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11 October 2021 Comments (0) Architecture, Atenor, Culture, Energy, Environment, Mobility, Other, Real Estate, Technology

Renovation : what does it mean ?

In our cities that are endlessly confronted with demographic pressure, urban spread and an urgent need for sustainability, renovation has become crucial.

First of all, because the square metre of land in cities has become extremely rare and exorbitant in price. Soil sealing in our cities has often required the introduction of local regulations that limit, or even prohibit, building on land that is still unoccupied. Secondly, because the environmental impact of demolition/construction is often higher than that of renovation, mainly because the concrete and steel structures that will be demolished and rebuilt have a significant carbon footprint. 

Unlike a new building project, renovation means starting with an existing building – which is unique and often has as many strengths as  weaknesses – to meet the needs and challenges of our time. These constraints will strongly influence the design of any renovation project and will challenge the creativity of its designers. Four scenarios that are frequently encountered in urban renovation projects can be identified along with a multitude of technical challenges associated with them. 

© Barthelemy de Mazenod

Renovating offices to create offices

One of the major difficulties will be evolving regulations, which require more space for service ducts in drop ceilings and partitions than the old buildings can offer, for example. It will therefore be necessary to invent creative solutions for distributing water, air, heat, cold, light, etc.

Renovating offices to make housing

This is generally a fairly complex operation, as office buildings are not designed to meet the needs of housing units (depths and clear heights, access to outside light in all living areas, circulation and evacuation, authorised overload, private outdoor spaces, etc.). This often entails major overhauls to ensure comfortable housing that complies with legislation and sometimes requires the structures to be demolished nonetheless. 

Renovating housing to make new housing

Here again, it is generally the change in environmental regulations and requirements for housing that calls for creativity to deliver housing that is both compliant and pleasant to live in. However, the stakes are huge. Existing housing needs to be renovated so that it contributes to achieving the objective of carbon neutrality by 2050, as set by the European Union. Indeed, many exemplary residential developments are flourishing throughout Europe. However, they only partially respond to the urgency of renovating existing housing, which is obsolete from an energy standpoint, and a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, housing renovation will continue for many years to come.

Renovating housing to make offices

This situation is rarer, as it goes against the current need for city housing, which is the logical result of demographic pressure. When renovating, it is therefore more natural to keep the building for housing than for offices. But there are exceptions. 

In the next article, we will go through different European legislations.

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