How to Make an Old Building New Again

Many will agree that older buildings have a sense of charm and character that is lacking in many newer ones. Why does this happen? It may be the loss of craftsmen and women who put their heart and soul into the details of older buildings. Or it may simply be the costs – after all, detailing that is common in older buildings would cost an awful lot today.

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However, this doesn’t mean that renovating older buildings it is possible to keep the charm and sense of character that make older buildings a vital part of our communities while added the modern touches we have grown accustomed to.

In fact, many designers, contractors, and engineered have become skilled in this sort of work – especially as there has been something of a boom in the remodelling of historic buildings over the past five years.  As such, here are some insights on how they make an old building new again.

Tear Down That Wall

In the past, developers liked walls because they could easily subdivide space and get more rent. However, the move in recent years has been in favor of open floorplans. As such, renovations have often sought to take out non-load bearing walls in favor of more open spaces.

Not only are these spaces more sought after but they are also more flexible as landlords and tenants alike can install temporary dividers if really needed.

However, Make Sure Structure is Sound

Just because open floorplans are popular doesn’t mean that a developer can gut every wall in an older building. In fact, a lot of time goes in during the planning stages of a renovation project to make sure that the integrity of the structure remains sound.

The reason is simple, some walls are load bearing and as such taking them out could create problems down the road. While there are ways to remove a wall and still add support, these can often be expensive. As such most developers would rather understand what they can do before demolition starts rather than pay the price later.

Focus on Energy Efficiency

While the architecture and detailing of older buildings are often magnificent, many of these buildings were not constructed with energy efficiency in mind.  This often meant that the heating or cooling systems would run at less than optimal rates adding to the operating costs and the carbon footprint of the building.

However, contractors such as Redaptiv, Inc. in San Francisco have focused on developing Utility-as-a-Service (UaaS) models that optimize cost, incentives, and savings during a retrofit project. Not only does this ensure that an old building is more efficient than before, but it also cuts the upfront investment needed to make such a change possible.

Keep in mind, this is a holistic approach, looking at windows and doors, as well as the systems used to monitor how the HVAC performs, and even upgrades to the HVAC infrastructure as needed. The goal is to reduce energy use while ensuring the system is flexible enough to last over the long-term.

Adding Modern Touches

It doesn’t matter how the building will be used in the future, there is a definite need to make sure it is well-equipped to handle the demands of modern life. This means technology, a lot of technology.

For starters, this means that wiring must be updated – not only to make sure it can handle increased loads but also to make sure there are receptacles where needed. 

Beyond this, the building must internet ready. This is usually achieved through a mix of hardwire connections and wireless hotspots. The key is to make sure there are no dead spots in the building.

In addition to the internet, cabling will need to be run for security systems as well as television. This can be tricky when using exposed walls as such the cabling is often run when the ceilings and floors are being installed.

Preserve Historic Fixtures

While one might think that this only applies to the façade, a lot of care is given to preserving historic fixtures inside the building as well. This can include items such as railings, window treatments, and even water fountains. 

Granted, this can be a challenge when trying to get an old building up to modern codes but the goal of making an old building new again is to keep the character of the building while bringing it into the 21st century.

Renovating historic buildings requires experts who know how to maintain the character and charm of the building while bringing it up to date. While many of the skills required are specialized, an increasing number of designers, contractors, and engineers have experience in this area. 

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