Adaptive Reuse – Adaptive reuse refers to the process of reusing an existing building for a purpose other than which it was originally built or designed for. It is also known as recycling and conversion. Adaptive reuse is an effective strategy for optimizing the operational and commercial performance of built assets …

As we continue to navigate a changed world from COVID and how our industries fit in, we know it is necessary to stay flexible. Companies big and small are refocusing their strategies to concentrate on keeping people healthy while sustaining high levels of productivity from their workforce. Take JP Morgan for example. This Fortune 500 company decided it would be best for their entire consumer unit (with more than 120,000 staff) to continue to work remotely until 2021 which means a lot of offices sitting vacant across the country. The physical space they once reported to every day could now be in jeopardy because there is no longer a need to spend big money on real estate.

Commercial real estate continues to change in unpredictable and unprecedented ways, and many owners and developers are on a mission to find new uses for buildings where demand is drying up. Entire workforces may continue to work remotely for now, but the buildings employees will one day return to, will need retrofits to enhance safety and protection.

Have cubicles in the office environment made a comeback?
We had them in the 80’s but a movement towards open office collaboration made them obstacles. The challenge for all designers now is how to bring them back but also allow the benefits of collaboration. At Fisher Architecture, we created team pods that reduce the amount of people working in a space but still encourages team growth. How can we help your group re-organize and solve these challenges?

We always referred to adaptive reuse as a way for blighted areas to breathe new life into abandon buildings. We have seen it locally when developers took an old vacant fire station and transformed it into an entertainment venue and converted an ice plant into a micro-brewery and restaurant. Even warehouse office space has become a trend. Examples like these have literally ignited a renaissance for adaptive reuse.

Multi-family living, with the help of updated zoning codes, allowed the market to create “lofts” in urban areas that were once reserved for factories and the industrial workforce. You could say all these developments were influences in placemaking since these “places” now play a major role in the revitalization of our urban downtowns.

Closer to home, the COVID pandemic has forced us to clear our counter tops and turn our kitchen tables into conference tables, workspace and even classrooms as the onset of the stay at home orders we all believed to be temporary have extended remote scenarios. Households have embraced the adaptation of their homes into offices, gyms, and schools for the protection of their loved ones. This poses the question – should we be rethinking the adaptive reuse of our home?

Whether you live in a 4,000 square foot rural home or a 500 square foot downtown apartment, homes were never intended to become the sole place for work productivity, schooling, parenting, and playing. As many of us have witnessed, that juggling act becomes quite challenging.

Identifying how new designs and products could enhance our way of life in this new era is essential. So why not do the same at home? Maybe it is a partial garage conversion or transforming that once necessary formal dining room or bonus room into an office. The foyer could now be the new waiting room. Think of common areas inside your home that could serve as meeting hubs, virtual meeting spaces or convenient quiet work areas.

In the new version of adaptive reuse, we also need to consider how local codes will adjust to these changes. In many cases, local zoning codes do not permit businesses to operate in residential areas. It makes sense for the people who don’t want a corner retail store as a next-door neighbor. But what about the insurance agent, the lawyer, or an architect? Or even the husband and wife team that bought the 3D printer and are now manufacturing face shields in the living room? While these examples are far less impactful on community traffic and activity, it is still important to make sure elected officials understand that antiquated zoning codes need to consider these trends and adapt in order to protect property value, livelihoods and quality of life.

For businesses who have been able to maintain their professional space, adaptive reuse is about more than physical alterations to a built environment. It’s about understanding how users’ behaviors inside the structure are changing and addressing clients’ operations instead of just how much and what type of space they need.

Our current retail studio remains strong with new tenant fit-outs. The designs are focused on how to open back up safely and how to provide the retailers with the flexibility to meet future closure regulations with outdoor and market-type spaces, when available. Our ability to understand the built environment brings dynamic design and constructability to buildings that align with the clients’ vision and lays the foundation for adapting older habits and creating new ones inside the space.

