Feature image: The old Paddington Reservoir converted into a sunken garden and park.
Australia has a wealth of historic buildings that reflect the rich history and extensive changes in culture. As such, Australia has no shortage of restoration projects for heritage buildings and old houses. Many of these restoration projects entail giving buildings an overhaul for adaptive reuse.
The idea behind adaptive reuse is to reuse a building or an old site for a new purpose and new function. It is different from renovation, which means transforming a structure or expanding its area, and from façadism, which refers to gutting an old building and preserving only its façade. Adaptive reuse entails restoring the entire site and keeping its elements as intact as possible.
How can adaptive reuse benefit a building’s developers, occupants, and the community?
Adaptively reusing an old building significantly reduces energy consumption that usually comes with demolishing a structure and building a new one to replace it. Although many adaptive reuse projects do involve further construction, the amount of energy for the additional work would be considerably less than what an entirely new building would require. Builders and developers save on energy involved in procuring new raw materials, manufacturing new supplies, and transporting all of these to the construction site. Using fewer raw materials also minimises construction impact on toxic waste.
Adaptive reuse can also reduce environmental issues that come with urban sprawl, by providing cities sustainable housing and commercial property solutions. As an example, Nonda Katsalidis succeeded in restoring old structures, like grain silos, and converting them into apartments. Solutions such as this can lessen the need for the population to move to rural areas and make daily commutes to the city in their cars.
Well-done adaptive reuse can restore an old building not only for new use, but also for the community to continue appreciating the site’s historical significance and maintain links to the past.
Even though an old building might not have been a remarkable piece of architecture during the time it was built, it can still hold a cultural significance because of the memories the community associates with it. Replacing historical sites with new structures might feel alien to the existing neighbourhood. But with adaptive reuse, developers can preserve a historical site and build complementary structures around it. With good design, displaying harmony between old and new infrastructure illustrates the community’s identity. An identity can add to a community’s charm, and even potentially its market appeal.
With today’s rising costs of energy, reducing energy consumption from adaptive reuse directly translates to large financial savings. There is also savings to be had from reusing existing materials and lessening waste.
Thinking of restoring an old home or building? Talk to us about it.