Obsolescence is a term originating from the late 17th century meaning ‘passing out of use’ or falling into disuse. It is often related to products or services but also the built environment. In the context of products or services, obsolescence management is defined as the "transition from available to unavailable from the manufacturer in accordance with the original specification"  It also links to previous practices of planned obsolescence and in turn almost opposing product-life factor and circular economies.
In construction the term could refer to specific products or elements of a building as well as the end-of-life of the whole building. It may be understood as being the result of physical deterioration, technological advances or changes in preferences. More explicitly it may refer to the growing divergence between rising demand side expectations due to technological advances on the one side, and declining performance on the other.
The reasons for obsolescence might include:
- The degradation or fatigue of materials over time, through insufficient maintenance, overload, overuse, misuse or maltreatment.
- Physical impacts of nearby construction, rising standards and government regulations may amplify the onset of obsolescence, in the surroundings or building locations.
- Changes in function, use or needs that cannot be accommodated within the existing design.
- Social deprivation processes, criminality, availability or simply aesthetics as external behavioural factors.
- Abnormal obsolescence.
- Normal obsolescence.
- Planned obsolescence.
- Product-life extension: product-life factor.
- Building pathology.
- Defects list.
- Design life.
- End of life.
- Making good.
- Unforeseen obsolescence.
- IEC 62402:2019 Obsolescence Management - published 15 July 2019 ISBN 978 0 580 96776 4
- 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
- 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
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