- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
- Specialist wikis
Last edited 22 Sep 2021
Building transformation: concepts and definitions
 Building adaptation/ adaptability
Covers a wide range of perspectives and its definition is very context specific. Adaptability is often used as a synonym for flexibility, though the latter usually implies fewer or lighter structural changes and vice versa . The term adaptation can be roughly described as making any adjustment to an existing building (that go over and beyond maintenance), its structural or non-structural layout with the purpose of rehabilitation, changes in capacity, function or performance and eventually extending a building’s life or increasing its value (in economic but also social, environmental and aesthetical sense). In literature the term adaptation has been used to cover changes in use, physical layout and size. It covers also interventions concerning building components or materials and their reuse. Building adaptation can be roughly divided into building refurbishment and adaptive reuse, which can then be further divided into several subcategories. [12, 13, 18]
Derives from Latin words re (again) and furbish (to polish) and describes making improvements to the current condition of a building and improving its current use or appearance. The scope of interventions reaches from ‘improving the environmental and operating costs’ to ‘repair work, renovations and alterations, and structural rehabilitation’ of existing buildings . Therefore, the term may also cover additions which are made to improve the performance (e.g. in-use energy efficiency and operating costs) of existing buildings . As a whole, refurbishment covers a wide range of interventions including (but often going beyond) maintenance, repair work, and alteration. [13, 14, 18]
Involves non-structural additions of new materials and elements to an existing building, or the redesign or reconstruction (as a whole or partially) of an existing technical utility in order to meet new requirements while no alterations are made to the initial use. The goals can include for example improving energy efficiency and performance (e.g. reducing cooling and heating demands, improvement of HVAC) or increased accessibility (e.g. adding a retrofit elevator). [10, 18]
The term derives from the Latin words re (again) and novare (make new). Generally, it can be defined as the process of cleaning, changing, replacing or repairing outdated components or remodelling the interior spatial layout of an existing building to bring it (back) in good condition. Hence, renovation means to improve a building’s state while not necessarily restoring it to a former state. It can include structural and non-structural interventions as is most commonly used as a broad building term in European countries. Due to that and local differences in definition, it is rather unpopular in the academic context. [13, 18]
Addresses the need to substantially improve the failing features of a building, mainly involving the repair or restoration (through strengthening or replacement) of the structure in a way that ‘returns its performance to levels approaching or exceeding those of a newly constructed facility’ . In some cases, the terms cover an update of building systems to latest building codes. [10, 18]
 Adaptive reuse/ Conversion
Covers the strategy of building conversion, including the reuse of an existing building for a use different from the one for which it was originally designed with the aim of ‘extending the useful life of old, historic, obsolete, and derelict buildings’ . Adaptive reuse and conversion are often used interchangeably. The term refers explicitly to changes that involve a functional and a physical component. [10, 13, 18] Conversions from industrial to residential or commercial, residential to commercial and commercial to any other type are among the most commonly reported types of conversion found in the literature. Conversion bears high risks regarding the return on investment and is therefore often disregarded as a potential alternative to demolition by owners and investors. Adaptive reuse can also refer to the reuse of building materials and components, as it does in Shahi et al. (2020), but this is not the standard use for the term.
An umbrella term for various kinds of comprehensive adaptation and refurbishment activities. From a functional perspective the term usually indicates a notable change in the use of a building, either through change of function(s) or significant alterations to the current function(s) via e.g. spatial rearrangements. In addition, the term may be applied to actions that do not directly affect the use of the building but otherwise majorly alter e.g. its appearance or technical performance, such as thorough façade renovation.
A part or product specified to be used in a building  which is often a combination of several layers or subcomponents (possibly made of several different materials) that serve several purposes (e.g. sandwich wall panels, air chiller units or ceiling panels).
