Adaptive reuse projects are an unusually sophisticated breed of building that requires a level of invention unlike any project in today’s market. While maintaining the charming characteristics of the old with noticeable new enhancements a project can be transformed into one of the most desirable properties in the community.
HLW has been involved in a large variety of adaptive reuse with some of the most successful results in the community. Many of our developer clients have reaped large profits on projects from 12655 Jefferson project in Playa Vista California at 49 million to the Reserve in Playa at over 200 million. The success comes from HLW’s unique ability to create a unique informal environment that is drastically different than the typical office environment.
One of the most challenging aspects of adaptive reuse is keeping the costs of refurbishment under control. If the existing building conditions are not well documented than unexpected existing conditions can drive costs upward quickly. A set of older and precise construction drawings can be the difference between a project on budget and one that has many cost extras. Using an accurate Revit survey after soft demolition of the project when there are little to no drawings of the building can help to offset many of the unknown conditions. For a Proffessional Honorary Organization project in Beverly Hills CA, the existing drawings done over 30 years ago were excellent and allowed HLW to create an accurate model of the existing conditions which kept the project on budget with little to no unhidden conditions. For the Hotel Bel Air project the building had no existing drawings and remained occupied until construction started. At every turn in the project there were unexpected field conditions and unanticipated damage to the building and its structure.
Adaptive Reuse projects are also inherently more complicated than ground up new buildings. They involve the ability to enhance the existing conditions yet maintain a strict and tight budget. Components of the design need to be crafted with care to give the client the most for their investment. Parts of the buildings just need to be cleaned up and enhanced while other areas require an intervention that creates the unique sense of space. For our 2020 Maple project in California we created a linear interior courtyard effectively dividing the building in two and bringing in light into the large volume. This intervention was necessary to break up the large volume of the warehouse that was too far from exterior windows.
Adaptive Reuse projects may also prove challenging in acquiring building permits for construction. For large scale warehouse conversions to creative office the change of use typically ups the parking requirements and required a change of use from the local authorities. Structural or voluntary structural upgrades may be required to bring the building up to code as well as partial roof restructuring to handle the larger mechanical equipment necessary for the change of use. The building is also required to be insulated and to meet accessibility standards for universal design. On the other side, many City jurisdictions make the zoning approval process more streamlined for existing buildings. Since these buildings already exist they typically have existing building rights that make for a simplified permitting process. In the case of a ground up new building there can be extensive zoning and planning approvals by the City jurisdiction which can take years whereas an existing renovated project may be able to be reviewed by City staff for approval and be constructed in months after submission.
There is something very special about an adaptive reuse project that sets it apart from traditional office buildings. In many cases it may just be the nature of the business that once occupied the building or the older industrial components and details of the older building. For HLW’s project located at 4th and Traction in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles, the project once was a manufacturing plant of Coca Cola syrup in 1911. There are unique operable thin profile steel windows reminiscent of the 1920’s as well as a unique bell shaped concrete capital at each of the columns. These unique features typically never found on newer buildings but are prevalent on many older warehouses and older buildings create this charm. For a Playa Vista tech giant, the conversion of a warehouse once used by Howard Hughes for helicopter fabrication speaks volumes on the ‘cool factor’ associated with occupying these buildings.