reimagine in the News
Published 11 months ago
Ian O'Donnell describes the initiative, which seeks to encourage owners of aging (highrise) buildings to reconceptualize and renovate in imaginative or creative ways. Read the full article below!
Originally appeared in Downtown Idea Exchange, August 2012
In an era when concerns about cost and the environment factor heavily into new development, processes known as “re-skinning” and “re-imagining” existing buildings are gaining popularity. Re-skinning, as the name suggests, provides a new façade to a functional but aging building. Re-skinning and re-imagining can transform older, worn-out looking buildings into more desirable and more rentable properties at less cost than new construction.
“This is not a new idea by any means,” says Ian O’Donnell, who handles communications and field services for Manasc Isaac Architects of Edmonton and Calgary, Canada. “It is, maybe, a new form of an idea. We’ve always taken older buildings and renovated them, but this is more than a renovation. A renovation is paint or new lights and not much else. When we re-imagine a building, we take that idea and make it a more comprehensive renovation. We look at all the elements of the building: interior, exterior, mechanical systems, electrical system. We want to look at it as a group of possibilities in a more holistic approach. Obviously, if you change out the lights, or the windows, that’s a good idea, but you’re not really achieving the full benefit possible without looking at how the quality of the windows affects how much heat the building will use, and how the number of windows affects how much lighting is necessary. It’s all intertwined. We look at the outside, at what kind of an envelope system we have, and focus a lot of energy on making sure the envelope is of good quality and well sealed.”
Costs for re-skinning are higher than for a traditional renovation, but lower than for a new construction. “We’re in between and there’s a good market for that,” O’Donnell says. “The cost of building new construction, especially in urban centers, is quite high, but there’s also the time it takes.” For example, re-skinning of the Servus Credit Union’s three-story corporate center took less than one year, while a new building from scratch would take 18 to 24 months, he says.
“There’s a considerable cost savings potentially associated with that, depending on the client’s situation.” Re-skinning costs can also be mitigated via lower operational and maintenance costs during the life of the building, O’Donnell says. He also notes that demolition is expensive and disruptive, especially in a city center, and financing for upgrades to an existing building can be easier to obtain than for new construction.
In addition to making buildings more energy efficient, re-skinning can provide an exterior that updates the building, or makes historic buildings more efficient while preserving important architectural features.
“We’ve done a building at our university that was close to 100 years old, and was a residential hall converted into office space,” O’Donnell says. “The structure was in great shape, but some of the elements were not. Now the building is considerably cooler in summer, warmer in winter, and has a lot less energy usage. This is not necessarily about putting something over the exterior of a beautiful building. It looks identical, but is better performing, and will last another 100 years.”
Re-skinning can also be used for interim repairs. In Indianapolis, IN, the 36-story One Indiana Square needed a facelift following severe storm damage in 2006. A largely transparent, pale blue curtain wall was added over the existing façade. The building remained occupied during the project, and crews worked through the night to minimize disruptions.
Contact: Ian O’Donnell, Manasc Isaac Architects, (780) 784-1148, email@example.com.