Adaptive Reuse: Giving Old Buildings a Second Life

After navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of individuals found that they can still operate their businesses successfully while working remotely. Although this is a triumph for the business community, what does it mean for the vacant buildings left behind? Well, there is now a need for adaptive reuse.

This is the concept of taking an old building and reusing it for another purpose. Projects could include reinventing an old school building, repurposing shipping containers as homes, or converting a factory into a multi-use office building. The beauty of adaptive reuse is that it gives buildings a second life with a whole new purpose.

Adaptive Reuse VS Renovation

Adaptive reuse is different from renovation in an important way. Rather than just transforming buildings, adaptive reuse also allows for a whole new purpose. The original use for the building is now completely different. This allows cities to re-evaluate old or abandoned spaces, which is a great way to preserve historic buildings. Why build a new hotel, library, or shopping center when you can reinvent an old structure with history and charm?


Because these projects require repurposing an old building, there won’t be the advantage of designing from the ground up. This is why there needs to be meticulous planning when it comes to repurposing these spaces. When a new building is in construction, there is no floor or roof, which is helpful when it comes to getting materials into the building. So, when dealing with floors, walls, and ceilings already installed, you could be presented with unexpected challenges.

Fire Station in Detroit

An example of an adaptive reuse project is Michigan’s oldest fire department, which was converted into a boutique hotel. The five-story fire station was built in 1929. After the fire department moved out in 2013, the Aparium Hotel Group converted the building into a 100-room boutique hotel.

The neat thing about adaptive reuse is that you can still keep a lot of the original, historic aesthetics. For example, this new hotel has kept the industrial look of the fire station while adding salvaged wood and lighting from Detroit businesses. Photos of the transformation are both incredible and inspiring. 

Old to New

Although the demand for new construction is high, it’s also neat to see historical spaces made new again. These new, repurposed buildings have so much character, and people are drawn to that. There are so many inspiring adaptive reuse projects out there such as the 1900s Wonder Bread Factory that converted to a loft-style office development in 2013. They even kept the Wonder Bread sign on the front of the building for a memorable touch. Also, a 115-year-old dry good store in Louisville converted into a mixed-use commercial building with a gallery, an event space, offices, and a conference room.

These projects are the perfect way to breathe new life into old buildings, while still keeping the historic elements. At Waldron Carpentry, we love the idea of preserving these original structures, but also making them new with adaptive reuse. Their stories will live on!

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