What should an adaptable building look like?

Harry Watt, Buick Davison, Peter Hodgson, Chris Kitching, Densley Tingley Danielle's

Current building design practices largely focus on operational efficiency and initial material optimisation in the pursuit of sustainable construction. These short-term carbon savings are potentially detrimental to the long-term futureproofing of a building. As such, the suggestion to design buildings for adaptability has gained traction in recent years. An adaptable building is one that could be easily modified to suit its changing requirements, allowing it to avoid premature demolition and reconstruction, and the associated carbon emissions. This paper explores what is meant by adaptability in the built environment, suggestions for design strategies and the benefits and drawbacks of each. The paper expressly emphasises the importance of balancing the needs of the present day, through upfront carbon reductions, with the consequences in the long-term, through accelerated building obsolescence, demolition and rebuild. The paper concludes with the recommendation that further research is needed into the true benefits of adaptability design strategies, factoring in the uncertainty of future predictions and the time-value of carbon.

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