8 Apr, 2019 | Written by Premis

Adaptive Reuse of Buildings for Healthcare Facilities

Adaptive reuse is a notable trend in healthcare, where location and cost as well as aesthetics drive the retrofitting of old buildings into new facilities.

Let's take a look at repurposing buildings to turn them into modern healthcare facilities, and the challenges involved in these architectural resuscitations.

Why repurpose space for healthcare facilities?

Repurposing existing spaces is a popular strategy for hospitals and medical practitioners who need to expand services. There are two main reasons for this: adaptive reuse is cheaper than new construction and the facilities become available sooner.

Then there are the advantages of aesthetics and location. Older buildings often have impressive facades and desirable street-front locations impossible to match with a new build.

Given the right architectural and interior design guidance, residential, commercial and industrial buildings get a second life, retaining their place in the community and preserving the architectural character of an area.

A report from the Australian Department of Environment and Heritage stated that adaptive reuse of buildings had “long-term benefits for the communities that value them”.

“Rather than falling into disrepair through neglect or being rendered unrecognisable, heritage buildings that are sympathetically recycled can continue to be used and appreciated.”

Heritage listing and adaptive reuse

An example of a successful adaptive reuse on a heritage-listed building is the case of Athol Place in Brisbane. Athol Place is a two-storey Georgian-style terrace house built in the 1860s on Brisbane’s prestigious Wickham Terrace.

A development plan involved turning part of the residential property into medical consulting rooms. An objection was raised that the changes were not in line with the building’s original purpose.

However, the Planning and Environment Court found Athol Place’s cultural heritage significance was tied to its appearance, rather than its use. Approval of the building refurbishment was upheld, proving that adaptive reuse is an accepted way of preserving an area’s character.

Practical design considerations

The building requirements for healthcare facilities are more strictly regulated than commercial buildings. Bringing an existing structure up to code requires technical experience and an awareness of the cost involved.

For example, HVAC systems are more extensive and complex in healthcare facilities compared with commercial or retail spaces. There could be different zone requirements and a need for more localised control over airflow and cooling.

Legacy electrical systems from a commercial or warehouse space will not be adequate for the power requirements of a healthcare facility. Emergency backup power will also need to be upgraded to meet healthcare standards.

Case study: Whyte Orthodontics

An example of a successful healthcare adaptive reuse is the conversion of two dilapidated commercial buildings on the same block for Whyte Orthodontics. Working with architect Mark Floate, Premis repurposed the two buildings to create six new tenancies with dividing walls and new ceilings.

The buildings received an electrical and mechanical refit, while glass bricks gave sympathetic lighting throughout and harked back to the site’s commercial roots.

Refurbishment of the original façade gave the building an impressive street presence, enhancing the prestige of Whyte Orthodontics and retaining the area’s historical character.

Advantages of location, cost and visual appeal make adaptive reuse of buildings for healthcare facilities an attractive option for medical services and hospitals that are starting out or expanding. 

The low cost compared with new builds means architects can deliver impressive results within a desirable architectural tradition and on a low budget.

If you have a refit or refurbishment project in mind, contact Premis to discuss your requirements.


Feature image credit: J Bar [CC BY 3.0]

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