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.

Bucharest, Romania, Crima de la casa Paucescu Wikipedia Image by Britchi Mire

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.




Post 402 – by Gautam Shah 


Newcastle upon Tyne

A building represents a designer’s professionalism, an owner’s dream, and a builder’s craftsmanship. The building is a societal heritage of the values, traditions, beliefs, politics, laws, and environment. The building, as it ages and survives, the idea of societal heritage begins to be associated with it. But stake holders are more concerned with the aging and survival of the building, than the indirect associations it is gaining. Such association of Heritage come afore only when the building shows signs of irrecoverable disintegration. It is perhaps nostalgic feeling that accomplishments are getting irretrievably lost. Buildings result from immense amounts of resources and effort, so there is natural resistance to demolition or disintegration of existing buildings. Though public preference fluctuates from age to age, between creation of new buildings and preservation of existing buildings.

1 Scotpar2New buildings must confirm the most recent regulations. This is seen to be a discouraging factor. Old buildings were constructed when land-use patterns were comparatively lenient. Provision of parking, emergency egress, ventilation and daylight requirements, sustainability, energy management provisions, etc. may make a new structure cost-prohibitive. It is prudent to persist with old repairable structures.

New York Old and New buildings -different regulations

While constructing a replacement building, one must manage old owners or tenants by way of temporary accommodation or negotiated evacuation. Old structures are located in the core of the city, a very busy precinct, to conduct new construction activity.

Nottingham London Road railway station Old buildings in important areas

Professionals like architects, interior designers, builders, have a natural interest in the life-span of buildings. A building signifies effort (intellectual for conception), manpower (for execution), energy inputs, resources and plant-equipment’s utilization. It also represents fees and service costs, monetary investments and above all consummation of a non recoverable entity -time.


In any urban setting of today, the question of Age of Building is very important. Today, 70% of the city’s apartment buildings (Toronto, Canada) are more than 40 years old, and substantial number of them (60%) are located in the core areas of city.

Old new combination of buildings

Of all the buildings available for human use today in urban areas, substantial number of them are more than 25 years old. In other words, these buildings were commissioned by a generation of people, that are not alive to day, or have retired from active life. More than Half of the urban population spend their entire life, in buildings ‘that were not conceived and built by or for them, but adopted for or by them’. This proportion is likely to increase as time passes for TWO major reasons:

1 Buildings are being built with better technologies and last longer.

2 People migrate more frequently, and so have little time to construct a new building.

Train station Berlin Stettiner Bahnhof

Buildings are over-designed, and so outlive the planned functions. There are several sub-levels where ‘factors of safety’ are individually applied. These individual factors add up to substantial ‘margin of safety. Wherever the components are well integrated, such duplication of safety factors is avoided. During later day repairs, replacement and maintenance schedules the original cohesive working is disturbed. The interactive sharing of loads and risks become scarce, and components begin to decay at different and often unpredictable rates..

In certain emergencies, it is not possible, to either plan or build new buildings, and as a result one must locate and adapt readily available structures. Nevertheless, an assured life span of the building is always the major factor for selection in such exigencies.




 Post -by Gautam Shah




Old buildings often have so well preserved structures, that the shell continues to be valuable as a place of inhabitation or occupation. With some changes such buildings can be made suitable for new uses. Conversion of buildings for new functions becomes easier when such buildings do not carry emotional or other symbolic values. There is no obsession to trace the antiquity and restore the past image of such buildings. As a result, owners, designers and builders, have unbounded scope, for affecting changes in such buildings.

Repurposed space Annes Theatre Under Brooklyn Bridge NYC

Reformations and Conversions exploit the current assets of the building. Reformation of a building can happen, if only the surroundings can support the new occupation. A building is considered fit for reformation, when it represents a saving of physical resources and time, compared to the cost and time required in putting up a fresh building of equivalent size.


Selection of functions or activities, to be established is primarily determined by the

1 – Location advantage the building offers,

2 – Spatial characteristics of the structure,

3 – Empathy its external form now presents or will create after the processes of reformation,

4 – Structural qualities such as equilibrium – stability and longevity of the building.


Commercial activities that exclusively offer economic viability due to the technical functioning of the building, such as the departmental stores, multi storey parks, industrial plants, etc. generally require modern structures. Whereas other occupational activities that provide economic or other levels of validity, from the nature of allowable activities (happenings) rather than the core or programmed functions can be accommodated in reformed or converted building.



Reformations are achieved through processes like Alterations, Extension, Renovation etc. of the building. Expectations for the ‘post reformation’ results are often very basic and without any preconceptions yet of of unprecedented nature. Success of reformation is measured in either the immediate economic gain like rent, or appreciation in the value of the building.


Notions of conversion as opposed to new construction, depends on the scale at which it is viewed. To the city planner the pulling down of a block and the construction of a new one to replace it is a conversion of the city locality, but for the architect it is just a project. For the interior designer furnishing a space in an old building is a new job. Conversion designers operate between two extremes, one within the realm of social relevance and acceptability, and other of utter professionalism to create an entity. Reformations or Conversions rehabilitate buildings. The rehabilitation of a building is very perplexing, Is one trying to re-establish the original functions into a structure that has become dysfunctional, due to structural reasons, malfunctioning of important utilities, or been abused by the social or political upheaval, Or, Is one trying to achieve the functional modifications to sustain viability, acceptability in the changed circumstances?


In Europe many old factories and shore front buildings like warehouses have been reformed. Old palaces have been rehabilitated into resorts. Churches converted into temples of other faith.