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A new future for the past: a model for adaptive reuse decision‐making

Peter Bullen (Department of Construction Management, Curtin University, Perth, Australia)
Peter Love (Department of Construction Management, Curtin University, Perth, Australia)

Built Environment Project and Asset Management

ISSN: 2044-124X

Article publication date: 8 July 2011




Adaptive reuse is an effective strategy for optimizing the operational and commercial performance of built assets. While the benefits of adaptive re‐use have been widely espoused, it would appear that owners and practitioners lack a point of reference to justify and evaluate their decision‐making with regard to reusing existing assets. This paper therefore aims to develop a model to assist practitioners with their decision‐making when considering to re‐use or demolish an existing built asset.


To gain an understanding of the issues that owners and practitioners are confronted with when considering adaptive re‐use, demolition and issues pertaining to sustainability, an interpretative research approach was adopted. A total of 81 in‐depth interviews were conducted over a six‐month period with a variety of stakeholders such as architects, developers, planners, building managers/owners and property consultants. Content analysis was used as the primary analysis technique on the collected data.


The analysis of the interviews revealed three key criteria are used to examine adaptive reuse decision making: capital investment; asset condition; and regulation. While financial criteria such as development and construction costs were the primary determinants influencing the decision reuse or demolish, the physical condition of the asset juxtaposed with regulations were also considered. Additionally, issues associated with the environmental, economic and social tenets of sustainability were identified as being important but had been given less priority when considering reuse. As current building stock is rapidly becoming obsolete, increasing emphasis is beginning to be placed on them during the adaptive reuse decision‐making process to ensure sustainable outcomes.

Practical implications

The developed model identifies the critical areas that owners, developers and key project stakeholders need to consider when deciding to either reuse or demolish an existing building. It also can be used to evaluate the economic, physical and social implications of undertaking a heritage project. Project and asset managers need to be aware of the impact that different variables have on a reuse project's construction and operational performance as well as long term commercial performance.


The proposed adaptive reuse decision‐making model is grounded in practice and therefore encompasses the real‐life dilemmas and issues facing practitioners. The model captures the complexity associated with the adaptive reuse process and provides an important reference point for developing future ex‐ante evaluation models for its investment justification.



Bullen, P. and Love, P. (2011), "A new future for the past: a model for adaptive reuse decision‐making", Built Environment Project and Asset Management, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 32-44.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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