Keith Fisher
Principal
AIA, LEED AP
EarthCraft and NCARB certified
Licensed in MD, DE, PA, VA, DC, NJ, FL


 

Adaptive Reuse, Bensalem, PA

Bugaboo Steak House (before) / PSLC Surgery and Laser Center (after)

Green Street Housing Office – Salisbury, MD

It was not long ago that many of us were isolated in our homes.  We became increasingly aware of how our interior spaces affected our moods, comfort, productivity, and ability to work.  As time allows and we adjust to a new norm, our homes and commercial and public spaces will ultimately revolve around new designs that will focus on the importance of personal safety.  Here are just a few features that are already taking form in the world of design.

Businesses that rely on brick and mortar stores, restaurants, and offices will become more intentional and purposeful with the division of space to prevent people from feeling closed off or confined.  This will lead to more social space, amenities, and designed barriers.  Unfortunately, the quick fix when COVID hit was plexiglass, which now serves as a constant reminder of the pandemic. 

Think about hotel lobbies.  They are typically wide open with different seating groups and partitions designed into space.  Many hotel groups choose to go with large resin panels to divide up space with color, patterns, and images that accentuate a room. 

Wood, slates, ropes, and sticks are other examples of decorative materials used to inadvertently create separate sections within a room.  There are also ways to create open space but still offer privacy such as creating barriers with furniture. Soft, long-backed chairs are higher and can offer an intimate setting without completely cutting people out.

Marsh Farm Estates Clubhouse – Lewes, DE

Another emphasis will be placed on materials that are non-porous, easy to clean and reduce the likelihood of infection.  Anti-microbial fabrics existed before COVID.  What do you think those privacy curtains in hospital rooms are made of? Fabrics that deter the growth of bacteria.  Wallcoverings are another design feature that can easily be cleaned.  The key is to make sure the cleaning products being used will not impact the color or texture of the material.  Here’s the catch.  Not every surface in an office, restaurant, hotel, or daycare needs to be anti-microbial.  That can encourage surfaces to become immune. Balance is important.  Anti-microbial flooring in many instances is not recommended as it’s a secondary surface and can easily and continuously be sanitized. 

Experience has shown us that people tend to gravitate towards the outdoors and natural colors.  Biophilic design incorporates nature into a built environment that promotes recovery and wellness.  Think natural light, living plants and walls, textures, materials, and nature views that enhance a positive impact.  Many just don’t realize how much interior design impacts mood, health, well-being, and productivity.     

Rick Dawson, Family Dentistry – Salisbury, MD

As our personal bubbles grow, so will the space between products in retail stores.  People will not be forced to crowd together in social environments.  Sort of sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?  The significance of interior design will account for mental and physical health through lighting, materials, and flexible layouts. The one thing we can count on is that innovation in interior design will continue to thrive, even in the aftermath of a crisis.      


About the Author

Sarah Finch, Interior Designer

Sarah grew up in Frederick, Maryland and moved to the Eastern Shore in 2017. She has been with the Fisher Architecture team since 2018. Sarah loves space planning and making sure clients have the space that is appropriate and conducive to their needs.

“I can’t tell you how many times I have come across a space in my everyday life where things are not properly laid out for the use of the space. Poor design and space planning can cause a whole business to become dysfunctional and in an extreme case can be dangerous,” said Sarah.

She added that good design can affect the well-being of the user and can make a world of difference in their experience and functionality of a space.

 

evo restaurant outdoor diningIt is clear the coronavirus is already having a profound impact on today’s “built” world.  This is not the first time a pandemic has forced architecture and city planning to evolve.  Past pandemics like Yellow Fever, Spanish Flu and Polio changed standards for the design of public spaces that reflected a new way of life that included greater personal space.  While the initial expectation was meant to deal with the immediate crisis, many temporary changes became permanent over time.

Today, COVID’s unknowns sparked some knee jerk reactions in the beginning.  Projects were put on hold.  People asked themselves, what am I comfortable with when I shop, dine, and take my family out in public.  Business owners had to think about what this meant for their retail stores and restaurants, not just now, but into the future.     

