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What is obsolescence? Numerous older housing blocks have been knocked down because of being obsolete. There is a general understanding that buildings, like machinery and durable consumer goods, should be replaced when they become obsolete. But is this true? Obsolescence is a serious threat for built property. Given its immobile, long lasting and capital intensive character and its societal and cultural significance on the one hand and the high uncertainty about their future lives on the other, minimizing obsolescence is indispensible for the up keeping of the physical, economical and societal investments involved. This article explores the characteristics and symptoms of obsolescence, how can they be diagnosed and when and to what extent is demolition an unavoidable consequence? Due to the limited availability of empirical sources, the approach is mainly inventory and conceptual, based on literature search supported by previous empirical work.
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Management and Innovation for a Sustainable Built Environment ISBN: 9789052693958
20 – 23 June 2011, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Delft University of Technology, OTB Research Institute for the Built Environment
The Netherlands
Delft University of Technology, Fac. Architecture, Dept. Real Estate & Housing
The Netherlands
What is obsolescence? Numerous older housing blocks have been knocked down because of
being obsolete. There is a general understanding that buildings, like machinery and durable
consumer goods, should be replaced when they become obsolete. But is this true?
Obsolescence is a serious threat for built property. Given its immobile, long lasting and
capital intensive character and its societal and cultural significance on the one hand and the
high uncertainty about their future lives on the other, minimizing obsolescence is
indispensible for the up keeping of the physical, economical and societal investments
This article explores the characteristics and symptoms of obsolescence, how can they be
diagnosed and when and to what extent is demolition an unavoidable consequence?
Due to the limited availability of empirical sources, the approach is mainly inventory and
conceptual, based on literature search supported by previous empirical work.
Keywords: building management, building pathology, decision making, life cycle extension,
What is obsolescence? Numerous older housing blocks have been knocked down because of
being obsolete. The recent discussion about the demolition of Ringo Starr’s birthplace
illustrates on the one hand the emotional character of the subject, but also that there is a
general understanding that the life span of buildings, like machinery and durable consumer
goods, is determined by becoming obsolete with demolition as a necessary end (Taylor,
2011). But is this true? Not for monuments and other structures with heritage or other
intrinsic values that may not be demolishes, not for empty out of service structures on
valueless land that no one will demolish, and even not for obsolete worn down property as
long as the owners and users love it and it does not harm its environment. Even if
obsolescence is defined as a condition that justifies demolition, there are other solutions like
renovation, reuse and transformation to extend the service life of buildings. On the other
hand, obsolescence is not a necessary condition for demolition, and pretended obsolescence is
not necessary always the true reason for pulling down existing building (Thomsen and van
der Flier, 2009b).
Obsolescence is a serious threat for built property. Given its immobile, long lasting and
capital intensive character and its societal and cultural significance on the one hand and the
high uncertainty about their future lives on the other, minimizing obsolescence is
indispensible for the up keeping of the physical, economical and societal investments
Since the awareness of the fundamental paradigm change from the massive new construction
in the 20
century to the sustaining of the existing stock, the significance of careful
maintenance and adaption is undisputed but still often ignored (Thomsen, 2010). The
awareness of the huge ecological burden and the consequential need for physical and social
sustainable improvement of the built environment further underpins the significance of useful
life cycle extension of the building stock.
Obsolescence is not a natural phenomenon but a function of human action. Buildings are
complex man-made artefacts and can only survive by means of regular reinvestments during
its long service life. As a result the total life cycle costs will generally be a multiple of the
initial building costs (Boussabaine and Kirkham, 2004; Woodward, 1997). These high costs
demonstrate the relevance of avoiding and minimizing obsolescence and the need for
knowledge how to achieve that.
However, the available knowledge about the prevention and management of obsolescence is
scarce. Libraries are filled with publications about the initial phase of building; resources on
the service life are scarce and on the terminal phase almost inexistent. Bibliographic search
machines show an abundance of hits on obsolescence and demolition, but they are mainly
casuistic and descriptive. The available theoretical knowledge is limited, empirical data are
scarce and evidence based applicable expertise is hardly present nor accessible.
