Vancouver Adaptive Reuse

Photo Credit:
Adaptive reuse is the use of an existing structure for a new purpose; in short, it is recycling for buildings. Rather than demolishing an old structure to clear a site, the existing structure is rehabilitated and used for a new purpose.

Koo’s Corner is a project in Vancouver that took an old automotive repair shop and turned it into six urban loft residences. The existing garage building was turned into two of the lofts, and another four units were built to fit the neighborhood context. Building in an existing neighborhood helps to increase urban density (which makes for more efficient use of existing city services) and makes use of available property rather than buldozing undeveloped land for construction.

Photo Credit: cmha.caApproximately 80% of the construction waste was recycled or re-used. Interiors included reclaimed Douglas fir for flooring and cabinetry, low VOC interior finishes, and energy-efficient and water-saving appliances. Site landscaping was done with drought-tolerant plants and no irrigation systems were installed. One of the new loft units has an attached solar hot-water system attached and the roofs of the new lofts are pitched at a “solar-ready” angle, making the possibility of future solar upgrades even easier.

Koo’s Garage – before renovation: Photo Credit:cmhc.caThe site had some brownfield contamination from its previous incarnation as an automotive repair facility which was cleaned up as part of the development process. (Brownfield cleanup added to the cost and scheduling issues for the project, but the developer still produced a profitable building). But, by undertaking new development, the project helped contribute to the cleanup of the property.

The units are moderate in size (the largest is under 1200 square feet), which also helps with resource conservation. Simply building smaller units allows more efficient living and use of materials. The project is one of several Vancouver area projects being touted for its ecological orientation and benefits. “In an eco-dense city, planners say, citizens will live closer together on less land, drive fewer cars, consume fewer resources and produce less waste.” With the location of the project and the reuse of the existing structure, as well as the materials used in building these lofts, Koo’s Corner is an excellent example of good, green construction.

At the time this project was built (completed in 2002), there was no LEED standard for low rise homes, but the team estimated the building would have qualified for LEED certified status.

A Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation case study offers more description and analysis of the project.