Everything is connected to everything else. This quote is well applicable to the built environment and can be used to explain the need for a holistic view on markets and market mechanisms.
Financial and real estate crises and “the new way of working” have reduced the need for office space, office markets have become replacement markets without a quantitative need for new office buildings. New legal requirements, user needs, deterioration and urban patterns change the qualitative need for office space: New buildings drive out bad buildings. Likewise, new use patterns are changing the needs for other types of real estate: schools, churches, care facilities and industrial real estate. Adaptive reuse is an opportunity for sustainable reuse of structurally obsolete buildings.
We all love historic cities and heritage real estate. Demolishing this type of real estate is socially “not done”, and the affection for and financial value of heritage buildings has been proved. However, our current culture of “throwawayism” is based on a different behaviour, related to consumerism and disposable products, where real estate is seen as a disposable commodity. But real estate is not a disposable product. Hence, strategies for adaptive reuse are needed to develop sustainable real estate management. The scientific challenges of adaptive reuse are rooted in societal challenges. The scientific challenges that are prioritised relate to developing a novel conceptual framework for sustainable, circular adaptive reuse and adaptive buildings, including user preferences, design requirements, adaptive reuse and value forecasts, based on empirical evidence, and applying design thinking and approach to develop new solutions that can be implemented in education and practice.
The practical challenge is to implement sustainable real estate strategies in practice. Real estate is not a ‘disposal’ article. To ensure that it is seen as a product with a long lifespan requires further development and implementation of innovative business, financing and governance models that look beyond the first functional lifespan. The user perspective on both the short and long term has to be considered when investing in new buildings. To achieve sustainable real estate, the focus should be on the user, and should relate to lifespan, and hence adaptability and material use (instead of just focussing on energy efficiency as is the current state of play). Hence, the big challenge in Adaptive Reuse research is to explore, test and develop new models for sustainable, circular adaptive reuse of existing real estate.
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