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Adaptive Reuse: A New Vision for Historic Preservation

Adaptive Reuse_ A New Vision for Historic Preservation

Every historic building tells a story. With adaptive reuse, you add another chapter to its story by turning the building into an asset for the community. Or at the very least, repurpose the building for another use rather than have it be a liability and an eyesore. According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), adaptive reuse is the “redesign and alteration of a building to support a new function it was not originally intended to serve.” Examples of adaptive reuse include turning an old factory into housing or a historic house into a restaurant. In this article, our NJ architects will take a closer look at the value of the adaptive reuse concept.

Preserving Heritage through Adaptive Reuse

There are benefits to preserving our heritage through the adaptive reuse of historic buildings. Adaptive reuse is different to historic preservation. You don’t return the building to its original condition and purpose, but adapt it to embrace a new purpose, while preserving its unique character and historical features. It is a sustainable practice that allows us to reduce our carbon footprint, while protecting a community’s rich cultural heritage.

Do you want to preserve a historic building you own? Perhaps by altering the building into housing that could really benefit the local area? Innovate within the framework of the existing structure by using an experienced architect who works with you to merge your vision with the building’s footprint.

Balancing Innovation with Preservation in Adaptive Reuse  

Why should you stay within the footprint of the building? A historic building, even if it requires significant retrofitting, will have restrictions placed on it by government agencies or preservation organizations aiming to preserve its architectural integrity. It might also be of sentimental value to the local community. 

Adaptive reuse architecture allows you to honor the original design intent while making the modifications you need to allow a new purpose. A historic building can have a modern interior if you use innovative design, careful engineering studies, and materials that don’t put the original structure at risk. The right architect will be able to balance functionality, innovation, and preservation.

Navigating Challenges in Adaptive Reuse

We already mentioned some legal and community challenges you might experience when converting a historic building for new use. These are other factors to consider when choosing adaptive reuse for historic buildings:   

Building envelope. The envelope includes foundations, exterior walls, windows, doors and the roof. A forensic assessment will determine the best way to preserve these components.

Historic building materials. Older buildings generally contain hazardous materials such as asbestos, mold, lead-based paint and radon – which need to be remediated to code. 

Modern building codes. Speaking of, one of the biggest challenges to successful adaptive reuse is modern building codes. Changes you make to adhere to these codes must not detract from the building’s historic feel. An experienced architect can delicately balance the need for preservation and adhering to the required building regulations and codes.

Modern technology needs. The building’s electrical, mechanical, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) systems may need to be updated. An architect can guide you on the latest technologies, smart sensors, and IoT (Internet of Things) solutions that will make your building more energy-efficient and sustainable.

Prospects and Trends in Adaptive Reuse

What do you do with an underutilized federal building? You turn it into a mixed-use residential property like The Foundry in Alexandria, Virginia. Another example of adaptive reuse is the 1923 Terminal Refrigerating and Warehousing Building in Washington, DC, turned into the Museum of the Bible. Then, there is the old feed mill and sugar beet factory that became the Garver Feed Mill in Madison, Wisconsin – which provides a platform for local food businesses and offers indoor and outdoor event spaces. 

Do you have a vision for a historic building and feel adaptive reuse will bring it to life? Please contact our team at Seth A. Leeb Architect today or visit our website at: https://leeb-architecture.com/

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