Think About This


By some estimates, two-thirds of our national building stock that will exist by 2030 is already in place.
Consequently, treatment of these in-place resources will exert deep ecological, cultural, and economic
impacts on our society.

At the outset of a construction project, the owner or developer must select a site with existing structures or
an undeveloped property. For sites with existing improvements, a choice must then be made to reuse all or
portions of the improvements, or demolish and start fresh.

Every situation is unique, but certain fundamental aspects can be weighed to gauge the potential
consequences of these decisions, in terms of initial cost versus lifetime cost and environmental impact.


Is the existing building of substantial cultural value historically or architecturally?

Does positioning of the existing building on the site conflict substantially with the proposed development
program in terms of traffic flow, streetscape presence, solar orientation, or other critical needs?

Does structural configuration of the existing building conflict substantially with the proposed facility program
in terms of traffic flow, spatial volumes, access to windows, or other critical needs?

Is the existing building of substantial quality and durability? Vintage structural and architectural materials may
be more durable than new materials, but mechanical and electrical equipment may be obsolete.

And what may be the most important Big Picture question of all: What are the comparative energy and
ecological costs for reusing an existing building versus tearing it down and building new? According a recent
study published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Preservation Green Lab, *The Greenest
Building: Quantifying the Value of Building Reuse:

  • Building reuse nearly always results in lower ecological impact than demolishing and building new.
  • Depending on specific project conditions, it can take 10 – 80 years for a new energy-efficient
    building to overcome the negative ecological impact of its initial construction process.
  • The advantage of reusing buildings can be adversely affected by specific renovation requirements
    -- e.g., the extent of exterior shell upgrades needed to bring an existing building up to appropriate
    energy values may be severe.)

* This study can be found at:


Reuse of existing buildings can help reduce new development sprawl.

Renovation of existing buildings can offer better job opportunities for the construction industry, since
renovation work generally requires 70:30 labor:materials value -- compared to 50:50 labor:materials for new
construction projects.

Renovation of existing buildings may present a higher risk of unexpected costs during the construction
process, due to concealed conditions.


Our in-depth experience in the renovation, modernization, and expansion of existing structures is a valuable
resource in evaluating the effectiveness of building reuse for your unique projects. Call us!




Please click on the attachment below for more information.


Big Box Adaptive Reuse.pdf362.6 KB