This article explores the characteristics and symptoms of obsolescence. Based on the
available literature and following previous research, answers are explored for three research
1. What is obsolescence, what is its role in the life cycle of buildings and its effect on the
built environment?
2. How and to what extend can it be avoided, diagnosed and cured?
3. What is the relation to end of life phase of buildings, and to what extent is demolition an
unavoidable consequence?
Goal is an inventory of usable and evidence based knowledge to prevent unwanted,
unnecessary obsolescence and to optimize the sustainable use of building stock by life cycle
prolongation and reduction of demolition.
Due to the limited availability of empirical sources, the approach is mainly inventory and
conceptual, based on literature search supported by previous empirical work.
The structure follows the research questions and concludes with recommendations for further
What is obsolescence?
The Oxford Dictionary defines the adjective obsolete as ‘no longer used or practised;
outmoded, out of date’, or ‘worn away, effaced, eroded; worn out, dilapidated; atrophied’,
and the noun obsolescence as ‘the process or fact of becoming obsolete or outdated, or of
falling into disuse’, or more specific ‘the process whereby or state at which machinery,
consumer goods, etc., become obsolete as a result of technological advances, changes in
demand, etc. (OED, 2010). Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary adds to the adjective ‘no longer
current, old-fashioned’ (M-W, 2010).
In practice, the term obsolete is mainly used to point at the discarding of all kind of subjects.
A search on Google Scholar resulted in about 300,000 hits, commonly articles like "Is xxx
obsolete?", with xxx varying from market mentality to vectorcardiography and prisons, but of
the first 250 none about buildings (GoogleScolar, 2010). Housing and property obsolescence
is nonetheless a significant design and management issue. The degradation over time should
be regarded as the fourth dimension in building as it largely determines the performance,
usability, occupants satisfaction and life cycle costs of built facilities (Iselin and Lemer,
1993). Given the immobile, long lasting and capital intensive character of built property and
its societal and cultural significance on the one hand and the high uncertainty about their
future lives on the other, minimizing obsolescence is thus an essential professional skill of
designers, developers and facility managers.
Obsolescence of building stocks
Obsolescence can have a wide range of causes. The fact that buildings are composed of a
multitude of elements and materials with different life cycle characteristics makes an extra
confusing complication. This is mirrored in the available literature, showing a confusing
variety of categorisations like physical, economic, financial, functional, locational,
environmental, political, market, style and control obsolescence, all focussing on a specific
causal factor and subsequent explanatory and problem solving concept.
One main causal factor, inherent to the word obsolete, is overall acknowledged: the factor
time i.e. age. But age alone is not a decisive clarification, considering the huge diversities in
occurrence of obsolescence between and within buildings and building types. Why are some
age old houses still very popular while others are demolished before the trees grow to
maturity? For more clarity and a better understanding it is first necessary to order the subject
by distinguishing the major characteristics: the nature of causes and effects, the different
levels of scale, the building category and building type, and the kind of tenure and control.
Most categorisations of obsolescence are based on the nature of causes and/or on the effects.
Regarding the causes the most acknowledged and widely applied distinction is between
physical factors, related to material processes, and behavioural factors, related to human
actions, and the interactions between them. Where most of the attention was originally
pointed at the physical decay of the buildings and building parts, the awareness of the
behavioural and environmental impact has gradually grown (Nutt et al., 1976) and is
nowadays acknowledged as decisive for most processes of obsolescence (van Kempen et al.,
2006). The effects are commonly divided in technical and economical obsolescence (Iselin
and Lemer, 1993).
Regarding the scale, obsolescence can appear separately or combined on the level of building
materials, parts and elements, constructions, separate buildings, blocks, quarters and
neighbourhoods. It can be regarded as a range of diseases, spreading over and mutually
affecting different levels of scale, i.e. timber blight and lacking maintenance can corrode the
market position of dwellings and trigger filtering processes, while reversely the inflow of
more vulnerable residents can seriously hamper maintenance investments.
