VALIDITY of BUILDINGS

Post 399 –  by Gautam Shah

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Validation is adaptive reuse that actually changes the purpose of a built-form to meet the community’s needs. The building gets transformed in terms of the function it serves but changes the neighbourhood of its location. Adaptive reuse can mean many different things, reinventing or repurposing the building where the new life is drastically different in purpose from the previous one. It is also done through conservation, restoration, renovation or reformation.  A secondary purpose could be to preserve and revitalise the historic spaces, and if the size, scale and purpose are large enough than even reduce the urban chaos.

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Buildings are like the proverbial cat with nine lives. Buildings persist for a very long and indeterminable period. Buildings remain relevant till the structure or parts of it can provide shelter. And, even after loss of its integrity as a shell for shelter, its parts and components are scavenged for reuse. Buildings are precious assets for the society, acquired at a great expense of resources and effort. No society wants them to go waste so buildings get reborn, put to different use, or its parts recycled.

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Life of a building is evaluated on basic two counts: Stability and Relevance.

Stability of a building is checked in terms of Structural Integrity, Physical Condition, and the Stack-Holders’ Perceptions. The structural integrity ensures its capacity to stand-up in equilibrium, by defying or overcoming the gravity, stability and consistency against many forces, and safety and security as a place of habitation. The physical conditions are reflected in weathering processes of nature, and the user-related wear-tear.

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Stake holders’ perceptions reflect the prestige and acceptability of the building in the society for its aesthetic, and functional considerations. It is the cumulative thinking of the society and often alogical.

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Stake-holders’ perceptions: Buildings are perceived to be stable when these are of balanced shapes (regular geometrical shapes), straight (upright and not inclined or crooked) form, broader at base, balanced composition (axially symmetrical), and of lower height. Similarly buildings made of materials that are opaque, high density, non deformable, stiff, good in compression, rough or robust finish, are considered longer lasting or reliable. Buildings composed of elements, fewer in numbers, larger in scale, and simpler in details also denote reliable performance.

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Relevance of a Building is considered on many counts. At macro level, a neighbourhood may not effectively support a building’s existence or use. It may turn embarrassing, in the context of its changed surroundings. At contextual level, the building may be considered irrelevant, when the purpose for which it was conceived is no longer valid. It may become non-essential, when other exotic or superior forms are available. At micro level, a building may become ineffective, if it cannot accept new technologies for service systems, parts or components. It may be considered to have ended, when its important constituents disintegrate or get separated.

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Many structures are revalidated because their locations are fairly centric and offer several cost advantages, such as, small proportion of cost demolitions, debris removal-disposal issues in a dense localities, and lower establishment costs of sourcing the services. The issues of ownership titles or cost of land acquisition are not up-front involvements. Validation of old building begins with its adaption for its reuse. These include concerns for structural integrity, retrofitting or reinforcing for new patterns of loading.

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A building is neglected when it affects our sensuality, pride, prestige, values, etc. A building may be judged redundant, when in spite of all remedial actions it cannot fulfil its functions. It is abandoned when it cannot stay in equilibrium or in a state that is right for a normal human occupation.

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Older structures not only age in uncertain manner and have passed through usage that were often unintended. Older components are not only substantive in size, load and energy usage but their technological reinstatement or equivalent replacement is not feasible. For a variety of reason it is not possible to restore all older structures. So an option valid on many counts is the adaptive use, as it allows built asset and related prestige or emotions to be transformed through a creative pursuit.

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