The idea of converting office buildings into apartments may have seemed far-fetched years ago, but now it is becoming more and more feasible. With the rise of remote work and the decreased demand for traditional office space, many businesses are looking to repurpose their existing premises to generate added value. One option that might not be immediately obvious is to convert Commercial Real Estate (CRE) into Multifamily housing.
How Hybrid Work Is Affecting
More than half of American workers—70+ million people—can perform their jobs remotely, according to a June 2022 Gallup analysis, and a mere 6% of them ever want to return to working full-time in an office; most say they would look for a different job if their employer forced the issue. Gallup forecasts that more than half of those remote-capable employees will work a hybrid schedule from now on, and 22% will work entirely offsite in the future.
As remote and hybrid work arrangements become accepted and expected, companies are consolidating the office space they lease while trying to make commuting worth the effort for employees. Often that translates to renting less square footage in a pricier building with new, high-end finishes and state-of-the-art amenities—what’s known in commercial real estate as “Class A” space.
That leaves older, less attractive Class B or C offices—which comprise the majority of built workspace—struggling to find or keep tenants. Nationwide, the office vacancy rate surpassed 17% in the fourth quarter of 2022, up from 12.1% in late 2019, according to the CRE company CBRE.
Typically, the process of stripping Class B and C buildings down to their structures is quick. Unlike new construction, developers avoided the time-consuming first steps, including excavation, foundation work, and the expensive construction of below-grade structured parking. As a result, adaptive re-use projects move significantly faster than ground-up development; this is obviously a major advantage for developers and investors.
Additionally, adaptive re-use inherently has many green features. According to a report produced by the Preservation Green Lab of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, building re-use typically offers more significant environmental savings than demolition and new construction. It can take between 10 to 80 years for a new energy-efficient building to overcome, through efficient operations, the climate change impacts created by its construction. The study finds that the majority of building types in different climates will take between 20-30 years to compensate for the initial carbon impacts from construction.
For those concerned with climate change and other environmental impacts, reusing and upgrading an existing building to maximum efficiency is almost always the best option, regardless of building type and climate. Most climate scientists agree that action in the immediate timeframe is crucial to staving off the worst impacts of climate change. Reusing existing buildings can offer an essential means of avoiding unnecessary carbon outlays and help communities achieve their carbon reduction goals in the near term.
Assessing the current building key elements
Early engineer engagement is essential. Due to the integral structural goals, the structural engineer should be on board quite early in the process to help facilitate design for adaptability. From the floor plate, column grid, floor-to-floor height, window systems, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), electrical, plumbing, elevators, to the sewer outfall, parking, and so much more needs to be studied. It is essential to have these elements in consideration if you want to create meaningful and engaging spaces that enrich residents’ lives.
Create Optimal Floor Plans
You know that floor plans make all the difference when it comes to profitability in real estate, so take the time to plan out the perfect layouts for your new multifamily housing. They should be designed to maximize each unit’s appeal and provide plenty of amenities for your tenants. Think about it – the more attractive a unit is, the easier it will be to rent out quickly and at a higher price!
Choose Amenities Strategically
When you’re converting commercial space into multifamily housing, make sure you choose amenities strategically. Not only do the amenities provide added value for your tenants, they can also attract more renters and increase rent prices. Building amenities must be designed with the millennial in mind, providing outdoor children’s play areas in addition to grilling and picnic areas and plenty of work-from-home spaces. Think about adding a pool or hot tub, a gym, pet-friendly living spaces, or even an on-site concierge service—all of these will make your housing stand out from the rest.
In today’s day and age, technology is playing a larger role in multifamily housing than ever before. In addition to the latest proptech that has streamlined property management and reporting, residents must have a host of app-driven, on-demand services such as package notification, keyless entry, HVAC controls, super-fast Wi-Fi, and away-from-home care when tenants are traveling. By taking advantage of these tools, you’ll be able to make your new housing more appealing and easier to manage.
Incorporate Green Technology
Incorporating green technology into the design is another great way to make the most of your multifamily conversion. This will appeal to eco-minded renters and provide added economic benefits in the long run, as energy-efficient systems and materials can save you money on utility bills. From solar panels to water reclamation systems, investing in green technology for your multifamily conversion is a smart move.
Each year, approximately 1 billion square feet
of buildings are demolished and replaced with
new construction in the United States.
The Purpose Of Adaptive Re-use
The purpose of adaptive re-use is to extend the life cycle of existing buildings, conserve resources, reduce waste, and reduce the environmental impacts of new buildings in relation to manufacturing and transporting materials. Adaptive re-use offers a creative way to breathe new life into an existing structure, and it can contribute to the character of a neighborhood or city.
It is also an effective way to preserve cultural heritage, provide more affordable housing options, and promote sustainable urban development. This type of project has many benefits—it creates jobs, adds value to the local economy, and can even improve the quality of life in the surrounding community. Additionally, adaptive re-use projects are often more cost-effective than new construction, meaning you get a better return on investment.
By repurposing existing buildings, we can reduce our environmental footprint while also creating something beautiful and unique that will stand the test of time. So don’t be afraid to think outside the box—your next great adaptive re-use project might be something you never thought possible.
The Challenge OF ADAPTIVE RE-USE
Adaptive re-use is a challenge but can also be an excellent opportunity to create something extraordinary. With the right approach, developers can bring old buildings back to life while creating comfortable and attractive living spaces. By understanding the challenges of adaptive re-use and taking a creative approach to design, developers can create beautiful and functional living spaces that will benefit their cities for years to come.
And with the proper support from local governments, adaptive re-use projects can help create vibrant communities that are full of life and opportunity for all. Adaptive re-use is a challenge, but with the right approach, it can be a great way to preserve historic buildings while creating modern living spaces. By understanding the challenges involved and taking a creative approach to design, developers can create beautiful and functional living spaces that will help cities grow and thrive.
In order to successfully complete these projects, it is essential to consult with experienced professionals and have a clear plan in place. With the right approach, adaptive re-use can be a great way to bring an old building back to life while creating beautiful and functional spaces.
Converting an existing office building into apartments may seem daunting, but it’s possible with the proper planning and expertise. If you are considering this opportunity, explore all of your options, research local regulations, and find an experienced architect and engineer to help you create something special. Adaptive re-use is a great way to breathe new life into old structures while reducing the environmental impact and creating something that will last for generations. So, don’t be afraid to take on the challenge and create something meaningful!
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