Before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, roughly 23% of people would work from home either all the time or most of the time, given that their place of employment and specific job allowed for it. That is quite different from the situation now. About 59% of people are working from home all or most of the time if given the opportunity, with that number getting as high as 71% of people in October of 2022.
Yet still the fact remains—a much larger percentage of people are now working from home most, if not all, of the time. What does this mean for office buildings and office space? Nobody knows for sure, but there are suspicions that many office spaces, especially older or obsolete offices, will not see a return to their previous vibrancy. Hence, office reuse plans and strategies can play a significant role in reshaping these once bustling structures, and contribute to more efficient cities and spaces.
All Work, All Play
In cities where this is the case, and that has become many cities now, communities can restructure where activity takes place. As opposed to simply having one major hub spot where much of the activity is generated, cities can become a bit more decentralized in their approach. Yet while all of this is going on, the question remains—what will become of much of the unused office space?
Adaptive Reuse Strategies
Adaptive Reuse essentially refers to taking an already-existing structure, such as an office building that is no longer used and converting it or adapting it to have another use or function. Taking the development and repurposing it to fill a new need in the current world is the crux of why adaptive reuse plans are brought about. One of the more prevalent applications of adaptive reuse is converting older office buildings into housing units.
With this potential to bring about new housing and possibly alleviate strains in housing, also comes a chance of displacement in communities. This way, adaptive reuse can help act as a further catalyst in alleviating the housing crisis.
Meanwhile, housing is not the only option for reusing these structures. Infrastructure for new green space, pedestrian use, and cleaner transportation methods such as biking can be a prime opportunity to take advantage of when repurposing office spaces.
Reusing building space can also have a significant positive impact on the environment, or at least refrain from some environmentally damaging courses of action. For example, it is a more sustainable method that counters the hauling of materials to landfills. The reduction in materials required for construction is a key component of simply reusing old space, and in general they also just require less time for construction or converting.
Aesthetics of Adaptive Reuse
Aside from these benefits of adaptive reuse, it also just looks better and feels better to have space being utilized and enjoyed by people. Whether that be housing, green space, small businesses, or some other infrastructure of some kind, reuse breathes more life and vibrance into communities rather than having empty office buildings, or construction development that will take years on end to complete. Also, on a more aesthetic and artistic note, architectural details of older structures can be maintained. This aspect often carries the character and uniqueness for communities.
All in all, adaptive reuse done correctly can be a fantastic opportunity for giving new life to structures and cities. These buildings that are now seemingly becoming obsolete due to the uptick in remote workers amidst the pandemic can be transformed for the betterment of residents.
Salvatore Gullotta | [email protected]
Salvatore Gullotta is an intern at Econsult Solutions working in the Business Development and Marketing Department. He is currently a second-year student at Drexel University, and assists at ESI with proposals, content management, (managing ESI Present Value [weekly blog] and social media), and other communications tasks.
Peter Angelides | [email protected]
Dr. Peter Angelides is President & Principal of Econsult Solutions, Inc. (ESI) and a member of the teaching faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Angelides has high-level expertise in both economics and city planning, applying critical economic thinking to projects in real estate, economic development, transportation, tax policy, valuation and litigation.