Commonly used for the end-of-life phase of a building and understood as the result of physical and aesthetical deterioration. More explicitly, it is the growing divergence between steadily rising expectations due to technical advances and changes in demand on one side, and declining performance on the other. The reasons can include behavioural and physical aspects like the degradation or fatigue of materials over time, poor design choices or insufficient maintenance. The maltreatment of a building such as misuse, overload or a change in functions are behavioural factors that might lead to obsolescence. Physical impacts of nearby construction, rising standards and government regulations like taxation amplify obsolescence of the surroundings or building locations. Social deprivation processes, criminality, availability and aesthetics on the other hand, are external behavioural factors. Obsolescence is irregular, it often differs from building to building and its internal and external factors are diverse and influenced by a multitude of factors. [10, 22]
The division of a building into zones. The use of repetitive components and subsystems  often allow a speedy assembly or disassembly, maintenance and replacement. National or international codes often regulate or have an indirect impact on dimensions (e.g. the dimensions of ship containers or lorries), in addition to which modules are custom size and system-specific.
 Building life cycle
The life cycle of a building begins with the extraction of the raw materials used for its construction and continues until the eventual demolition and subsequent disposal, reuse, or recycling of its components or materials. Within this span, the life cycle can be divided into distinct phases. The specific terminology varies, but overall the following phases are distinguished: the product phase (extraction and processing of materials into usable products), the construction phase (erecting the building), the use phase (use of the building, including maintenance), the end of life phase (demolition and related handling of the building’s materials and components), and ideally the ‘beyond’ phase, where materials and components extracted from the building are further used. [5, 10, 21]
The service life of a building comprises the use phase of a building’s life cycle  over which at least an acceptable minimum level of shelter or service, as defined by the owner, is provided . Furthermore, service life can be understood for the period of time over which parts of a building meet or exceed performance requirements  including technical, economic, functional, or even aesthetic aspects. For example, the economic life of a building is ‘the period of time over which costs are incurred and benefits or disbenefits are delivered to an owner; […] not necessarily related to the likely [technical] service life of a facility or subsystem.’  The service life of a building can be extended through maintenance, refurbishment, and adaptation, depending on case specific needs. Different parts of a building can have different service lives. For example, building services equipment are likely to require replacement due to technical ageing before the structural building frame does. On the other hand, through reuse of materials and components the service life of some building parts may exceed the original use phase of the building.
The foundation for building preservation was laid in the 19th century with two distinct movements; ‘restoration movement’ as argued by e.g. Eugène Viollet-le-Duc and the ‘anti-restoration’ or ‘conservation’ movement as supported by e.g. John Ruskin. Both approaches aim for the ‘protection of historic buildings and works of art’ , yet methods and objectives are often conflicting. Both movements intend to safeguard monuments as historical evidence. Generally speaking, preservation means to keep an existing building from falling into decay and protecting it from irredeemable damage, alterations and changes. [1, 6, 7, 14]
Also called the ‘anti-restoration movement’, it means the conservation of an absolute maximum of the original building material in as unaltered condition as possible. Maintenance on a permanent basis is the essence of conservation by ‘making use of [the architectural work] for some socially useful purpose’ . During reparation or modifications required by a functional change, as little as possible of the original materials may be removed or altered and most of the work (including additions) on the building must be reversible with having a minimized impact on its condition or layout. In conservation, history and setting are inseparable from the architectural monument which does not allow the moving of the monument or alterations made to the relations of mass and colour. [7, 14]
According to Davies & Jokiniemi (2008), restoration is ‘the action of bringing a building […] to its original state by repair work, cleaning etc.’. Moreover, restoration aims not only to preserve but also reveal the aesthetic and historic value of a monument by bringing it into a condition of potentially unprecedented completeness. Unlike conservation, it allows to replace and even add elements which are to be integrated harmoniously into the whole. Whether this means to tell new and old apart is disputable. For example, ICOMOS (1964) argues for a clear distinction while Viollet-le-Duc’s restoration practice often included additions made to fit the same style as the original. Restoration also allows repair work to be executed by using reclaimed building parts to replace missing originals which opens new possibilities for potentially more sustainable alternatives to the use of virgin materials. However, free space for reinterpretations of architectural heritage leads to what anti-restorers often call falsification caused by restoration. [2, 7, 9, 14]
 Reference List
- Ashworth, A. (2012). Preservation, Conservation and Heritage: Approaches to the Past in the Present through the Built Environment. Asian Anthropology, 10(1), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1080/1683478X.2011.10552601
- Denslagen, W. (1994). Architectural Restoration in Western Europe: Controversy and Continuity. Amsterdam: A&NP.
