Building sustainable, with as less resources as possible and designing greener and more ecological structures is the call of the day. Adaptive reuse and the idea of reuse has taken root in Architecture around the World. Upcycling and reusing structures, building materials, furniture etc. is the future. Adaptive reuse is an ingenious idea of repurposing or refurbishing buildings that have become obsolete for their original function. An old building is tweaked, and redesigned to suit a newer role while still retaining most of it’s features or structure.
The cost of tearing down a building, the monetary cost as well as the environment cost can be huge! However, Adaptive Reuse Architecture, breathes new life into a structure, giving it a new purpose and occupants, saves the people and the city a lot of time, money and environmental footprint. This is however, mostly restricted to Heritage structures or expensive old buildings which are now abandoned. In an attempt to retain the architectural history of the city, adaptive reuse fuses the old building with a new function and preserves the city’s identity.
Retaining and rehabilitating existing structures in the city, reduces the consumption of building materials, resources, energy and water needed for new construction. It is a time and cost saving method which works wonders for the environment. It also saves the city land and the nuisance caused during construction. Modernizing and reinventing a building from time to time has always been the norms. Right from personal spaces like homes or offices, to institutional buildings, hotels, public buildings like hospitals, townhouses etc. regularly install new services or undertake some interior work or facade treatments to maintain and modernize their structures. If this work is undertaken for old obsolete buildings like abandoned clinics, water towers, old heritage structures, temples and other unused buildings it could prove beneficial to the society. Old buildings are quite extraordinary in terms of their dated architecture and building techniques, it is better to reuse them than to reduce them to shambles or ruins where illicit activities may occur.
India has always had the tradition of reuse. Second hand furniture markets, salvaged wood and steel markets, old home decor items, recycled items are available in almost every city. Architects and interior designers these days, make use of all these reusable material in new designs. A lot of cafes these days have old second hand furniture which gives the cafe an interesting look and has quite recently become a trend. Even Upcycling old pots, shoes, electronic items, pipes and light fixtures has been an ongoing interior trend. However, India is still high in consumption of building materials and construction energy as well as needs to work on it’s problem of excessive demolition waste. “India generated between 112 and 431 million tonnes of Construction and Demolition Waste in 2016, according to calculations. Additionally, it was estimated that formal C&DW recycling can save upto 2–8% of natural minerals, such as sand and aggregate in urban areas, energy and emissions savings were negative, implying that recycled C&DW materials are likely to be more resource and environmentally intensive as compared to natural materials. “(Source, Jain Singhal, 2018).
There are many benefits to salvaging, cleaning and reusing old building materials. In this scenario, designers need to focus on buildings which can be dismantled rather than demolished, and the materials from that structure may be reused for another. As of now, a lot of the demolition waste is reused as aggregate or filling and some of it is reused, but most of it is either downcycled or becomes part of a landfill. Efforts need to be made to salvage and resuse a large percentage of these building materials extensively and noticeably. Segregating and cleaning these building materials for re-use is hard work but pays off in terms of cost as well as environment.
Let’s take a brief look at some of these efforts made my notable architects in India:
Collage house – Mumbai:
S+PS Architects have ingeniously designed a new residence in Mumbai, wherein they have reused doors from various old houses in the city, for designing an eclectic facade. They have further reused salvaged stone columns, flooring made from the beams of old houses, fabric waste and waste slivers of cut stone. The result is stunning! For more details.
BAMBOO HOUSE – HYDERABAD :
An initiative from Architects Prashant Lingam and Aruna Kappagantula and facilitated by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, Bamboo House in Hyderabad costs only Rs. 8 Lakhs and is built entirely out of bamboo, recycled plastic waste which includes bags, PET bottles and Tetra Pak waste. This structure is fire, water and termite proof and was inaugurated on World Environment Day last year. A truly marvelous idea! For more details.
ALEMBIC INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE AND REDEVELOPMENT – VADODRA :
Karan Grover and Associates recently restored a 112 year old factory into a lively art and exhibition space. With very changes and minor additions, this old relic has come alive again in the form of a cultural space in the heart of the city while also preserving the identity of the city! A thorough delight of a project. For more details.
SORO VILLAGE PUB – GOA :
Raya Shankhwalker Architects bring alive an old corner store as a lively new industrial pub in Goa. With little alterations, reuse of old structure and old materials salvaged from the building itself, a stunning interior space which preserves the old building in time as well as enlivens it with music and mirth is a fine example of adaptive reuse. For more details.
The World is changing. It is changing quick. The signs are all around us, changing and shifting of seasons, intense untimely rains, storms, forest fires and other natural disasters which we witness every day. The symptoms have started appearing, that our Planet is becoming weak and is unable to support us all. If we don’t find a cure quickly, it might be too late and might result in our eventual extinction. However, one might think, how can one person bring a change? Fighting Climate Change should be left to the government. What could be my contribution? But, the truth is, every single person has to come together, otherwise the battle will be lost. In the spirit of fighting Climate Change and the wake of contributing holistically to the planet, the World has to take a stronger stance – not only as a voice but as an example to each other.