What Cost Do-Overs?

There are many ways to calculate cost. But if you want to have some fun with the monetary costs alone of demolishing buildings — residential, commercial or industrial — play with this calculator for a while. If nothing else, it’ll help you understand the tens of thousands of dollars or more required to be spent before the architectural, cultural, and community costs even start to be estimated.

That’s why I was so grateful when I came across this article in the British publication, Workplace Insight: “Refurbished industrial buildings provide perfect modern workplaces”. It turns out there are reasons aside from simple sentimentality or tendencies toward indiscriminate conservation to re-use some of our spaces. And some of those reasons equate to discernible value:

Refurbished industrial sheds provide the perfect space for the creation of modern workplaces … The key characteristics of these buildings can be summarised by the “Three Vs”: Volume, Versatility and Value … [these refurbished sheds] all have a much higher ratio of volume to floor area than typical purpose-built offices.

Are You Listening?

One day, I was in an older industrial building with a colleague. The first floor had been refurbished and devoted to retail for years. We were scouting the second floor, which had been been converted to office space, for a client. As I was taking stock of the place, I heard my colleague say, “The architecture was talking to them. And they didn’t listen.”

He wasn’t talking to me. He was looking up at a spot in which a metal door frame had been placed in a beautiful brick arch, the spaces around the frame sheetrocked into common sterility. I was struck by a mix of emotions: At first, I felt sadness for the lack of vision and imagination the space manifested in its present incarnation. Then I felt a rush of excitement at the prospect of restoring the space to its original character and charm.

Calculate Carefully

Some spaces are so decrepit they have to be destroyed. I get that. But so many more spaces are waiting to tell their stories, to have you create new chapters for them. Before you undertake your do-over, assess all the costs. If one of them is distinctive, differentiating integrity, don’t pay it.

Some costs can never be recovered.

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