Regarding the building category, there are essential differences between residential and non-
residential buildings. Apart from differences in purpose, use, funding, management and
legislation, housing is a rather stable function with a long life cycle expectancy, where non-
residential functions like office, retail, leisure, trade and industry often have a short cycle of
usage and adaptation and consequential different vulnerability for obsolescence. Building
types, shapes and functions are often interrelated, sometimes very strong as e.g. water towers
and churches, posing strong restrictions for reuse and transformation; sometimes less curbing
or in contrary facilitating a wide range of functions, like manor houses converted in offices
and back again in residences, and warehouses converted in apartments, the origin of lofts,
space and structure being the main determining factors (Markus et al., 1972).
Tenure is decisive for property management and control. In this regard there are essential
differences between rented and owned property, as well as between profit and non-profit and
between single and joint ownership. (Itard and Meijer, 2008). This holds in particular for
residential property, as social and institutional landlords are as a rule organisations with
skilled professionals but limited control on usage and care, whereas single owner-occupiers
generally lack any proficiency but have in principle full control on usage and care. Small
landlords and condominium owners take a middle position, with limited control on usage and
care and often lacking professional support. Similar relations can be found in non-residential
property like shopping centres.
In relation with building category and tenure, building type has a strong influence on the
usage and the appreciation of property. Detached, terraced, multi-storey, high-rise etc. have a
significant influence on the property value. The inventory above is not exhaustive; real estate
agents will immediately add size, location, situation, architecture, services and facilities
(Isaac and Steley, 1999), illustrating the complex influences on property value development
as itself a determining variable of obsolescence.
Obsolescence, a conceptual model.
Often used categorisations of obsolescence distinguish on the one hand internal and external
factors (Iselin and Lemer, 1993) and on the other hand physical and behavioural factors (Nutt
et al., 1976). Assembled in a quadrant matrix, similar to the one used for building evaluations
(Leaman, Stevenson, and Bordass, 2010) results in figure.1.
Figure 1 Obsolescence, conceptual model
Internal or endogenous factors are related to processes typical for the building itself. The
processes can be physical, like degradation and deterioration over time, caused by ageing,
wear and weathering or fatigue of materials and structures, or by poor design, construction,
lacking maintenance and adaptations (quadrant A in figure 1). They also can be behavioural,
like damage by maltreatment, overload, misuse or by changes in functions, use and occupants
behaviour (quadrant C in figure 1). External or exogenous factors are related to influences
from outside. They can have physical effects, like the impact of changing conditions in the
environment by nearby constructions, traffic, pollution, noise, seismic activity etc., or by
changes in government regulations, building codes and fiscal conditions, rising standards and
functional requirements and new technologies (quadrant B in figure 1) They can also have
behavioural effects like filtering and social deprivation processes in the neighbourhood,
criminality, urban and planners blight, or like depreciation and loss of market position and
value as a result of new technology, changing fashions and user preferences, the availability
of better alternatives or simply a shrinking demand (quadrant D in figure 1).
The diagonal line from quadrant A to D also depicts the increase of complexity regarding
scale and participants and the corresponding decrease of control. The physical factors in
quadrant A are relatively uncomplicated and can be well controlled and managed by the
proprietor. The mainly use related factors in quadrant C are more complex and less easily
controlled, while the mainly environmental factors in quadrant B are generally beyond
control of the proprietor, as well as the highly complex factors in quadrant D. From the
opposite direction, threats coming from the exogenous behavioural corner can have very
serious effects. Where direct control fails, proprietors answers have to be found in timely
anticipation and intervention.
Many of the aspects in figure 1 are interrelated (Grigsby et al., 1987; Prak and Priemus,
1986). The interrelation can be demonstrated by looking at the actual environmental
challenge of energy efficiency. The energy performance of buildings is on the one hand
determined by the energetic quality of the physical design and construction (quadrant A)as
measured in the EPBD (quadrant B), but on the other depending of the users behaviour
(quadrant C). A low EPBD rating and high energy bill can weaken the market position
(quadrant D) and consequently have either have a negative impact on the chances for
improvements in the direction of C, B and A, resulting in increased obsolescence, or be a
stimulant for improvement actions. A similar reasoning can be applied on social deprivation,
being another major contemporary threat.
1.1. Obsolescence and the life cycle of buildings.
Obsolescence is commonly regarded as the beginning of the end-of-life phase of buildings.
