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Residential regeneration and adaptive reuse: learning from the experiences of Los Angeles

Peter A. Bullen (Department of Construction Management, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia)
Peter E.D. Love (Department of Construction Management, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia)

Structural Survey

ISSN: 0263-080X

Article publication date: 6 November 2009




Adaptive reuse of older commercial buildings, particularly in countries such as the USA, has been regarded by building owners and developers as uneconomic. Retention of older commercial buildings has commonly been regarded as a barrier to progress and a hindrance to the regeneration of older urban areas. This paper aims to examine the program and legislation that is adopted to encourage the adaptive reuse of commercial buildings in the downtown area of Los Angeles (LA) in the USA, as it is considered to be an exemplar example of how a regeneration strategy makes a contribution to sustainability. It seeks to assess the effectiveness of adaptive reuse of redundant buildings as a commercially viable and effective strategy for urban regeneration that meets the criteria of sustainability.


A case example is used to examine the underlying factors that have contributed to LA being an exemplar for adaptive re‐use and its contribution to sustainability.


Urban regeneration requires a vision and a continued commitment to sustainability. In the case of LA, there is clearly evidence of a commitment to sustainability through the implementation of an adaptive re‐use program. A key to this strategy's success is the offering of incentives. Such incentives are required to entice investment and involvement in the program. The ability to make commercial buildings attractive to developers as viable reuse projects relied heavily on the use of legislation that reduces code and zoning requirements and offers substantial financial incentives in the form of tax concessions. The advantages of adaptive reuse in terms of sustainability appear to outweigh the advantages of demolition and new development as experienced in LA. Certainly in terms of urban regeneration the adaptive reuse program in the downtown area appears to have been something of a catalyst in prompting investment in major developments.


The sharing of experiences is pivotal to learning. Such situated learning can provide clients, and industry practitioners with insights about how adaptive re‐use can be used to promote sustainable outcomes. The experiences of LA emphasize the need to consider emphasis on not only environmental and economic benefits but also issues of social equity such as low cost housing for lower income groups. Generally, the objectives of reusing old buildings appear to coincide with many of the desired outcomes of sustainability, but further research is needed to assess the viability of adaptive reuse as a strategy for urban regeneration and sustainability.



Bullen, P.A. and Love, P.E.D. (2009), "Residential regeneration and adaptive reuse: learning from the experiences of Los Angeles", Structural Survey, Vol. 27 No. 5, pp. 351-360.



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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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