University Of Adelaide: Why Can't We Reuse Adelaide's Empty Buildings?


The University of Adelaide has conducted a new study in order to find ways to reduce the barriers currently preventing Adelaide's empty buildings from being transformed into modern, usable spaces.

PhD students within the university's School of Architecture and Built Environment began the independent research study as a means of gaining a better understanding what the real challenges were to reactivate older multi-storey buildings in CBDs.

"The city of Adelaide has one of the worst-performing occupancy rates in all states in Australia for CBD buildings," PhD student Gillian Armstrong said, after focussing her research on non-heritage commercial and retail buildings.

Ms Armstrong is also a practicing architect with 15 years' experience and a member of the Chartered Institute for Architectural Technologists.

"If change isn't feasible, older and obsolete buildings will stand empty for years, or face premature demolition," she said.

"Unoccupied buildings have a tendency to degrade faster and can prove to be potential hazards. Early demolition can be wasteful and empty buildings can create a negative perception that the city is in decline.
“Reusing existing buildings not only helps cities stay vibrant, but reuse makes environmental sense too. As we strive to make Adelaide a carbon neutral city, we need to reduce barriers and help empty buildings to become useful again."Ms Armstrong said typical examples within Adelaide are older, lower grade office spaces that are simply left to slowly decay, even though they occupy prime city locations. Some are used for storage, while others just sit empty and lifeless with broken downpipes and faded blinds.

"The lack of utilisation of commercial buildings in prime urban areas carries with it real economic, social and environmental consequences. Existing buildings offer real opportunities – they often have a good structural life left," she said.

"Beyond the rhetoric, there is a lack of hard evidence to back up these claims of regulatory barriers.

"We've seen some significant conversions of redundant commercial buildings in Adelaide. The Air apartments on Greenhill Road and the Unihouse development on the corner of Rundle Mall and Pulteney Street are two examples of successful adaptive reuse.

"These repurposed buildings are fully used again, no longer empty shells. So we know it can be done," Ms Armstrong said.

Building developers and owners, members of the building industry and the architectural profession, as well as businesses who cannot find the right space to use were called upon to take a survey which contributed to the research data.

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