News - 31 August 2020

Refurbishment Report Highlights Benefits of Remodelling Buildings

Post-occupancy services are becoming integral to the architectural practice, offering both environmental and economic benefits, UNStudio’s new Refurbishment Report shows.

From the design process to the selection of materials and the performance of completed buildings, architects are increasingly concerned with reducing the carbon footprint of the structures we produce.

In a new report, UNStudio shows how remodelling, renovating and retrofitting can provide a sustainable solution to enhance the urban environment, by giving buildings a second life where possible instead of demolishing them.

“Refurbishing buildings allows us to double, or even triple their lifespan,” said Ben van Berkel, UNStudio’s Founder and Principal Architect. “Demolishing and replacing buildings generates a high carbon footprint. So I firmly believe that, when feasible, remodelling is a more sustainable option that should always be considered.”

This approach is especially relevant in high-density cities in Asia and the US, where space is limited and extremely expensive, the report states.

“Retrofitting is super valuable to cities, because this is where we need to provide quality of space, and you can provide better quality of space by remodelling. You can integrate new technologies to those buildings and you can upgrade the existing stock,” Partner and Senior Architect Astrid Piber explained.

An example of this featured in the report is our renovation of the Hanwha HQ office tower in Seoul, Korea.

This project involved a complete overhaul of the tower’s facade and interior, all of which was completed while the building remained occupied and functional - saving the client time and money.

“Hanwha Q Cells is a world leader in PV production. They wanted to set an example. The retrofit was an opportunity for them to have a new face, a new image expressing their core values, and an opportunity for UNStudio to show that a retrofit can be answered with an innovative design approach that is more sustainable and part of our circular design thinking,” Piber explained.

Hanwha HQ before our remodel.

Hanwha HQ after our remodel.

For historical buildings, remodelling or retrofitting is also a way to celebrate elements of craftsmanship from the original design, the report highlights.

“Buildings that have character already, or have a soul because the architect had a reason why they made the building the way it is, if you can capture that soul and give it a new layer, you can really add value to a project,” said Gerard Loozekoot, Partner and Senior Architect.

He added: “By making interventions [in these buildings], I think you can reactivate an area and increase the quality of life.”

Our recent remodels of two shopfronts on P.C. Hooftstraat in Amsterdam, and 18 Septemberplein (see top image) in the southern Dutch city of Eindhoven, exemplify this.

In all three cases, the renovations included adding contemporary twists to the original facades, saluting the traditional Dutch brickwork at P.C. Hooftstraat 138 and neighbouring 140-142, and Eindhoven’s nickname as the ‘City of Lights’ at 18 Septemberplein.

“You don’t have to fully follow the traditions of the existing, but you can embrace it and you can rethink it and reinterpret it,” said Van Berkel.

To read the full report, click here.

To browse all of our post-occupancy projects, click here.