“In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Gowanus, a 100-year-old metal foundry has been transformed into a state-of-the-art performing arts center. Dating back to 1901, the old warehouse had a quintessentially industrial, albeit worn-down, frame and precious longleaf pine timber from forests that were wiped in the building boom of the 1900s. Now, the neighborhood has one less blighted building and one more cultural destination.
“This kind of adaptive reuse, whereby an old building is converted for a new purpose, has been in vogue for decades. 2021 even kicked off with one of the largest adaptive reuse projects ever built, when the James Farley Post Office building in midtown Manhattan was transformed into the Moynihan Train Hall. Later in the year, in Beloit, Wisconsin, a coal-burning power plant from 1908 was reborn as a vibrant college campus. In Houston, an old Sears department store was transformed into an innovation hub. And in St Louis, the former headquarters of the Post-Dispatch became a residential building with 51 loft units.
“Now, we find ourselves at the cusp of a new year, with a climate crisis that has accelerated the drive for adaptive reuse. Buildings generate almost 40% of annual global CO2 emissions, and 11% of that comes from materials and construction. The most sustainable buildings are the ones that already exist.
“So, what if we made a collective decision to not build a single new building next year and instead, focused on reusing what we already have? A year-long building moratorium is a radical approach, and it comes with obvious shortcomings, but looking at our existing building stock could help with more than just the climate. In the last three years, nearly 800 old buildings have been repurposed into apartments. And as the pandemic continues to shutter properties across the country, more buildings like offices, hotels, and malls could enter the draw.” (Brandon, Fast Company, 12/29/21)