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Adaptable buildings for sustainable built environment

Anupa Manewa (Department of the Built Environment, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool)
Mohan Siriwardena (The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)
Andrew Ross (Department of the Built Environment, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool)
Upeksha Madanayake (Quantity Surveying Department, Design Consortium Limited, Colombo, Sri Lanka)

Built Environment Project and Asset Management

ISSN: 2044-124X

Article publication date: 3 May 2016

Issue publication date: 3 May 2016




The purpose of this paper is to explore the ability of “adaptable buildings” to respond to future potential built environment changes in sustainable way.


A detailed literature review and a case study were undertaken to identify the life cycle changes of typical buildings over a period of more than 100 years. In total, 12 semi-structured interviews were conducted among construction industry professionals to identify how adaptable buildings enhance sustainability within the built environment. Case study data were analysed through a Morphological Analysis, and the interview data were analysed through discourse analysis.


Out of the many adaptable features, the results revealed “change of use” as the dominant trend within the buildings of the selected urban cluster. More than 60 per cent of buildings have changed their original use during their life cycle. Around 10 per cent of them have changed their use frequently (every six year) during the last 20 years thereby signalling an increase in the rate of change. The positive contribution of adaptable buildings in achieving sustainability in terms of economic, social and environmental considerations, were confirmed through the analysis of semi-structured interviews.


This paper reports a longitudinal study spanning over 100 years, exploring the extent of building adaptation within a selected cluster of Liverpool city centre, UK. The study further confirms the need to incorporate adaptability as a key criterion when designing buildings. The increased rate at which “change of use” has occurred further reinforces the need. Lack of a track record of designing for reuse makes this an interesting challenge for the construction industry, hence likely to have significant implications for policy/strategy formulation.



Manewa, A., Siriwardena, M., Ross, A. and Madanayake, U. (2016), "Adaptable buildings for sustainable built environment", Built Environment Project and Asset Management, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 139-158.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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