Why repurposing always pays
Tens of thousands of Flemish property owners, school directors and business leaders are tearing their hair out. They own buildings that are either too small, too large or too dilapidated and don’t know what to do with them. However, there is a solution for such buildings: repurposing. In addition to giving the building a welcome facelift, repurposing also provides a new function, and one that’s better attuned to today's requirements. As a specialist in repurposing large and small buildings, bow architecten aims to convince that, with the right end-to-end approach, virtually every building can seamlessly adapt to our rapidly changing society. And often generating higher returns than a traditional sale, demolition or reconstruction. And then we’re still only talking about the financial side; because a repurposed building also delivers a considerable amount in terms of the local area and community.
An open door: a building’s function isn’t eternal. This is all the more evident now that coronavirus is turning our society upside down. We now know that schools can really be too small, even if they’re not bursting at the seams. And, all of a sudden, we’re acutely conscious of the fact that working from home can, in many ways, be healthier than working in open-plan offices. Society is changing - and the demands that we place on our buildings are changing along with it. At a rapid pace. Which is why the concept of repurposing is so important and gaining such momentum.
The fact that the government has meanwhile announced a concrete ban or ‘construction shift’ is an additional argument for the sustainable repurposing of our existing patrimony for improved and more profitable use. And, whilst few architects genuinely specialise in repurposing, we all wholeheartedly agree that Flanders is becoming increasingly built-up. And that nestled amongst the existing building volumes are true gems which, with expert knowledge, can be given a second, third, and even a twentieth life. Often with extremely unexpected and stimulating new user functions.
For architects and urban planners, repurposing is a specific mindset. That which is useful and meaningful is retained. Not least a solid building structure. We typically repurpose attractive buildings in prime locations, brimming with beauty and a rich history. Cleverly combining these facets for contemporary use; that’s the challenge for architects and urban planners engaged in repurposing. As truly forward-thinking urban planners and architects, bow architecten actively considers the future interpretations that will ultimately follow the initial repurposing. How will its users enable the building to evolve? How do we ensure that spaces can be readily divided or employed in a versatile way? How can that unique meeting room with breathtaking views ever become a restaurant or loft?
We keep searching until we’ve found the ideal mix. We consider the location, mobility around the site, the requirement for green spaces and water, the potential heritage value of the building, the existing layout and current interior – and, of course, all the applicable regulations, such as the zoning plan, urban design plan (UDP) and the spatial implementation plan (SIP). We also incorporate residential, retail and employment trends into our analysis, in addition to core densification and the rise of the sharing economy (such as the rental of parking spaces and meeting rooms as required). We continue searching and draw up a master plan in which all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place: an affordable, profitable repurposing that gives buildings with a rich past a bright future, yet without mortgaging the post-repurposing future.
We know from experience that repurposing is only truly successful if all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. That’s why a single, well-oiled multidisciplinary team is responsible for devising our entire project development plan, thus ensuring that crucial know-how isn’t lost or lacking when switching between the various disciplines. And only in this way can we ensure that the environmental permit application considers (where appropriate) all co-housing requirements or that the mobility policy is geared towards potential co-working spaces. Or that the building’s energy streams are completely future-proof. Harnessing insightful 3D models that contain all the requisite information, in a process known as Building Information Modeling or BIM, also enables us to involve the client or investor in the entire thinking and development process from A to Z.