Now more than ever, sustainability needs to be at the forefront of development. Architecture 2030 shows that the building industry generates nearly 50% of annual global CO2 emissions. Together, we have a collective responsibility to minimize the impact of the built environment on climate change. With adaptive reuse, we’re minimizing the carbon associated with making buildings, including material extraction, manufacturing, transportation and construction—and instead utilizing the embodied carbon of existing buildings. Adaptive reuse stands as a strategy to significantly reduce demolition, carbon emissions, waste, and preserve what already exists. The greenest building is one that’s already built.
Philadelphia’s Architects Building in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood is one example of an architectural adaptive reuse project come full circle. Built in 1920 as an art deco high rise serving the design and building trades, including the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, it struggled for decades with largely vacant and floundering street level retail. The property was purchased and converted to the 230 room Hotel Palomar, one of the first LEED-certified hotels in the city, employing numerous resilience strategies: energy efficiency, higher performing fenestration, HVAC systems, water conservation and more.
As designers and architects, we have the privilege and responsibility to make the most of our existing building stock. After all, 80% of the buildings that will exist in 2050 stand today. By transforming outdated buildings into viable new uses, we can convert properties that were once detractors into thriving contributors that align with the desired user experiences of today’s age. Adaptive reuse is an important strategy to preserve the past and bring back to life important pieces of the fabric of our cities and anchor of their neighborhoods.
Story contributed by Jack Paruta, Regional Hospitality Leader, Gensler.