Sources about the life cycle of buildings show a variety of terms. The building and
development trade commonly refers to the development cycle, consisting of the development
phase, including the design and the construction phase, and the usage phase, consisting of the
actual use and the reuse or end-of-life phase (de Jonge and Arkesteijn, 2008). Sources
regarding the life span, building pathology and mortality of buildings more often refer to the
physical life or real life, being the period of physical existence, including the usage and end-
of-life phase. This is in line with most national building stock statistics that in general only
state withdrawal from the residential stock, in some countries subdivided by withdrawal by
demolition and/or disaster, merging with other buildings and loss of function (Dol and
Haffner, 2010).
The usage phase has now a formal definition: the service life, being ‘the period of time
during which a building or its parts meet or exceed performance requirements(ISO, 2000).
Bradley and Kohler state that the end of the service life can be the end of the physical life but
can also be just the indication of the expected time horizon. They also refer to the economic
life, being ‘an assumed period of time over which the costs and benefits of buildings are
assessed for purposes of making decisions about design and management’, adding that this
term when used for accounting or fiscal or other legal requirements is not necessary related to
the likely service life time (Bradley and Kohler, 2007).
Analysing the influence of decay, several authors depict the life cycle as a function of a
building’s performance capacity over time (Awano, 2006; Iselin and Lemer, 1993; Markus et
al., 1972; Miles, Berens, and Weiss, 2007; Nutt et al., 1976; Vroman, 1982). Following
Markus cs., Iselin and Lemer illustrate obsolescence as the extending divergence over time
between the declining performance and the steadily rising expectations. Miles cs. more
specifically look at the economic performance of buildings, from the first investments in the
development phase, the regular operation in the stabilization phase, the growing obsolescence
in the decline phase through the final end of life. Combining these concepts results in figure
2, showing the effects of maintenance and reinvestment.
Figure 2 Obsolescence and service life (not to scale)
Maintenance is required to maintain a building’s initial performance capacity. Without
maintenance the performance will not meet the demand and eventually drop below the limit
of acceptance of users or residents and the expected service life will not be reached, resulting
in serious loss of efficacy.
In practice, both the demand and the limit of acceptance will gradually rise over time as a
result of improved technology, rising standards and growing prosperity. Improvement and
renewal are required to answer the accordingly rising expectations. By adding performance
capacity the period of highest efficacy can be considerably extended and the service life
prolonged. Assessment of the loss and benefits of alternative interventions in this way is part
of nowadays professional property and facility management (Boussabaine and Kirkham,
Apart from proficiency, financial ability and insight of urgency play a decisive role. For some
building categories and functions with a short life cycle like retail and industrial facilities,
regular refurbishment and adaptation are accepted preconditions to uphold its market position
respectively accommodate to changing needs. But in many other cases renewal and
improvement is less obvious, due to lacking means and/or urgency. For example in the
residential sector, only non-profit landlords maintain and improve their stock in a regularly
planned way; most private landlords lack the means for substantial reinvestment, institutional
landlords lack the urgency as they generally will sell their dwellings before they need major
improvements, while the majority of owner-occupiers lack both means and urgency (Oxley,
2004; Thomsen and Meijer, 2007). As a result major improvements in the owner-occupied
sector are generally combined with the purchase and financing by a new owner.
In the last decade, sustainability and more particularly energy efficiency is of growing
importance for the market position of built property. Improving the energetic performance
has become a strong rationale for additional investment in structural improvement of
buildings and dwellings, imposing threats as well as opportunities for the existing older stock
(Thomsen and Van der Flier, 2010).
Obsolescence and life cycle management: prevention, diagnosis and cure
Though highly theoretical, the conceptual models of figure 1 and 2 give in a nutshell the
basic ingredients to analyse, avoid and cure obsolescence. In practice, the development of
obsolescence is much more complicated and the range of methods and instruments to avoid
and cure obsolescence likewise broad.
