Existing Buildings

Photo: Luke Jones. License: CC BY 2.0.

OVERVIEW

Conventional wisdom might suggest that structural integrity and other kinds of durability are the keys to designing lasting buildings. Real-world evidence suggests otherwise.

The decision to demolish is typically complicated, emotional, and entwined in local political, social, and economic concerns. It’s often more related to deferred maintenance and occupant dissatisfaction—factors that feed a vicious cycle of long-term building degradation.

One thing is clear, though: the embodied impacts of renovation are usually dramatically lower than the impacts of new construction. Here you’ll learn why this is, some strategies for saving buildings, and how to decide when something is just ready to be torn down.