How Remodelling Can Extend a Building’s Lifespan

From Ben van Berkel, founder and principal architect of UNStudio

Circularity and sustainability are some of the many buzz words used in architecture and design today. From the design process, to the selection of materials, through to the performance of the completed building – we architects are increasingly concerned with reducing the carbon footprint and the impact that our buildings may have on the environment. As an integral part of UNStudio’s design philosophy, we design new buildings and city plans that are resilient and futureproof. By making our designs as flexible as possible, and as multifunctional and adaptable as possible, we aim to maximise the lifecycle of buildings.

We are very much aware however that our work doesn’t stop with the completion of a building. The role of architects is constantly changing and our responsibility goes beyond the laying of the last stone. Post-occupancy services are increasingly becoming an integral part of the architectural practice, with digital technology enabling clients to measure and manage the actual performance of their buildings – and to understand and adapt them to the needs of their end users.

Worldwide impact

The impact of the building industry on our climate also forces us to think about new ways to remodel, restructure and repurpose existing buildings. It’s an approach that can be utilised for buildings that are either nearing the end of their lifecycle, or have become ‘outdated’ – due to changing user needs and habits, new insights from data or scientific research, or as a result of new tenant requirements. As you will see in this report, this was the case for the lobby of the UNStudio Tower in Amsterdam. Other examples include our complete remodel of the Xintiandi Plaza shopping centre in Shanghai, and the Talee Star Place in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, where we renewed the interior floors, adapting the retail space to the changed demands and needs brought about by the digitalisation of the consumer market.

Making a difference

From a sustainability perspective, we are increasingly aware that remodelling, renovation and retrofitting in general can be a powerful means to make a difference, especially in high-density cities in the US and Asia, where space is limited and extremely expensive. We also notice a change of approach in China towards the redevelopment of cities. Instead of demolishing existing buildings and being forced to relocate citizens, the central policymakers are gradually looking into new and more economic ways to redevelop existing urban areas.

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