Given the long life and capital intensive character of buildings, prevention is the most
effective and efficient approach to avoid obsolescence. Prevention consists of systematic
periodic analytic anticipation on all influences that are potential threats for the performance
of buildings. Lijbers found four circumstantial factors for decay and obsolescence in the
Dutch early post-war housing stock: design, construction, use and management, of which the
design was by far the main causal factor (Lijbers, Thijssen, and Westra, 1984). A variety of
surveys on different stock in different countries came to the same conclusion. They
emphasize the importance of on the one side appropriate functional and circumstantial
analyses underlying the functional program, including future developments (Iselin and
Lemer, 1993), and on the other the building’s spatial and structural flexibility to
accommodate future changes (Brand, 1994; Maver, 1979; Till, 2009; van Nunen, 2010).
Prevention should thus start in the earliest initial stage with an open eye to anticipating on
changes, but should in fact never stop.
The diagnosis of obsolescence follows prevention as the next step in the systematic periodic
analyses of stock performance. In the same way as prevention it requires in the first place an
open eye for early symptoms and trends that may foster negative effects on all quadrants of
figure 1, being the base of systematic maintenance and management. This implies in quadrant
A the systematic periodical inspection of the property, to be implemented in maintenance
schemes (Harris, 2001; Straub, 2008; Watt, 2007), but also in quadrant B, C and D as
indications for possible improper use, changing circumstances and conditions, and last but
not least evaluated and fed back as preventive input to be used when programming new
Apart from physical decay, obsolescence is more and more related to exogenous factors on a
larger scale like unattractiveness of the neighbourhood and/or the availability of more
attractive alternative options (Wassenberg, van Meer, and van Kempen, 2007). Nutt
paid in their then breaking analytic models for housing obsolescence much attention to the
allocation and movement of residents (Nutt et al., 1976). In the rented housing sector, but
also in the retail, leisure and hotel sector, regular market analyses are necessary both for
assessing the core business as for monitoring the buildings as main capital assets (Gruis and
Nieboer, 2004).
Based on an international comparative evaluative survey of the regeneration of larger social
rented housing estates, Van Kempen developed a comprehensive framework for the
diagnosis and cure of decay and obsolescence (van Kempen et al., 2006). Though based on
residential property, it gives a clear basis for housing as well as for non-residential property
Figure 3 Managing housing obsolescence, analytical model (source: van Kempen 2006)
Obsolescence and demolition
The end of life phase is a normal part of the life cycle of buildings. Without adequate cure,
obsolescence will eventually result in the end of the service life, generally by demolition.
Exceptions are monuments and other structures with heritage or other intrinsic values that no
one may demolish, and empty out of service structures on valueless land that no one will
demolish. Even if obsolescence is defined as a condition that justifies demolition, there are
other solutions like renovation, reuse and transformation to extend the service life of
buildings. On the other hand, obsolescence is not a necessary condition for demolition, and
pretended obsolescence is not necessary always the true reason for demolition. Apart from
obsolescence, there can be many reasons to -or not to - demolish. To what degree these
reasons become decisive motives depends on the interests and disposition rights and the
capacities of the party involved.
Despite an abundance of case studies and descriptions (LibraryofCongress, 2010), empirical
knowledge about the decision-making in the final phase of the life cycle of buildings and the
underlying motives is scarce and fragmented. Data about demolition of non-residential
property are generally not included in the statistics nor available from other resources. As a
consequence, quantitative data are only available from the residential stock of the 19 out of
the 27 EU members that supply any, of which only 9 on an a rather complete annual base,
while the qualitative knowledge comes almost exclusively from the social rented stock and/or
urban renewal areas of these 9 countries. Furthermore the definition of what is included in the
records varies considerably.
Looking at the available data as shown in Figure 4, the rate of demolition differs considerably
between countries, varying from 0,05% and below in France, the UK and Sweden to over
0,3% in the Netherlands.
Figure 4 Demolition rate Western-Europe.
According to a survey of demolition by housing associations in the Netherlands, over 60% of
the demolitions were motivated by functional and structural obsolescence, in the pre-war
stock even over 90%. Including economic motives and oversupply, 87% of the demolitions
were attributed to a kind of obsolescence and 13% to urban planning (Thomsen and
Andeweg-van Battum, 2004). Additional questioning and information showed though that the
decision making was also strongly influenced by social problems and more hidden profit
driven motives like the land value, urban and asset policy and deals with the municipality and
was biased by prejudices about the quality and costs of renewal versus new construction
(Thomsen and van der Flier, 2009b).
