildings Learn; What happens after they’re built’, he mentioned that all buildings are changing intentionally or unintentionally.
Almost no buildings adapt well. They’re designed not to adapt; also budgeted and financed not to, constructed not to, administered not to, maintained not to, regulated and taxed not to, even remodeled not to. But all buildings (except monuments) adapt anyway, however poorly, because the usages in and around them are changing constantly (Brand 1994), p.2.
Architects and planners need to consider sustainable design, reduction of energy consumption, and the historic significance of industrial buildings. Instead of demolishing the old buildings and sites, adaptive reuse can create new-experiencing spaces. Its methods give specific opportunities for the public to perceive the value of historic buildings and to be attracted to new-born spaces.
As the industry has been declined and the strategic location of industrial buildings in urban areas with access to valuable waterfront, these sites have potential opportunities for neighborhoods, such as riverfront residences, shops, and offices, as well as museums, parks, and other community spaces. James Douglas emphasizes the sustainability of building adaptation comparing with new buildings in his book.
Sustainability, “Reusing or upgrading old buildings is a more environmentally friendly than redevelopment. The latter involves demolition as well as new-build activities, both of which expend more energy and waste than adaptation (Douglas 2006).
Through dividing building’s components by using Brand’s ‘shearing layers of change’ diagram, we can recognize that there are different rates of change of its components. Brand illustrates its components by “sic S’s”; site, structure, skin, services, space plan, and stuff (see Illustration 2). ‘Site’ indicates the geographical setting and has an eternal characteristic. The ‘structure’ is defined as the foundation and load-bearing elements, it has structural life ranges from 30 to 300 years. He explained that the ‘skin’, exterior surfaces, changes every 20 years or so. He named the working guts of a building as ‘services’, it comprises of HVAC, plumbing, electrical wiring, elevators, and escalators. It has 7 to 15 years life span; thus many buildings are deconstructed because of outdated systems of it. Relevant to interior layout, ‘space plan’, has different life space depending on its uses (commercial space – 3years, home – 30 years). Lastly, all the things which are daily changeable are ‘stuff’; furniture (Brand 1994).
The meaning of adaptive reuse
Adaptive reuse pertains to a major change of an existing building’s function when its former function has become obsolete. It means certain works to change a building functionally, its capacity, or performance (Douglas 2006). Adaptation includes a meaning of changing a place for existing use or new use (ICOMOS Australia 2013).
Architectural practitioners who deal with actual built environments and developers who affect the economic value of architectural projects need to consider the abundant buildings and places as buildings with potential benefits.
Adaptive reuse methods are highly related to historic preservation. When architects and practitioners deal with abandoned industrial buildings and sites, they consider balancing historic preservation and sustainability. Furthermore, the urban resilience concept needs to be considered from the bouncing forward perspective, especially in the built environment. In historic preservation literature, researchers mainly deal with adaptive reuse as a method that increases historical significance (Appler and Rumbach 2016). A sustainable approach to abandoned industrial buildings and sites needs to be investigated by defining sustainable adaptive reuse and illustrating the relationship between adaptive reuse and sustainability.
Methodology and Methods
This paper is drawn from adaptive reuse projects by using a mixed research methodology; qualitative and quantitative. To be specific, I analyze and categorize the adaptive reuse projects based on Bollack’s diagrams. In her book, ‘Old buildings new forms; New directions in architectural transformations’, she illustrates types of building transformation (Bollack 2013). Re-categorizing and re-draw diagrams of those, I added other types of adaptive reuse which are found in actual buildings design processes that were conducted by architects and planners. For these diagrams, I selected several projects which are designed by famous architects on the globe. Furthermore, I would like to evaluate the adaptive reuse projects and its historic facades. Through exploring the relationship between adaptive reuse of industrial facades and social benefits, this paper fits in the literature of sustainable redevelopment and historic preservation for social community. My aim therefore is to illustrate the reasons why we should keep the historic industrial buildings from demolishment and evaluate the selected projects with my own criteria.
Ultimately, this paper precisely explores sustainable strategies and historic facade preservation. Analyzing the buildings in other cities by selected criteria (see Illustration 3), I might reach out to demonstrate aspects of historic significance and sustainability.
In general, many researchers and relevant organizations have been focusing significantly on sustainable cities. Rather than pursuing unplanned developments, architects and planners need to consider planning for the life-enhancement and revitalization of existing urban community. On the one hand, adaptive reuse methods make difficulties for architects and planners as they make decision (Bullen and Love 2011). On the other hand, the adaptive reuse of industrial facades with sustainability has diverse values and potentials for revitalization (Tam, Fung, and Sing 2016). Adaptive reuse methods also have many limitations to encourage urban revitalization and resilience; however, these have many opportunities such as reduction of energy consumption, material preservation, and production of new community spaces for existing neighborhoods (Carroll 1998).
