I understand that my post on sustainable architecture last week was on the boring side. It happens. The reality is that the exciting stuff builds on the boring stuff. Technically this post and Wednesdays (coming) build on each other but to write them as one post would make it incredibly long.
Anyway, I had never heard the term Adaptive Reuse until I started learning about sustainable architecture. That’s funny because it’s a practice that has been around since the dawn of architecture. What Adaptive Reuse means – you take a building or something that is no longer used or even usable and turn it into a functioning building.
As I think about this post, I think of something I heard on the news quite some time ago. There was a scientist who believed he had discovered Noah’s Ark based on some x-ray type pictures. The news show had an expert talking and what he said has stuck with me. He said no one will ever find Noah’s Ark. They may find Noah’s house or village but there was no way they were going to let all that good wood just sit when there were houses to be built.
That’s the truth behind Adaptive Reuse. The idea is why would we use brand new building materials when there are other great things out there we can use. One prime example is using shipping containers to make houses, especially tiny home.
If you start thinking about it, you can point out a number of examples in your own community. As I was reading about Adaptive Reuse and all the beautiful examples, I realized that I could name several here in Pullman Washington. We have the most beautiful church called the Greystone Church. Most of my teen/young adult years there was a huge movement to save the church. I can’t say there had been services in my lifetime there. I can say it was and is a beautiful building. I’m not sure how long it’s been but I would say in my son’s lifetime, that building has found new purpose as an apartment complex.
A local National Guard armory has been converted into a sort of mini-mall. An old church is now an event venue with restaurants. An unrelated parsonage is now a different event venue. Old schools have become community centers. Our city council just approved a purchase of a church building to turn it into another community center with a commercial kitchen.
I’m sure your community has buildings just like that. Old houses that are office buildings or restaurants or apartment complexes. Old warehouses that have become pubs or malls or entertainment centers.
Then there are the non-buildings – shipping containers, airplanes, silos, nuclear power plant towers. The possibilities are endless.
Cost is always a factor and sometimes repurposing to make a building is not as affordable as starting over. That part is sad. Adaptive Reuse requires looking past the way something looks and imagining how it can look. And it requires a certain love and respect for preserving something old, discarded. To me, that’s more fun and has a much better story than new construction.