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Adaptive Reuse Is a Profitable Alternative When Budgets Are Tight

Facing a decline in the number of zoned sites on which they can build, many developers in South Florida are deciding to breathe new life into the area’s older buildings.

While not a new architectural concept, recycling aging buildings is becoming an increasingly popular trend around the country as a viable development alternative when there are limited budget resources on hand. There are several examples of how pre-existing buildings that have outgrown their use can be transformed into new products for sale or lease; the most notable projects involve converting old warehouse buildings into trendy lofts, condos, restaurants and retail and office space.

Developers are finding that adaptive reuse can be rewarding and satisfying as they apply their knowledge, creativity and experience to dramatically turn around seemingly hopeless properties. Converting existing buildings is a wise use of resources and has become financially competitive with new construction. It is costly to use new construction to replicate the foundation, walls and roof that already exist, so coming into a project with the major structural elements in place can provide a major economic benefit — even when the roof needs to be replaced or the dimensions of the interior need to be altered.

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There are many societal benefits to adaptively reusing our buildings, as well. Abandoned buildings and vacant lots drive down property values, convey a sense of economic decline and invite crime. Reusing them accomplishes just the opposite.

Adaptive reuse also provides advantages for the environment — starting with a dramatic reduction in the amount of building material waste that is generated by the demolition and reconstruction process, which is rated as one of the least energy-efficient modes of construction.

When capital funding is tight, many developers cannot afford to build from the ground up. In terms of cost trade-offs, the purchase price of a pre-owned building is considerably more cost-effective than purchasing an existing structure, tearing it down and building something new. But no matter what the budget, adaptive reuse can be an advantageous financial fit.

In assessing a building’s eligibility for adaptive reuse, developers and investors have several factors to consider — including its physical condition — and should certainly consult architectural professionals to weigh and evaluate all of the options available.

Glenn B. Giles is president of ARC Avenue, Inc. and Giles Construction Group of Hollywood, FL. Both companies have a broad base of experience in every avenue of building design and construction, including commercial, hospitality, residential, industrial and adaptive reuse. The firm has completed several adaptive reuse projects across Florida.

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