PADT - 0.052 Repurposing Existing Architecture
Random Thoughts on How Design Firms Can Position Themselves for the Future
The Housing Crisis
We are entering an interesting phase as Architectural Designers. It’s getting nearly impossible for people to afford a house anymore. There appears to be a movement away from the more expensive parts of the country to areas where housing costs are much lower. But not everyone can make that kind of move, and many don’t want to if they have other options. So the housing crisis isn’t one of “availability” but “affordability.” The house my parents bought new is now worth $800,000. I can’t imagine how much the monthly mortgage would be, not to mention property taxes and insurance.
Is There a Solution Besides a Major Pricing Bubble?
I’ve always been fascinated by the design of “little” homes. I can remember an old site in the early days of the internet called “Tumbleweed Homes,” and they are still around:
Tumbleweed Houses. We are seeing not just these homes put out in the country but in tiny home communities, where these homes are positioned in cul-de-sacs or “villages.” But what got me thinking was: Could this become a trend for established communities where housing prices have gotten too high? Could they tear down existing homes and put in a series of tiny houses on the same land? In many places, the land of a large estate has been sold off and smaller homes built on these parcels. I’m just wondering aloud if this couldn’t be done for existing housing. Maybe not by tearing down the house, but by putting in an access drive on an existing property and building several smaller homes.
Remember My Grandparents
I can remember visiting my grandparents long ago, and they lived in a very small home built behind an existing home. Small, but very very comfortable. When they moved to another town, they lived in an older, larger house converted to individual apartments. This brings me to my next point.
Repurposing Design Firms
I’m seeing many firms have now started offering “repurposing” services. They are taking many of their cues from the designs of these “tiny” homes but applying the same techniques to existing apartments. There’s a great YouTube channel called “Never Too Small” which shows a lot of these designs as applied to existing buildings. Instead of new construction, apartments are being renovated to make use of existing space and lighting. They are also using “tiny” techniques for movable furnishings and unique storage strategies. Although many municipalities offer the taxes advantages for new construction, I believe there is a coming market and a huge need for design firms to offer this type of expertise.
When a Mall Isn’t a Mall
Another area of Design need is the repurposing of abandoned shopping malls. The fallout of the internet has caused many enclosed malls to shutter their doors. Many anchors stores have moved to “Main Street” style shopping and left a series of empty hulks in the wake. We have seen a large of cities pick these up and convert them to city services such as police departments, forensic laboratories, and even high schools or community colleges. Another trend will be to convert them to individual condominiums. This is already happening and as the need continues to increase, even more work will become available for Design Firms willing to take on the challenges.
None of this transition is going to be easy. But there are just better approaches than putting in huge blocks of five stories condos — block after block. This is a confluence of several factors and we must be skilled enough to meet them and offer workable and thoughtful solutions which can meet them. Not only for monetary reasons, but for environmental, social, familial, and historical reasons.
Let me know what you think!
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Dave Edwards has been in the CAD/BIM industry as a manager, developer, consultant, speaker, and author for almost 40 years. He has had 80 magazine articles published, written 3 international newsletters, reviewed over 300 CAD/BIM applications, and 3D modeled 2 Billion dollars worth of architectural projects. He is available for professional alpha/beta testing, application feature consulting, technical documentation support, seminar presentations, and voice-overs.
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