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Why Rebuild?


Location matters – a universal truth in almost all types of development projects. With the recent push towards sustainable living comes a demand for housing in easily accessed locations. Many people want an ability to either walk or bike to where they live, work and play. For this reason, land is frequently the largest determining factor in new development and construction. Properties on open land (also known as “green field”) are in high demand, but are also high-dollar and hard to come by. Green field properties in popular locations are frequently priced out of an owner’s budget, and lots that are available may already be occupied with an existing structure. With a little creativity and planning, repurposing an existing structure may turn an imposing project into a realistic one. By considering renovation or restoration, an owner can build in a prime location while still saving time and money.

Adaptive Reuse and Brownfield Development

Adaptive reuse refers to the process of utilizing an older structure for a different purpose than its original intent. On the other hand, brownfield development is the preservation and reuse of existing structures for the same purpose. Both processes can be cost-effective and reduce the overall duration of construction if owners are smart in their approach. Many projects of this nature are completed without major impact to existing structural components, which also allows for historic preservation of existing facades and key landmarks. In addition, both adaptive reuse and brownfield development can be key factors in land conservation and the reduction of urban sprawl.

Lifecycle Analysis: Refresh or Renovate?

When considering the purchase of an existing facility, there are a myriad of topics and issues that need to be considered prior to deciding on a large-scale renovation. If none of the primary functions of an existing facility will be changed, the task could be as simple as refreshing paint and interior finishes. As long as the existing infrastructure and technology are up-to-date, the duration and cost of a simple refresh are drastically lower than a full-blown renovation.

Most often, an existing facility may be appropriate from an overall size and structural standpoint; but the infrastructure, technology, and layout need to be updated. In this instance, lifecycle analysis and building assessments are crucial first steps when evaluating an existing facility. Construction managers and discipline-specific engineers need to carefully analyze the existing building’s structure, plumbing, HVAC, electrical and communications systems to determine what can be salvaged from the existing infrastructure. This evaluation needs to analyze not only immediate needs, but long-term maintenance costs and future expansion as well. When it comes to major facility infrastructure, existing components can sometimes be an excellent resource and are often better than their newer counterparts.

Common Concerns

Hazardous materials are often one of the major concerns for developers and owners when approaching large scale renovations of older buildings. Some potentially hazardous materials include asbestos, lead paint, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mold and mercury – all of which can seem daunting in a project of this nature. If identified early and proper techniques are used, the hazardious materials issue does not need to be a major deterrent to rebuilding an existing facility. In addition, many older occupied facilities have already undergone large-scale abatement programs to remove these materials due to government regulations.

Plumbing is often another concern. However, since most multi-story office buildings have plumbingin the core of the building, early analysis often leads to the reuse of the core infrastructure for wastewater and domestic supply. While today’s modern codes require more efficient plumbing fixtures, the infrastructure systems to support these fixtures can often be updated and reused.

Two Commercial Place

The Two Commercial Place project is an excellent example of a reuse success story. Located in the heart of downtown Norfolk, VA, the 40-year-old structure was categorized as “Class C” (functional space with basic finishes) at the beginning of the project. Luckily, during early building analysis, it was discovered that all hazardous materials had been removed and the plumbing backbone was well-structured. Only minor updates were necessary for lateral layouts and fixtures, making this project an excellent example of successful reuse. When the Two Commercial Place project is complete, the office building will be a “Class A” space, one of the most prestigious distinctions in office space categorization. “Class A” facilities have high-quality finishes, state-of-the-art technology, excellent accessibility and are often one of the most desired spaces in the market.

While there can be setbacks to a renovation project, it is often the best solution when an owner wants land in a prime location. To view other renovation projects, visit our project portfolio and filter by “renovations.” If you are considering an adaptive reuse or brownfield development project, you may also want to take into account the delivery method. Here are a few blog posts about several possible delivery methods:




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