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HomeArchitectureIs Adaptive Reuse The Way Forward For Sustainable Architecture?

Is Adaptive Reuse The Way Forward For Sustainable Architecture?

Arch Oscar Onguto is a Director at Lexicon + Ion and is registered architect with over twenty years experience in the field. In this interview he shares his experience having just completed an adaptive reuse project at the Strathmore University School of Engineering.

What was the client’s brief for the project?

Strathmore University needed to start an engineering school and one of the conditions is the institution must have a set of laboratories and specialized spaces termed “maker spaces”. Maker places a space where students can experiment with ideas beyond normal laboratories. 

What is adaptive reuse in architecture?

Adaptive reuse is one of the ways of taking advantage of existing structures that could have been demolished to transform them into something of value.

How did you arrive at your choice of site for adaptive reuse?

Within the Strathmore University campus facility the only space the university had were some godowns that were used for storage during construction of the  Strathmore University Business School. The space was idle, and partly leased out as an assembly space. As the architects we thought it would be ideal, having good headroom to allow for two levels where heavier machinery would be accommodated on the ground floor.

As architects, we identified the space and client was toying around with building a new facility on the side or retrofitting. We advised that adaptive reuse of the warehouse would be the fastest and most affordable manner to achieve their goal. The facility was needed urgently for the School of Engineering to get approval from the board to start off.

How did you go about the project design?

We first needed to get details of the number of students and we advised on the maximum number of 30 for efficiency and then proposed a steel deck for the new upper floor. This would additionally give the space an engineering aesthetic and make is easy to accommodate building services such as plumbing and electrical conduits.

For ventilation we took advantage of the void between the warehouse we are working on and the next building to ventilate lower floors. We used existing cyclone vents to ventilate the upper floor. Metal was ideal for this kind of construction because it could be prefabricated offsite and assembled on site, thereby saving time as multiple prefabricated could be carried out at the same time.

What were the key learnings from the project?

Being a building that was meant for a different use, structural integrity must be ensured. One of the challenges with adaptive reuse is there may be a need to add something to the structure. For example, we had to add water storage tanks but the warehouse had not catered for the load.

During the process, it is critical to assure the client that the end product shall be to the set standards. Converting a warehouse to a beautiful laboratory is no mean task. The success of the project is such that the client is now looking into potential reuse of the rest of the warehouse.

Adaptive reuse is certainly more economical, time saving and energy saving venture than a brand new structure, and this should be encouraged where possible. It is also in line with sustainability practices that encourage reuse and recycling. This works very well where land is limited and new structures must be kept to a minimum.

Arch Oscar Onguto can be reached vie email on onguto@lexicondesigns.co.ke