Empirical data about demolition motives in the private owned stock are almost absent. The
available information shows that, apart from acquisition for urban redevelopment, almost all
of the demolition in the owner-occupied sector concerns detached dwellings after purchase by
a new owner. The explanation is simple: residing owners do not likely pull down their homes
and accordance between multiple owners in apartment blocks to do that is a rare exception;
this in contrast with new owners who either decide to replace instead of refurbish the original
dwelling, or are just in search of land for new construction.
The conclusion is all together that obsolescence does not necessary lead to demolition, nor
that demolition is necessary preceded by obsolescence. It can certainly be a motive or at least
a trigger for the decision between demolition or life cycle extension, depending on the
interests, motives and capacities of the proprietor.
Recent studies point at the unwanted environmental, social and economic impact of
demolition and conclude that life cycle extension by improvement, renovation and renewal is
a better and more sustainable solution (Itard, Klunder, and Visscher, 2006; Power, 2010;
Thomsen and van der Flier, 2009b). Though based on housing, the outcomes for non-
residential stock with regard to environmental sustainability, e.g. building waste and energy
use, will probably not be different. The conclusion is as yet that the limited building
replacement capacity, being anyhow insufficient for mass replacement (Thomsen, 2010)
should be used for life cycle extension of the existing stock. This underpins on the one hand
the need for appropriate life cycle management as described above, but also the relevance of
careful decision-making before the execution of final destruction.
Knowledge about the decision-making in the final phase of the life cycle of buildings and the
underlying motives is scarce and fragmented. It is generally regarded as a black box, in which
a complex range of interrelated and often conflicting interests and expectations of different
parties are blended with the interests, considerations and expectations of the proprietor, with
the latter as decisive condition for the outcome. Following a more elaborated analysis of the
decision process and underlying motives of proprietors, physical quality and market demand
can be considered as the main decisive variables, with tenure and asset management as main
conditional factors (Thomsen and van der Flier, 2009b). Though explanatory in the Dutch
setting, comparative findings are not yet available and use for forecasting or influencing the
outcome is as yet beyond reach.
This article explores the characteristics and causes of obsolescence resulting in a conceptual
model of causes of obsolescence and effects. It distinguishes between on the one hand
physical and behavioural factors and on the other endogenous and exogenous factors. It
shows the inverse relation between the increase of complexity of types of obsolescence and
the decrease of possibilities to manage it. Obsolescence as a process is described as the
growing divergence between the declining performance of buildings and the rising
expectations of users and proprietors. Obsolescence is often regarded as the start of the end-
of-life phase of buildings. However, obsolescence is not an inevitable natural phenomenon
but a function of human action, read decision making. It does not necessary lead to
demolition as demolition is not always preceded by obsolescence.
Obsolescence is a serious threat for built property. Given its immobile, long lasting and
capital intensive character, its societal and cultural significance, and the high uncertainty
about its future lives, minimizing obsolescence is important for the preservation of the
physical, economical and societal investments involved. However, facing the paradigm
change from new construction to maintenance and adaptation and the resulting huge task to
improve the performance of the existing stock, the knowledge about the management of
obsolescence is insufficient. Further research about the causes of obsolescence and about
decision making about life cycle extension or demolition is therefore required.
Concentrating on the residential sector different questions should be investigated about the
owner occupied sector and about the non-profit rental sector and different research designs
are appropriate. Although the causes for obsolescence in both sectors of the housing market
can be the same the decision making in both sectors varies resulting from different objectives
and capacities of owner occupiers and professional housing managers. The availability of
knowledge and data about management and decision making in both sectors differs too, as
relevant knowledge about the owner occupied sector is very scarce compared with the non-
profit rented sector.
