Urban landscapes provide a visitor with a visual tour that reflects cultural, technological and architectural innovations and tastes through time. As buildings outlast their original use, the temptation might be to demolish and rebuild in the latest styles with the newest technologies and materials. There are, however, benefits to maintaining the original structure and adapting it to modern uses. With adaptive reuse, the goal is not to restore a building to its original condition, but, rather, to retrofit it for modern functionalities. The most compelling reasons for keeping original structures are to preserve cultural heritage, maintain historical integrity, improve environmental sustainability and incur financial savings.
Preserve Cultural Heritage
Cities are often cultural hubs where people of varying traditions settle and leave their mark. Architectural design is one element where a city’s cultural traditions are evident. There is value in preserving old buildings that hold cultural significance, as these buildings remind citizens and visitors of those who came before them.
Maintain Historical Integrity
The historical elements of a city are frequently a draw for tourists. Complete restoration of historical buildings can be cost-prohibitive and unnecessary in maintaining the historical integrity of the structure. Instead, re-purposing the building ensures that it retains its utility while also honoring the past. In preserving evidence of past styles, the unique character of the city remains for current and future generations to enjoy.
Improve Environmental Sustainability
Sustainable development is an important goal for many urban areas. Retrofitting existing buildings reduces the environmental impact attributed to demolition and new construction. Demolition creates a significant amount of waste, much of which is ineligible for recycling. New construction uses more materials and energy than reusing a standing structure. Even when green technology is used in new construction, recouping the environmental costs can take a number of years.
Incur Financial Savings
Adapting a building for a new purpose has its financial advantages. It is often cheaper to purchase and reuse a current structure than to acquire land, build and establish utilities and services. Demolition of a standing structure can run up costs as well. Furthermore, historical buildings might be eligible for a tax benefit from the Federal and local governments.
When deciding whether or not to reuse a building or start from the ground up, it is important to consider the potential benefits of repurposing. By retrofitting an existing structure, a city’s cultural heritage is preserved, along with its historical integrity. There are also environmental and financial incentives. These benefits can make adaptive reuse a more viable option than new construction.