Reuse: Construction Trend to Watch During the Next 10 Years

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The reuse of existing buildings will become an increasingly favorable option in the building industry during the next 10 years, and there are several reasons why that is the case.

First, the American population will see about 50 million more seniors as the baby boomers edge closer to retirement, reaching an estimated 85 million persons 65 and older by the year 2050. There are approximately twice as many baby boomers than those comprising the Generation X demographic, although Generation Y, immediately following Generation X, is larger. As a result, there will be more jobs than qualified and available workers in the coming years.

The need to outsource and subsequently send jobs overseas will increase. Companies will also shrink due to technology, job consolidation, or out of financial necessity.



Second, the demand for new real estate will decrease. New buildings will not be getting “new tenants;” rather, there will be a move of existing tenants from older buildings, leaving those older buildings, many of which aren’t actually very old and are still viable and workable enough to be renovated and refurbished for future use. Renovation will become a big, big trend in the construction business. Many industrial buildings will be used for housing, and the same will be true for commercial buildings.

Third, in terms of sustainability -eeting the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs - the building industry has been one of the single largest contributors to environmental degradation. Many materials emit fumes through off-gassing; many construction materials are oil intensive or coal intensive to produce; and almost all of the machinery and transportation in construction rely on fossil fuels. Renovating, instead of building, allows us to reduce, dramatically, our environmental footprints. Rehabilitating buildings will become more attractive to private citizens and businesses in the future.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings consume 30% of our total energy and 60% of our electricity annually, and a typical construction project generates 2.5 pounds of solid waste per square feet of floor area. In the metropolitan-Atlanta area, 50% of the buildings needed by the year 2050 are yet to be designed and built as the area grows from 4.6 million residents to seven million or more. As one can see, across North America, there is a great demand for structures, and if everyone in the field can design new buildings responsibly and reuse older buildings whenever feasible, this will lead to greater protection of the environment. Along with sustainability, terms like “green” building and “high-performance building” all denote a renewed effort to design and construct with increasing environmental responsibility.

Beck has made it a high priority to design and build using sustainable principles. All of the organization’s managing directors and more than half of the project managers are LEED-accredited professionals, or LEED AP, with the goal of all project personnel being accredited by 2010. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a program by the U.S. Green Building Council to accredit professionals and certify sustainable projects using a comprehensive rating system for various project components. Increasingly, local governments and corporations are adopting policies that all of their building endeavors will be LEED certified. While not every project owner chooses to pursue a certified LEED project, Beck has committed itself to seven principles that will be incorporated into all projects.

One should expect governmental policy at the federal and local levels to foster the reuse of buildings as well. As we see more voters identify with environment friendly policymaking, there is likely to be more legislation to use less of the world’s resources and provide incentives for “smart” building practices, including reuse.

Location will play a key factor in all of this as well, as proximity will continue to remain a top priority. There will be a continuous desire to reuse buildings within urban centers as opposed to building new ones in suburban and exurban locations. This is something we are seeing today in many of our large cities that will only continue. There is less land available in our urban cores, and most of the easily developed land has been developed. Many of the sites that remain are either logistically challenging or too costly, making the reuse of existing buildings an attractive proposition.

For the His Hands Church project in Woodstock, GA, The Beck Group was asked to take big-box retail (formerly a Kmart) and transform it into a dynamic facility for a new church. This is an example of non-conventional adaptive reuse. The firm’s view of success for the project was that one would not be able to tell that the 123,000-square-foot building was anything other than a church in its lifetime.

The project required demolition of the entire interior of the space and a new interior buildout with a 1,500-seat adult worship center, a 500-seat youth worship center, a children’s church, a coffee shop, classrooms, meeting areas, office space, fellowship and common areas, a kitchen, and a restroom. The firm popped up a 17,000-square-foot section of the roof to ensure that the worship center had the desired site lines to the raised stage. The church was adamant that the worship floor stay flat to provide flexibility of use, especially during weekdays.

Big-box retail typically does not have windows, so the firm pierced the skin of the existing building to provide for windows into the classroom spaces. Beck also tore off the existing retail front and replaced it with a new main entry that spoke to the culture and vision of the ministry, giving it a recognizable human scale.

At His Hands, Beck completely redesigned the exterior parking lot, adding landscaping, a new entry plaza, and decorative lighting. The desire of the ministry was to extend the worship experience into the parking lot and to begin to tell the story of the ministry from a person who enters the church grounds by car. The firm placed bronze statues of people of various ethnicities, ages, and genders in the plaza to exemplify the openness and warmth of this congregation.

One must also consider that many existing buildings offer historical contexts to the cities and often become icons and markers within the fabric of a city. They contribute to the “sense of place” which has become a part of the cultural spirit of the times. In a time when words like “authentic” and “throwback” find themselves into the daily vernacular, the architectural equivalent is viable as well. Certainly, architecture tells a story, and it reflects the times in which it was built in a most-accurate way. Many buildings of the past deserve the opportunity to live on well into the future. With some clever thought and creative attitudes, hopefully all will see the reuse of the buildings of yesteryear and allow them to live on into the future in a viable and sustainable way.

About the Author

Fred Perpall is the director of architecture for The Beck Group’s Atlanta office (www.beckgroup.com). Beck offers complete real estate solutions in the areas of architecture, interior design and construction, real estate development, financial structuring and consulting, preconstruction, renovation, construction management, general contracting, and program management.
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