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Architecture & Design

Judy Pesek: Reuse and Renovation in Real Estate

According to projections from the Brookings Institution, roughly 82 billion-square-feet of existing space will likely be demolished and replaced between 2005 and 2030. This represents about 25 percent of the existing building stock in the United States.
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Judy Pesek
Judy Pesek

Adaptive reuse and renovation of vintage buildings makes sense for a lot of reasons. It’s a greener solution because you are reusing something that already exists rather than building something new; it creates a richer, more authentic experience to our urban streetscape; and it adds life and vitality to areas in need of renewal.

According to projections from the Brookings Institution, roughly 82 billion-square-feet of existing space will likely be demolished and replaced between 2005 and 2030. This represents about 25 percent of the existing building stock in the United States. Reusing these buildings and renovating them for higher efficiency—especially with renovations requiring fewer material inputs—have the potential to realize the greatest short-term carbon savings, the study authors note.

Besides the benefits of renovation to the environment, preserving vintage buildings and adapting them for modern uses gives our cities more character, allowing us to bring maximum use and value to existing real estate in prime locations.

More people are moving back into our cities to be closer to their work and enjoy all of the amenities downtown has to offer. This migration to downtown also has a green aspect because it creates neighborhoods where people can live, work and play without getting in their cars. This trend is also prevalent in suburban locations that are creating urban districts with a mix of uses.

How we work and live has changed over the last 20 years or so. Not only do people want to spend less time commuting, they want their workplaces to be healthier and offer choices in work modes we couldn’t have imagined in the 1980s when many of our downtown office towers were built.

Our firm is renovating a number of Dallas’ downtown landmarks to provide greater transparency and street appeal, more access to natural light, greater flexibility in workspace configuration, and more amenities like restaurants, fitness facilities, conference centers and shops. In some cases, we are also replacing exterior cladding, lighting, parking and mechanical systems to make the buildings more comfortable, functional and more energy efficient. The goal is to make these buildings more attractive, more efficient and more relevant to a new era that supports a greater live/work balance.

As you consider your real estate portfolio, keep in mind that sometimes simple changes can make a huge difference in how a building makes you feel and how it works. Opening interior spaces to the exterior walls and introducing more natural light, can add to a building’s appeal immensely as can a rejuvenation of the lobby and common spaces. Making exterior plazas more accessible and more functional can create outdoor spaces for your employees, as well as a more welcoming arrival experience for your customers.

New urbanism is all about creating environments where people can walk to all the places that populate their everyday lives. It’s healthier, friendlier and greener. It is the future.

Judy Pesek is regional managing director of Gensler’s South Central region. Contact her at [email protected].

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