A new life: conversion of vacant office buildings into housing

Hilde T. Remøy, Theo J.M. van der Voordt
  • Facilities, March 2007, Emerald
  • DOI: 10.1108/02632770710729683

Adaptive reuse

What is it about?

The vacancy of office buildings leads to financial problems for the owners and social problems for the community, e.g. vandalism, dereliction and deterioration. A solution may be found through the conversion of vacant office buildings into housing. Vacancy-threatened buildings are often part of the mediocre part of the building stock. Does conversion make sense in this case? What are the opportunities, threats and risks? What are the critical success factors? The purpose of this paper is to discuss financial, functional, structural, technical and aesthetic issues. Through previous research at the Delft University of Technology, tools are developed to decide the potential for the conversion of buildings. This paper discusses the risks and chances, and brakes and triggers of transformation projects, based on case studies. These case studies are performed through interviews with professionals involved in the transformation process and through analyses of architectural drawings of the before and after situations. For each project two interviews were held, with the architect and the developer or client. The interviews focussed on the process of the transformation projects. The conversion of nondescript and unarticulated buildings makes sense from the point of view of sustainability, both ecologically and in an urban regeneration context. These projects will only be interesting for developers of commercial real estate if they can be made economically feasible. Social housing associations also have additional social goals. Through a longer investment perspective these associations can wait for property increases through long-term externalities as result of upgrading of the area. In buildings that are kept because of economical or social feasibility there are strong connections between the target group, the location and the conversion costs. The tools developed have proved to be useful for quick scans of the potential for building conversion. This paper is a first step in trying to depict a more detailed view of the risks and chances of building conversions. Knowledge of the risks and chances of conversion is required to make decisions concerning transformation projects.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/02632770710729683

The following have contributed to this page: Hilde Remoy and Dr. Theo van der Voordt