Post 403 – by Gautam Shah
The process of change is both, in the building itself, and the contextual setting within which it exists. The changes in the building shell are real happening in time, though usually ignored in the initial stages. The change in its contextual setting is often subjective perception, and so seems to be unreal. The changes in the building or its surroundings are not noticed, because these occur in small measures and spread over a very long period.
Natural changes occur in buildings irrespective of the intensity of use. Such changes occur in buildings that are over-used, mis-used, under-used or not at all-used. Though, some conditions like over-usage may hasten the pace of change. Natural changes cannot be terminated, but perhaps can be slowed or restricted spatially.
Man-made changes mainly relate to the nature of use. Over-usage reflects the intensity of use, and must be provisioned for in the system. Mis-usage results due to the abuse of the building system. It relates to the social set-up within which the building exists, functional inadequacies and ambiguities about the form. Under-usage and non-use of a building are circumstantial factors, and in that sense the changes may be more for natural reasons, then man-made causes. Man-made changes are involuntary as well as malicious.
Changes in building can be considered in several stages of perception or recognition.
FIRST Stage occurs immediately on occupation. Buildings where the functions have not been adequately defined, or get substantially compromised during the post planning phase, turn into an irrelevant entity. The greatest threat occurs from fast changing surroundings and external circumstances like the ingress of new technologies.
SECOND Stage occurs when safety and security are under threat due to natural disasters or design inadequacies. Some major programme to replace parts, components and systems can still save the building.
THIRD Stage arrives much later in life of building. At these stage the original sponsors or owners are no longer the stack holders. New masters possibly have negligible no emotional attachment. The building loses its functional and location related relevance, forcing a financial viability assessment. At this stage the form has been substantially altered and no restoration efforts can re-establish anything even to the original.
FOURTH Stage sets in when many of the systems that support the environment for human occupation become dysfunctional. The building may nevertheless survive and be used for non-habitation purposes like storage.
TERMINAL Stage is, when the shell deteriorates and collapses. Building remains an operational entity so long as the bare minimum space defining or enclosing entity, remains sound. In well integrated buildings the process of deterioration cannot be noticed in isolation. Here the shell and other subsystems are not separable, and so the collapse is unpredictable and sudden. However, in assembled buildings the frame and in-fill elements have distinctly defined roles of structural or non-structural elements. Here the deterioration is visible, slow to occur and often predictable.
It is very difficult to define the demise of a building. A building dies many deaths, usually very slowly but occasionally suddenly. Parts and components decay at different and an unknown rate. With age the capacity to accommodate the changes becomes smaller and uneconomic. Users and occupants of the buildings are continuously and very closely involved, and so do not realize the changes setting in. The accumulated changes are more apparent to others, which reduces a building’s social prestige and also affects the locality’s standing.