- Davies, N., & Jokiniemi, E. (2008). Dictionary of Architecture and Building Construction. 2nd edition. Architectural Press.
- Gosling, J., Naim, M., Sassi, P., Iosif, L. & Lark, R. (2008). Flexible buildings for an adaptable and sustainable future. Association of Researchers in Construction Management, ARCOM 2008 - Proceedings of the 24th Annual Conference. 1. 115-124.
- Hasik, V., Ororbia, M., Warn, G.P., & Bilec, M.M. (2019). Whole building life cycle environmental impacts and costs: A sensitivity study of design and service decisions. Building and Environment 163(106316). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2019.106316
- Huuhka, S. & Vestergaard, I. (2019). Building conservation and the circular economy: a theoretical consideration. Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development 10(1), 29–40. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCHMSD-06-2019-0081
- ICOMOS. (1964). Venice Charter: International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites. Article 5. Venice.
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO) (2000). ISO 15686-1. Building and Constructed Assets – Service. Life and Planning – Part 1: General Principles, ISO, Geneva.
- Kalakoski, I. & Huuhka, S. (2018). Spolia revisited and extended: The potential for contemporary architecture. Journal of Material Culture 23 (2), 187-213. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359183517742946
- National Research Council (1993). The fourth dimension in building: Strategies for minimizing obsolescence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/2124
- National Research Council (1993). The fourth dimension in building: Strategies for minimizing obsolescence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/2124. p. 68.
- Pinder, A., Schmidt, R., Austin, S., & Gibb, A. (2016). What is meant by adaptability in buildings? Facilities 35(1/2), 2–20. https://doi.org/10.1108/F-07-2015-0053
- Plevoets, B. & van Cleempoel, K. (2019). Adaptive reuse of the built heritage: concepts and cases of an emerging discipline. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315161440
- Rouhi, J. (2016). Development of the Theories of Cultural Heritage Conservation in Europe: A Survey of 19th And 20th Century Theories.
- Rouhi, J. (2016). Development of the Theories of Cultural Heritage Conservation in Europe: A Survey of 19th And 20th Century Theories. p. 1.
- Rauf, A., & Crawford, H. (2015). Building service life and its effect on the life cycle embodied energy of buildings. Energy 79, 140–148. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2014.10.093
- Schwartz, Y., Raslan, R., Mumovic, D. (2016). Implementing multi objective genetic algorithm for life cycle carbon footprint and life cycle cost minimisation: A building refurbishment case study. Energy 97, 58-68. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2015.11.056
- Shahi, S., Esfahani, M., Bachmann, C., & Haas, C. (2020). A definition framework for building adaptation projects. Sustainable Cities and Society 63(102345). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scs.2020.102345
- Shahi, S., Esfahani, M., Bachmann, C., & Haas, C. (2020). A definition framework for building adaptation projects. Sustainable Cities and Society 63(102345). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scs.2020.102345. p. 5.
- Shahi, S., Esfahani, M., Bachmann, C., & Haas, C. (2020). A definition framework for building adaptation projects. Sustainable Cities and Society 63(102345). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scs.2020.102345. p. 9.
- Sharma, A., Saxena, A., Sethi, M., Shree, V., & Varun. (2011). Life cycle assessment of buildings: A review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 15(1), 871–875. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2010.09.008
- Thomsen, A., & van der Flier, K. (2011). Understanding obsolescence: a conceptual model for buildings. Building Research and Information 39(4), 352–362. https://doi.org/10.1080/09613218.2011.576328
Featured articles and news
LETI publishes guidance for energy efficient home retrofits.
Predictions about adequate post-pandemic IAQ in non-domestic buildings.
Government publishes plans to 'build back greener'.
The contentious nature of claims associated with cladding, fire safety and EWS1 forms.
ECA comments on low-carbon heating systems initiative and Heat and Buildings Strategy.
Cinders and other forms of domestic rubbish created filth but also generated great wealth.
CIC 2050 Group requests input to find out priorities for future industry leaders.
IHBC publishes response to consultation.
Institute applauds funding initiatives but presses for additional retrofit and tax measures.