For the owner occupied sector a twofold research strategy may be appropriate. On the one
hand the collection of basic quantitative data about numbers of demolition and possible
causal factors by means of surveys using the model, depicted in this paper and on the other
hand explorative case studies to elaborate a conceptual scheme about the decision making in
this sector. Different from the non-profit sector the decision making by residents in the owner
occupied sector seems to be related with their housing career: decisions are often related to
change in household composition or to a move to another dwelling. The capacities of owner
occupiers are also much more limited than the capacities of professional housing managers.
In the social rented sector more quantitative data are available so it is possible to start testing
assumptions about causes and effects of obsolescence and about relations with interventions
by housing managers. Different from the owner occupied sector the decision making in the
non-profit sector seems to be mainly related to asset management and policy objectives.
Starting from the knowledge about the structure of decision making in this sector it may be
fruitful to compare decision making between non-profit housing providers in different
housing markets or countries to test the effect of external factors like housing policy, housing
culture and housing market. This could be achieved by international comparative research as
described by (Thomsen and van der Flier, 2009a).
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... (Abramson, 2015;Allehaux & Tessier, 2002;Bryson, 1997;Buitelaar et al., 2021;Burton, 1933;Butt et al., 2015;Cowan, 1964;Doratli, 2000Doratli, , 2005Doratli et al., 2004Doratli et al., , 2007Goetz, 2012;Grover & Grover, 2015, 2015Ian Chaplin, 2003;Iselin & Lemer, 1993;J. L. Jacobs, 1941;Khalid, 1994;Kintrea, 2007;Lichfield, 1988;Mansfield & Pinder, 2008;Muminović et al., 2020;Nutt et al., 1976;Nutt & Sears, 1972;Pinder & Wilkinson, 2001Pourebrahimi et al., 2020;Reed & Warren-Myers, 2010;Reilly, 2013;Thomsen et al., 2015;Thomsen & van der Flier, 2011b, 2011aTiesdell et al., 1996;Vehbi & Hoşkara, 2009;Weber, 2002;Wilkinson et al., 2014). ...
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Ulus, the historic city center of Ankara, has been experiencing a steady urban obsolescence process, which threatens the cultural values inherited from prehistoric civilizations to the early republican period and the ongoing urban life in the quarter. Although there are many concepts in the literature that defines urban depression in cities, such as urban decline, blight, and shrinkage, they all have nuances in their theoretical background in terms of causes and effects. In the case of Ankara city and Ulus historic city center, the process of urban depression occurred in a rather different socio-economic pattern than the urban decline processes in modern capitalist cities. For this reason, in this study, the concept of urban obsolescence was applied to identify the problems of Ulus. The problems that historic city centers face is a long-discussed subject in the academic field, especially with the aspects of causes and prevention. There are generally accepted transformation approaches such as revitalization for preserving the assets of these areas while providing a function as a dynamic part of the cities. However, it is recognized that these activities cannot eventuate as successfully as desired in Turkish cities. It is assumed that one of the many reasons behind this situation can be the top-down and expert-based practices in the planning system. In this study, it is hypothesized that there might be important differences between the observation of experts and the evaluations of users. In light of this assumption, an urban obsolescence identification method is formulated to test whether there are remarkable differences between the analyses of an expert from the profession and academy and the evaluations of users of historic quarters.
... Obsolescence is a condition that often justifies demolition (Thomsen & van der Flier, 2011). Recent research by Zawawi and Abdullah (2011) has shown that the threat of obsolescence requires shophouse owners in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to determine the scope of redevelopment. ...
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Fast economic growth and restructuring has resulted in a large number of obsolete buildings in large cities. Many of these buildings represent different eras and building typologies. Some, such as the distinctive shophouses of Southeast Asia, are important heritage legacies. The desire to undertake research related to the obsolescence of shophouses arises from the abandonment and demolition of many of these unique urban assets. Consequently, the aim of this paper is to examine the dimensions of obsolescence in adaptively reused shophouses in the Core Zone of Melaka. This research uses qualitative method through semi-structured interviews to gather information from three case study buildings. These three case study buildings were made up of shophouses which were converted into boutique hotels. NVivo software was employed to assist analysis for the collected data. The research findings indicate that functional and social obsolescence are the most dominant factors influencing all of the case study buildings. Further research is required to find the best formulas for revitalising and converting obsolete shophouses in this area for suitable uses, as this can inform policy and the success of the adaptive reuse of shophouses in the future.
