Repurposing key to combat building obsolescence

Repurposing key to combat building obsolescence

By Colin Harrop

Repurposing key to combat building obsolescence

Originating from the late 17th century meaning ‘passing out of use’ or falling into disuse, the term ‘obsolescence’ in relation to the construction sector may be understood as being the result of physical deterioration, technological advances, and changes in preferences.

Often referring to a growing divergence between rising demand-side expectations due to technological advances on the one side and declining performance on the other, nearly three years since the Covid pandemic fundamentally changed the way we work with a proliferation of hybrid and working from home practices, the prospect of obsolescence for some central business district buildings appears pressing, unless they can be repurposed for other uses.

Indeed, developers have predicted that post-pandemic working will reduce demand for office space by 14% over the long-term.

Although the pandemic has generated plans for converting empty office buildings into residential buildings, not all will be considered appropriate for such conversion, with many lower-grade buildings likely to be left vacant.

In addition to the rise in homeworking leading to much office space surplus to requirements, the introduction of more stringent environmental regulations will require buildings to be upgraded or face obsolescence.

Buildings account for 39 per cent of global energy-related carbon emissions, according to the World Green Building Council. Roughly three-quarters of that comes from running them, the remainder from the construction process.

According to Deloitte, legislative changes are expected to set minimum standards for energy performance in buildings that will require refurbishment work to be carried out on 15 million sq ft of office space in London.

From 2030, it is anticipated that office buildings in England and Wales will require an Energy Performance Certification (EPC) rating of at least Grade B. The current minimum compliance level is Grade E.

Indeed, the new laws on energy efficiency will mean that 80% of London’s office space will need to be upgraded over the next seven years. That explains why Deloitte’s survey found that most ‘new’ construction schemes in London over the past six months were refurbishments. We expect that trend to continue across the UK.

When Hardies Property and Construction Consultants was established in 1913, debate raged over whether buildings should be mass-produced quickly to save time and money, or crafted by tradition to suit good, honest principles.

In the 110 years since, the speed of development has increased, and buildings have become obsolete more quickly, but the debate continues. Should we now mass-produce our buildings with a plan to replace them quickly or return to long-term but flexible solutions?

Either way, as Winston Churchill said, ‘We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us’. We at Hardies will continue to think about that building-shaping and obsolescence for many years to come.

Source:- Business Connect: