Sustainability by adaptable and functionally neutral buildings

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The continuing high levels of office building vacancy in the Netherlands cause a loss of income for building owners and - since the physical life span of the buildings is not getting shorter – an increase of obsolete office buildings. These buildings are deteriorated or even prospectless, with no perspective on future lease or reuse for office purposes. The situation is augmented by new buildings being added to the supply, creating a replacement market and leaving older buildings redundant; new buildings drive out bad buildings. However, the demolishment of relatively young buildings is neither economic nor socially desirable and is not corresponding with the demand for durability and sustainability. Transformation into other functions is a possible way of coping with these buildings, albeit previous research shows that there are many obstacles to be thrived. Most of the obstacles consider technical, functional and legal aspects that finally influence the financial feasibility negatively. Although in the Netherlands several successful transformations of offices into housing were completed, transformations do not take place on a large scale. Next to location characteristics, the main stated reason for this is estimated financial non-feasibility, caused by high purchase and transformation costs. Hence, when developing new office buildings it seems logical to anticipate future programmatic change. Designing and developing adaptability has been opted for during the last 40 years, but is still not very popular in the development of neither offices nor housing. Is it possible to proactively cope with future programmatic change? To which extent can the development of adaptable buildings help to prevent future building obsolescence? In addition to a reflection on earlier literature on this issue, we conducted 30 interviews with housing corporations and real estate developers to reveal in which conditions transformation of obsolete office buildings is interesting, and if anticipating programmatic change may influence the feasibility of future transformations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConference proceedings SASBE 2009, 3d CIB international conference on smart and sustainable built environments
EditorsAAJF van Dobbelsteen
Place of PublicationDelft
PublisherDelft University of Technology
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)978 90 5269 372 9
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Event3d CIB international conference on smart and sustainable built environments SASBE 2009 - Delft
Duration: 15 Jun 200919 Jun 2009


Conference3d CIB international conference on smart and sustainable built environments SASBE 2009

Bibliographical note

Accepted Author Manuscript


  • Transformation
  • conversion
  • adaptability
  • willingness to pay

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