You’ve heard the phrase, “Out with the old, in with the new”. But in many cases, with buildings, that is too simplistic of a view.
|Take the case of the King’s Academy in Woodstock, Georgia. This private k-12 school had humble beginnings in two older church properties they had purchased. Both properties had smaller vernacular church buildings, each with a small worship space. These spaces were used as best they could for the school, mainly as assembly rooms. The school had grown and the business director had developed a small, but strong, theater troupe. However, each year they would have to perform their annual production off campus in a rented theater. The idea was born to transform one of the old worship rooms into a theater for the school. But this idea posed more issues than solutions as the chancel area and choir loft were extremely limiting for plays. Also the height of the ceiling over this area sloped from nine feet to just under eighteen feet. Not really tall enough for proper background sets. We came to the conclusion to remove the chancel area only and replace it with a new working stage and supporting areas. We would leave and renovate the nave for the seating. The existing lobby could still function as a preamble space for the theater. Another great aspect of this decision was this building sat facing the main highway the school was located. Having a new front to the building allowed the school to transform its image from a church to a center for academic excellence. It was a bonus the school had not expected when developing the idea for the project. In all, this project proved four major dividends when planning a new endeavor.|
First, a repurposing project saves the Owner money. This seems rather obvious, but many times is overlooked because it is so obvious. Adapting an older building for new uses allows much of the building to remain, and therefore, not needed to be rebuilt. Many times the limits don’t justify saving the structure, but in all cases, that needs to be reviewed and analyzed to be certain. In the case of the King’s Academy theater, over 85% of the original structure still remains. That was an outstanding amount of money that actually allowed the project to come into fruition. The school could not have afforded a complete new structure. Often times, as well, site development costs are eliminated or greatly reduced.
|Second, this repurposing project allowed us convert spaces that had little use for academic learning into a facility that better met the needs of the school and students. Like King’s Academy, many times we adapt what we do in spaces, due in large part to the spaces themselves, instead of looking at making the space work for us. Something as simple as moving a wall, adjusting natural light, reorienting flow can transform a space with little investment needed. Proper study of facilities against the needs required can many times produce surprising results for very little capital.|
Another aspect of repurposing older buildings is better accessibility. Many times older buildings were erected before current standards of care for those with limiting disabilities had come into favor. Performing careful analysis of the facility can often allow for some easy modifications that make the structure available to many individuals who had been shut out previously. This is true for any type of building, not just a school.
Finally, repurposing in lieu of replacing our buildings sends a deeper message of our care for the environment. Our landfills are ever growing and any time we can limit the amount of debris going into them the better it is for all people. Spending capital to renovate an older structure can, many times, pay dividends over in future years by increasing the energy and thermal efficiency of the building. By reducing energy consumption, our facilities reward the environment. And that is always a good thing.
If you’re planning a new project in the future, look at repurposing instead of replacing. Many times there are several benefits that can come from proper planning by leading experts.