Evaluating the adaptive reuse potential of buildings in conservation areas

Yan Hong (Department of Environmental Design, Zhejiang Sci-Tech University, Hangzhou, China)
Fei Chen (University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK)


ISSN: 0263-2772

Publication date: 7 March 2017



Adaptive reuse of building assets is an important approach to sustainability. Adapting a building for new uses often involves complex factors in the decision-making process, particularly in conservation areas. The paper aims to show an evaluation process of the adaptive reuse potential of historic buildings that are subject to change in the Grand Canal area, a world heritage site in Hangzhou, China.


For this purpose, a model has been established with aggregated views of professionals on the degree to which a variety of factors affect the buildings’ potential for adaptive reuse. The model intends to help prioritise some of the buildings in the area for adaptive reuse, which is important for effective allocation of public resources. Interviews with professionals, analytic hierarchy process and the Delphi method have been used to establish the evaluation model. It is then applied to the Grand Canal area to generate indices for buildings’ adaptive reuse potential and the ranking of priority. The indices are generated through public scoring of historic buildings against the variables and calculated through the model.


The paper concludes that the evaluation process is an effective way to engage the public in the decision-making process and to balance conflict interests of various stakeholders in the management of historic building assets in conservation areas.


The research has proposed an evaluation model to help set priority of buildings subject to adaptive reuse and to help distribute public fund effectively. It facilitates wide public engagement in the decision-making progress of adaptive reuse of historic buildings.



The research project was funded by the Ministry of Education, P. R. China, under the Humanity and Social Science Scheme, grant number: 10YJAZH026. The research has received guidance from Professor Cheng Taining, Professor Xu Lei in Zhejiang University and Professor Zhu Guangya in Southeast University, China. Thanks to the support, the leading author has completed an important part of the research during her visit period in the University of Liverpool, UK, from August 2012 to July 2013. The authors would like to thank the six undergraduate students, Zhu Minghai, Zhang Zhengyu, Fang Rong, Ding Ding, Xu Chengmin and Xiang Yun, of Zhejiang Sci-Tech University who have assisted the building survey and public scoring. The authors thank the 24 professionals who have participated in the AHP and Delphi exercise and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions on the revision of the paper.


Hong, Y. and Chen, F. (2017), "Evaluating the adaptive reuse potential of buildings in conservation areas", Facilities, Vol. 35 No. 3/4, pp. 202-219. https://doi.org/10.1108/F-10-2015-0077

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