Sustainable Buildings: The Purpose of Repurposing
We talk about sustainable building practices often although there’s one type of sustainable building that may not feature as prominently as those where new materials or solutions are deployed.
We’re talking about repurposed buildings – buildings that started their life for one purpose and then along the way, were transformed and given a new life, with a new purpose. Buildings that get re-used and, in that way, avoid wholesale demolition and the dumping of often quite re-usable materials.
John Craig, Senior Project Manager at Joseph’s has been at the helm of such a project in Christchurch for some time. Following the earthquakes, one of the city’s larger congregations found themselves without a church. While formal works began on a long-term solution, Joseph’s worked with the client to repurpose an existing engineering workshop for short-mid-term use.
For John, repurposing buildings can have many benefits. Sustainability is often seen as a great outcome though it may be a smaller consideration upfront. Other benefits such as retaining the existing flavour and ambience of older buildings or the integrity of surrounding streetscapes are others.
Like any project however, repurposing a building isn’t without challenge.
Design can sometimes be constrained or compromised by the existing footprint and older buildings may contain some materials, that try as we might to avoid removal, need to be removed due to being environmentally damaging or hazardous (e.g. asbestos). Cost too can be a factor as depending on the age and condition of the original sub-structure, a repurposed building may need alterations to strengthen, or add features for acoustic, ventilation or heat control.
The challenges with repurposed buildings are different to those of a new build and John advises anyone considering repurposing to consider both the pros and the cons.
We love these passion-led projects though. Much like restoring older cars – another passion of John’s – repurposed buildings can also preserve heritage and stories for future generations. Perhaps that’s the purpose of repurposed buildings?