10. Adaptive Reuse Is Sustainable

A mid-century former Publix supermarket that has been retrofitted into a tax collectors office in Lakeland, FL.

They say the greenest building is one that already exists. Adaptive reuse is itself considered sustainable because of the reduction in building materials needed to transform a space.

9. Environmental Sustainability

Baltimore’s Pratt Street Power Plant was built between 1900 and 1909. Operations ceased in 1973. Acquired by the City of Baltimore during the early 1980s, the former industrial facility has been adaptively reused into a variety of uses over the past thirty years.

Finding new uses for old buildings significantly reduces the energy consumption associated with demolishing a structure and building a new one to replace it. Mass investment in adaptive reuse introduces the ability for a community to meet the needs of a growing population while conserving land and reducing the expansion of unsustainable urban sprawl and extensive daily commuting patterns.

8. Economic Sustainability

Originally a part of Barnett National Bank’s corporate headquarters, downtown Jacksonville’s 100 North Laura Street is now an office building with ground floor retail spaces.

Potential cost benefits from adaptive reuse include the reduction of the hurdles generally associated with greenfield sites, like legal issues, pressure from anti-development factions, zoning problems, finance, design and construction costs and environmental impacts. These savings can be the difference between an urban project having the feasibility to move forward and a downtown site becoming a surface parking lot for the foreseeable future.

7. The Spaces Can Be Useful for Fledgling Businesses

Tampa’s Armature Works is a $20 million adaptive reuse project involving the conversion of a long abandoned 119-year-old warehouse into a space featuring two restaurants, event, co-working space and a 22,000-square foot food hall offering several vendor-like stalls leased by local independent chefs and eateries.

The adaptive reuse of existing buildings in general can be 16 percent less costly than other forms of construction. Many of these spaces also become ideal settings for start-up businesses because cost efficient shell space can be made available at a lower leasing rate than the market for new construction.

6. Hidden Density

Atlanta’s Cabbagetown

Areas largely developed before 1950 tend to feature building stock that is designed to be smaller, denser, and mixed-use around narrow streets that accommodate pedestrians over automobiles. This clustering of complementing uses within a compact setting is a key ingredient of vibrancy in cities of all sizes. When razed and replaced with structures designed to accommodate today’s autocentric land use and zoning policies, urban density is typically reduced.