“This isn’t the time to sit around and wait,” said Keith Fisher, Fisher Architecture.  “As a firm, we are always looking for the next hot spot to prepare for.  As architects, we keep a close eye on market sector trends and adapt our designs to meet the needs of any given community.  Our public sector will stay strong throughout COVID because the projects are relevant and necessary to get communities back on their feet and get people back to work.   Infrastructure projects like traffic circles and public spaces will be at the top of the list.” 

In the meantime, retail stores and restaurants are being forced to demonstrate how they plan on keeping people safe, as they re-open.  Air quality will not be overlooked, open floor plans and even areas where customers will be able to “see” the outdoors at all times.

“A lot of it is perception,” added Fisher.  “People thrive in spaces with light, air, and views.  Perceived safety goes a long way in helping individuals make decisions to venture out and rejoin the public world.” 

It is important to map out a plan for what a well-designed outdoor dining space will look like and how it will impact the flow of patrons and staff.  Don’t forget about roof space.  Some properties can safely consider roof top real estate for enhanced outdoor dining experiences.  Now is the time to figure out what that mix will look like for a business, regarding capacity, operations, and physical space, inside and outside.   

“Now that the game plan for recovery is somewhat in place, I think it would benefit business owners if city officials provided temporary approvals for permits for the use of public space.  Think about restaurants like Evo and Mojo’s here in Salisbury.  The designs we worked up for them years ago have been pushed to the forefront due to COVID restrictions.” 

Fisher Architecture is already working on creating unique and cost-effective solutions to restaurant designs so owners can be ahead of the next “unknown.”  For example, we are actively analyzing the selection of materials to better understand surfaces that food is prepared on.  We are also always looking at ways to make the circulation path of patrons and employees efficient.  The pandemic has certainly added the challenge of designing to allow indoor and outdoor dining spaces to easily meet necessary social distancing requirements. 

The silver lining is that design will compensate for whatever changes need to be made to help people feel safe.  From beer gardens and garage doors to waiting areas, vast kitchens, windows, and employee spaces, we know, now more than ever, open space will play a major role in design.  Some are wondering how much of an investment they should make for the short term. We tend to look at it from a different perspective – how can we make changes that will turn into long term advantages in the future? 

Keith Fisher
Principal
AIA, LEED AP
EarthCraft and NCARB certified
Licensed in MD, DE, PA, VA, DC, NJ, FL

 

The Creation of Needed Space in a Built Environment - October 28, 2020

Adaptive Reuse - Adaptive reuse refers to the process of reusing an existing building for a purpose other than which it was originally built or designed for. It is also known as recycling and conversion. Adaptive reuse is an effective strategy for optimizing the operational and commercial performance of built assets … As we continue to navigate a changed world from COVID and how our industries fit in, we know it is necessary to stay flexible. Companies big and small are refocusing their strategies to concentrate on keeping people healthy while sustaining high levels of productivity from their workforce. Take… View the full blog here



Reshaping Interior Design in Response to a Changing World - August 24, 2020

upscale interior living room with blue accents, industrial light fixtures and open floor plan Hyatt Place ? Ocean City, MD
It was not long ago that many of us were isolated in our homes.  We became increasingly aware of how our interior spaces affected our moods, comfort, productivity, and ability to work.  As time allows and we adjust to a new norm, our homes and commercial and public spaces will ultimately revolve around new designs that will focus on the importance of personal safety.  Here are just a few features that are already taking form in the world of design. Businesses that rely on brick and mortar stores, restaurants, and offices will become more intentional and purposeful with the division… View the full blog here



Change in the Wake of COVID-19 - June 17, 2020

evo restaurant outdoor dining
It is clear the coronavirus is already having a profound impact on today’s “built” world.  This is not the first time a pandemic has forced architecture and city planning to evolve.  Past pandemics like Yellow Fever, Spanish Flu and Polio changed standards for the design of public spaces that reflected a new way of life that included greater personal space.  While the initial expectation was meant to deal with the immediate crisis, many temporary changes became permanent over time. Today, COVID’s unknowns sparked some knee jerk reactions in the beginning.  Projects were put on hold.  People asked themselves, what am I… View the full blog here




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