Many businesses dream of shiny new office buildings to impress clients and delight employees.
But in all that dreaming, the practical realities of large-scale new construction rarely get enough consideration. The financial burdens, environmental impact, and time required for new construction can easily turn that dream of new offices into an uncomfortable reality.
That’s why forward-thinking companies have embraced Adaptive Reuse (also known as Adaptive New Use). That simply means taking historic buildings, keeping their distinctive architectural features, and renovating their interiors for modern purposes. This has several well-documented advantages over new construction.
First and foremost, adaptive reuse is the ultimate form of recycling. New construction requires demolition of the old building, significantly more building materials, more equipment, and more energy. Second, renovating historic buildings preserves architectural diversity and character that provides a connection to the past and maintains the unique character of a city. Third, the cost savings of avoiding a full build allows companies to direct capital towards expanding and competing, rather than construction. Plus, many cities and states offer grants for companies willing to renovate and preserve historic buildings. And finally, working out of a historic building helps your company stand out. You’re not just another office building lost in a sea of identical structures. It’s a great way to build your brand as more unique and connected than your competitors.
Now that we know the personal, corporate, and societal advantages of adaptive reuse, let’s take a look at 5 success stories.
Linode Industries - Girard Corn Exchange Bank - Philadelphia, PA
Linode, a rapidly growing cloud hosting provider in Philadelphia, PA needed new offices but wanted to make sure they matched the unique character of the business. They found everything they needed and more in the iconic Corn Exchange Bank building. The century-old building has been a bank, an art gallery, and even the home of MTV’s The Real World Philadelphia. Even before any work began, the acquisition of such a famous building helped Linode garner a flood of the free press, accolades for preserving a historic landmark, and saved on construction. However, the biggest victory came when the fully transformed, modern interior renovation was completed. With Muraflex glass walls and innovative designs, Linode was able to create a stunning, unique, naturally lit, modern office that far surpasses the boring, boxy alternatives.
KB Building – Old Nylon Factory – Arnhem, The Netherlands
This old factory from the 1940s had a massive interior space just sitting empty and waiting for a design firm with the vision to find a modern use for it. The designers turned the vast space into three levels of useful office space without sacrificing the abundant natural light or the original character of the building. Lightweight steel supports were added to the original, exposed concrete columns of the factory to strengthen the new levels while maintaining the open, bright feel of the space. This way, the former chemical industry building has transformed into the home of clean energy companies reshaping the modern world.
Nantes Métropole Higher School of Fine Arts - Alstom Warehouses - Nantes, France
The “ile de Nantes” is the site of one of France’s most ambitious urban rehabilitation efforts to remake old warehouses into beautiful spaces whose aesthetics match their function. The Nantes Saint-Nazaire Higher School of Fine Arts may be based in an old warehouse, but everything about it is impressive and new. Leaving only the steel skeleton of the former storage space, the new building is an open, naturally lit, playground for France’s future artists and cultural leaders. 4,500 students will learn, grow, and imagine in this new Creation District that is building a bright future on the bones of the drab industrial past.
Van Berlo – Philips Power Plant – Eindhoven, The Netherlands
This building once supplied Philips factories with gas, coal, and oil power. Now, in an ironic reimagining, space is a bright, green, and modern place where inhabitants can feel the presence of nature while they work.Though many original materials were left exposed to leave a clear connection to the original power plant, several key changes have been made to enliven the area. Designers added a centrally located garden where meeting rooms are flooded with natural light, as well as a glass elevator that offers beautiful views of the garden and offices.When combined with the full-length skylight, one hardly feels indoors in this once dark expanse.
The Convent of Sant Francesc – Santpedor, Spain
Built in the early 1700s by Franciscan priests, the Convent of Sant Francesc had fallen into such despair that all but one building had been demolished by the state by the year 2000. When designers sought to preserve the space by reshaping it into a cultural center, a careful balance had to be struck between celebrating the original space and respecting the needs of a modern building. To achieve this, the immense focus was given to preserving the original flow of natural light. Skylights were placed strategically throughout the church, and new openings in the roof were made to ensure the maximum possible availability of light throughout.The result is a gorgeous new building that recalls yet surpasses the past.