Types of adaptive reuse
In Bollack’s book, ‘Old buildings new forms; New directions in architectural transformations’, she deals with the forms of transformation. The types comprise of five forms following by those changed patterns, she describes specific case studies with five diagrams: she named those as ‘insertions’, ‘parasites’, ‘wraps’, ‘juxtapositions’, ‘weavings’. I recategorized the five diagrams into eight types (see Illustration 4) based on Bollack’s diagrams, and analyzed adaptive reuse projects which were designed by famous architects.
In my diagrams of adaptive reuse form, there are six types of adaptive reuse and I minimize into eight categories. Especially, I divided the ‘parasites’ type into 3 parts according to new spaces which are disrupting the old ones. To be specific, a ‘Parasites’ type is interrupted by newly proposed spaces, and both ‘parasites-stacks’ and ‘parasites-juxtapositions’ type is not interrupted by new spaces. I have kept the Bollack’s analysis of the insertions, weavings to use for categorizing them, but I have added ‘peeling’ and ‘transplanting’ diagrams after traveling actual sites of the Seaholm power plant and the Pearl District redevelopment project (see Figure 1).
I selected 16 adaptive reuse projects diversely (see Table 1). Most of them were built in the late 19th century and early 20th century (the industrial era). They were abandoned for several years because of loosing its needs or declining industry. Seven projects of them have been changed into residences and public spaces. These are adjacent to river and in center of city, and its location is attractive for people to use. Producing residential units in the center of city might be a solution to promote livability and vibrancy in city. Industrial buildings, especially, such as a power plant can be transferred into art museum for large exhibitions and commercial areas with public green spaces.
Analysis of changed facade ratio helps me understand the typologies of adaptive reuse that architects used. Figure 1 shows the selected projects, and people might be able to recognize their changes of facade seeing differences between new and old materials.
Changed program uses enables me to get an idea of sustainability in adaptive reuse projects. Through analyzing the changed facade and programs, I made an evaluation table with five categories; energy improvement, facade increase, social benefits, economic benefits, and space increase (see Table 3). The ‘Energy improvement’ category indicates potentials of improving the energy performance of old buildings’ facade. ‘Insertions’, ‘Parasites’, ‘Wraps’ are better for increasing energy performances because the types have potentials to upgrade their insulations at the design phase and the added spaces might play a role as an insulation as well. However, the ‘Peeling’ type has bad condition in energy part.
In facade category, all the eight types have increased facade, but the size of change is different. I analyze all projects have social benefits in it, because their change promotes people to live comfortably and produces public spaces specifically in old sites and buildings. ‘Space increase’ category is relevant to their changed floor areas and quantitative approach, and it means that adaptive reuse methods are related to produce more spaces for satisfying occupants or neighborhoods.
Through gathering and analyzing several adaptive reuse projects, I have reached out sustainability of adaptive reuse methods. Re-drawing typologies of adaptive reuse based on Bollack’s diagrams helps me to analyze them accurately and to look into those projects in depth.
There are limitations in selecting adaptive reuse projects; those of them are in different location, has different built-stories. However, I have realized the importance of analyzing the relationships between changed facade/ program and its benefits (e.g. social, cultural, economic, environmental) for sustainable city. I expect that these findings will be applied to other abandoned buildings such as retired power plant and industrial buildings with sustainable strategies. It demonstrates the sustainable adaptive reuse of industrial facades and emphasize the significance of historic facades and their preservation for the social communities.
For the next step for my research, I will try to select specific locations or a type of buildings. The evaluation table (see Table 3) that I made also needs to get more data from analysis of other projects. Based on 8 types of adaptive reuse and looking into the changed program by making quantitative data in depth, I expect that I might get appropriate results for sustainable adaptive reuse (see Figure 3). It would include potential benefits of adaptively reusing abandoned building’ facades to encourage many developers and architectural practitioners to reuse historic buildings instead of destroying them.
Appler, Douglas, and Andrew Rumbach. 2016. “Building Community Resilience Through Historic Preservation.” Journal of the American Planning Association. doi:10.1080/01944363.2015.1123640.
Bollack, Françoise Astorg. 2013. Old Buildings New Forms; New Directions in Architectural Transformations. The Monacelli Press.
Brand, Stewart. 1994. How Buildings Learn: What Happens after They’re Built. New York: Penguin Books.
Bullen, Peter A., and Peter E.D. Love. 2011. “Adaptive Reuse of Heritage Buildings.” Structural Survey 29 (5): 411–21. doi:10.1108/02630801111182439.
Carroll, Mary S. 1998. “Sustainability and Historic Preservation.” NCPTT Notes 25: 4–5.
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ICOMOS. 2013. “The Burra Charter: The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance, 2013,” 1–10. doi:363,690994 ICO.
Tam, Vivian W.Y., Ivan W.H. Fung, and Michael C.P. Sing. 2016. “Adaptive Reuse in Sustainable Development: An Empirical Study of a Lui Seng Chun Building in Hong Kong.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 65. Elsevier: 635–42. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2016.07.014.
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