Wasted opportunities: Developing resiliency in architecture through ecosystem biomimicry
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Permanent link to Research Bank record:http://hdl.handle.net/10652/1433
As architects we conceive of our buildings as finished products, our labours forever immortalised in them. But buildings are never finished; they are subject to multiple changes in occupation, repair and replacement as a result of wear-and-tear, renovation and replanning, the ‘finishes’ weathering constructs and cosmetic alterations. When buildings are stubborn to adapt they are at risk of demolition, with their materials becoming waste. Architecture does not have to resist change, and does not have to be wasteful. We can instead rethink a building as a long duration ‘work-in-progress’, constantly developing and changing incrementally under changing conditions of context; designed to be readily susceptible – not resistant – to adaptation and growth. This research collates a set of architectural strategies derived from attributes common within biological ecosystems to aid the design, construction and maintenance of a resilient, adaptive, built environment. These strategies include increasing adaptability through incremental construction; designing capacity for future development; establishing lifespan hierarchies of building layers to aid maintenance and repair; design for disassembly and framing the programme to welcome change.Waste reduction strategies include the adaptive reuse of existing buildings; reinvestment of surplus materials and components of the existing building in its adaptation; use of natural and artificial waste materials and components ‘harvested’ from sources local to the site. The focus on the energy-conservative re-use of existing buildings and materials represents a positive response to the environmental sustainability imperative. Yet, whilst gently adding layers and texture over time through gradual, incremental growth, this re-use paradigm also ensures a continuing social familiarity with the urban landscape and the sustainability of associated memory. The following body of research is grounded in the premise that change is inevitable and that buildings should reflect this. It critically examines each attribute of an ecosystem; surveys current writings and precedents; and appraises the application of re-use strategies. The research is applied and tested in the adaptive re-use of an existing electricity substation building and site in the city-fringe suburb of Kingsland in Auckland, New Zealand.