Building resilience in urban settlements through conversion adaptation

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
RICS COBRA AUBEA 2015, 2015, pp. np - np
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The built environment contributes 40% to total global greenhouse gas emissions and 87% of the buildings we will have in 2050 are already built. If predicted climate changes are correct we need to adapt existing stock sustainably. Reuse is an inherently sustainable option, which reduces the amount of waste going to landfill. Inevitably settlements and areas undergo change, whereby land uses become obsolete and buildings vacant. At this stage, the options are either to demolish or to convert to another use. In central business districts (CBDs) outside of Australia there is a long history of office to residential conversion. Although these types of conversions are few in number in the Sydney and Melbourne CBD, a trend is emerging in conversion. Some 102,000m2 of office space is earmarked for residential conversion in Sydney as demand for central residential property grows and low interest rates create good conditions. Coupled with this, is a stock of ageing offices and a population projected to increase by 4% to 2031 requiring 45000 new homes. With the Sydney market about to be flooded with the Barangaroo office supply in 2017, the conditions for residential conversion are better than ever. However; what is the level of sustainability in these projects? This paper investigates the nature and extent of the phenomena in Sydney, as well as the political, economic, social, environmental and technological drivers and barriers to successful conversion. Through international comparisons with cases in the Netherlands, the paper identifies the key lessons. To date no major study has been conducted into the Sydney market nor into conversion adaptation. Furthermore most residential development has comprised new construction. There is substantial potential to change the nature of the CBD with residential conversion of office space and this paper explores this potential.
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