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Adaptive Reuse

The environmental and social benefits of adaptive reuse of buildings are well known. Significant reductions in embodied carbon are a critical step for our industry to play a part in mitigating climate change. Beyond climate resilience improvements, built outcomes are better, occupant wellbeing increases, and retrofitting can have positive economic impacts. Using research and negotiation to arrive at agreed priorities, creative solutions using verifiable data can deliver socially and economically successful outcomes.

It is an uncomfortable fact that the renewal of existing buildings is costly, and cost is a powerful driver. Free-market economics typically don’t drive environmentally sustainable outcomes.  It’s time to reframe the conversation, authorities must revise their perspective on upgrading old assets as an opportunity rather than a cost. Industry guidelines need to catch up with current thinking and research. Is it possible for ‘value’ become a term that encompasses more than just dollars.

Owned by ISPT, 477 Pitt Street Sydney was built in the early 1990’s. It was a tower fast deteriorating with diminishing market appeal. Our client was determined to reposition the property rather than demolish it. The transformation of the 30-storey mixed-use tower into a striking, considered architectural statement now stands at the heart of Tech Central today was undertaken with a view to unlocking value without the associated environmental impact of knocking down a large structure.

The design response focuses on the performance of the building by refreshing its interior spaces and services and introducing a new rain screen cladding to the existing precast façade. A series of ESD initiatives have delivered considerably enhanced sustainability credentials. This project is at one end of the retrofitting spectrum - precinct renewal. Integrated, urban retrofit approaches are especially important to deliver resilient, sustainable cities.

Existing buildings and neighborhoods have inherent value. When we think of any great city we think of a place where culture, history and innovation collide. Established urban contexts come with an identity and character. By leveraging the value of an existing structure, it’s possible to capitalize on the legacy of place and promote a more sustainable and responsible approach to building.

At Wardle we’re building up a database of technical information specific to our design practices so we’re better informed and knowledgeable about our design proposals. It allows us to find efficient and best practice approaches that are adaptable to our projects. The data comes from info embedded in BIM models and the building fabric specifics which can be analyzed for whole-of-life detail and subsequently benchmarked to suit different projects. On 477 Pitt Street it’s calculated that 23,000 tCO2 of embodied carbon was saved in retrofitting.

Many of our projects incorporate elements of adaptive reuse so we’re familiar with the extra effort involved in retaining and updating older structures and can guide project stakeholders through the process. The benefit of adaptive reuse is far reaching and needs to be viewed for the intrinsic values it upholds and the social and environmental messages we want these spaces to stand for.

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