The adaptive re-use of our built heritage for a greener Europe
Nowadays, many heritage places are disused or have lost the functions for which they were originally built. Through smart renovation and transformation, new uses can be found for them so that they can bring further economic, social, environmental and cultural benefits to individuals and society. The aim of the workshop was to discuss the advantages, challenges and barriers inherent to adaptive reuse projects, using as a basis the Leeuwarden Declaration that was adopted last year as a legacy of the European Year of Cultural Heritage.
The Leeuwarden Declaration stresses that the adaptive reuse of our built heritage brings multiple benefits to individuals and society, for present and future generations. It requires a "living attitude" to be adopted vis-à-vis our built environment, an attitude that considers our built heritage to be an artificial landscape that can be reworked and remodelled when necessary based on the social, cultural, environmental and economic needs of our time. In so doing, our built heritage can be integrated in a meaningful and creative way into contemporary society and thereby be conserved in a sustainable way for future generations.
Two partnerships established by the EU Urban Agenda – one on the circular economy and one on the sustainable use of land – are currently working on a Handbook on the Sustainable and Circular Reuse of Spaces and Buildings, which notably includes a reusability coefficient based on technical, environmental, economic and social indicators, aiming to help public authorities evaluate the possibility of reusing empty spaces.
The Horizon 2020 CLIC project seeks to apply the circular economy principles to cultural heritage to achieve environmentally, socially, culturally and economically sustainable urban/territorial development. The circular economy is a regenerative economic model inspired by the circular processes of nature that aims to eliminate waste and the other negative environmental impacts of production and consumption. The adaptive reuse of cultural heritage contributes to the implementation of circular economy principles in cities by reducing urban/landscape "waste" and by giving heritage sites new economic, environmental and social values.
Many aspects have to be considered when discussing adaptive reuse with a view to balancing sometimes conflicting motivations and interests: a site's heritage value, the environmental and sustainable perspectives, the economic aspects and opportunities to repair/improve the urban fabric. We should not move from one dogma – systematic demolition to make room for new buildings – to another dogma – systematic reuse of all existing buildings. Both options should be considered, taking into account the local context and interests at stake.
Take away message
The adaptive reuse of our built heritage can help to build a greener Europe by regenerating and enhancing the economic, social, environmental and cultural values of our built heritage. However, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution that will be applied in all circumstances. Smart interventions on heritage require a careful assessment of the place, issues and interests at stake and the surrounding urban fabric.
- Leeuwarden Declaration on the Adaptive Reuse of Our Built Heritage
- The adaptive re-use of our built heritage for a greener Europe
- Website of the Brussels Bouwmeester/ Maitre Architecte
- CLIC project website
- Partnership on Sustainable Use of Land and Nature-based Solutions
- Partnership on Circular Economy
E.Panescu: Adaptive reuse is not a one-stop shop. It involves adopting a "living attitude" vis-à-vis our built environment, by considering our built inheritance, including modest heritage, to be an artificial landscape that can be reworked when necessary, and by adapting its value to the social, cultural, environmental and economic needs of our time.
Kristiaan Borret: "We should not move from one dogma – systematic demolition to make room for new buildings – to another dogma – systematic reuse of every existing building. Both options should be considered, taking into account the site's heritage value, as well as sustainability, economic and urbanism aspects."
A. Gravagnuolo: "The adaptive reuse of cultural heritage contributes to the implementation of circular economy principles in cities by reducing urban/landscape "waste" and by giving heritage sites new economic, environmental and social values."
Cristina Clotet Olle: "Before we even consider building anything new, we should first look at what is already there and try to figure out how more efficiency can be squeezed out of them."