... The phenomenon of structural obsolescence has been discussed by several authors in order to determine whether or not this is a necessary condition for the demolition of an existing building [1]. In fact, maintenance and renovation operations can extend the useful life of a building by delaying the time of its demolition [2]. From this perspective, it is observed that the rehabilitation of existing buildings proves to be a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly choice than demolition and reconstruction, given the lower use of resources and less waste production [3]. ...
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Within the EU’s environmental policy, redevelopment strategies must be designed by adopting an integrated approach. This approach considers energy savings in buildings and seismic safety as driving forces of economic growth. The recent technological evolution experienced by the construction sector has aimed to define a new building element, the seismic coat. This term refers to a structural “skin” that improves both the seismic safety and the energy efficiency of existing buildings according to standards identified by current regulations. With this regard, research was started with the aim of defining a sustainable seismic coat consisting of dry-assembled panels of natural stone blocks that are prestressed with the use of steel reinforcements. The experimentation carried out on the panel so far has shown significant results as the test building improved in terms of energy savings, seismic safety, sustainability, functionality, and aesthetic quality. By taking a case study of a 1960s building as reference, this paper highlights the findings obtained by the feasibility study of the panel, with a special focus on its technical and construction aspects, and to facilitate its manufacture with the use of industrialized processes. Furthermore, this research provides the installation procedures for the panel components and all relevant details regarding the connections with the existing structure of the building.
... The distinction between physical factors, related to the building stock material and technical processes, and behavioural factors, related to human actions, possibilities and struggles, is at the same time explanatory of the causes and descriptive of the effects of the progressive deprivation of the urban existing tissue. (Thomsen et al., 2011(Thomsen et al., , 2015(Thomsen et al., , 2017. In this process, both physical and social factors are entwined and interact. ...
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Socio-residential vulnerability is one of currently increasing challenges for cities and metropolitan areas in addressing the interaction between the vulnerable resident population and the need to improve the building stock, particularly after the financial crisis of 2008 and the consequent regression of public investments. Recent studies have measured and described the levels of vulnerability in the city of Barcelona and their results highlight socio-spatial similarities between urban fabrics that happen to be morphologically, historically and geographically very different. The present research focuses on the assessment of physical and social shortcomings of vulnerable areas in the city of Barcelona. With this purpose, a sample of buildings in some of the most vulnerable neighbourhoods are statistically analysed through a set of variables at building scale related to both the need of improvement of residential existing buildings and the characteristics of their inhabitants. An extensive sample of cases is described through several profiles according to the simultaneity of indicators both from a physical and social perspective. As a result, the cross-analysis of indicators and profiles according to each neighbourhood and urban fabric, contributes to better understanding the specificities of each area. Moreover, the cartography of results provides information on how certain indicators and profiles manifest geographically in the urban fabric and the city. The observation of the combination of shortcomings in the different urban fabrics is a helpful tool for the design of future polices that aim for the improvement of living conditions in vulnerable residential buildings from an integral perspective that aims at addressing both physical and social issues.
... Although this terminology is not frequently used to represent a building's conservation state, its degradation over time results in a state in which the building no longer fulfils its initial functions and becomes obsolete. Given the long life and high initial investment of a building, prevention is needed in an attempt to anticipate possible threats to its performance through maintenance procedures, which maintain for a longer period the requirements for which they were developed (Thomsen and Van Der Flier 2011). ...
Social housing patrimony requires reliable management during its service life that includes refurbishment, maintenance, and conservation plans to maintain buildings’ durability, quality, and performance. Refurbishment actions intend to achieve functional performance parameters equivalent to those currently required, which are necessary to choose appropriate solutions for each situation but, above all, with high durability. An inspection and analyses of a social housing neighborhood was carried out that aimed to assess the durability of refurbishment actions that have been implemented in different phases. The degradation assessment of facades, glazing, and indoor areas using the failure mode, effects, and critical analysis (FMECA) and Mosler methods was carried out. Degradation curves of the different assessed elements were outlined. To meet the expected quality, durability, and comfort requirements, a conclusion was reached as to the most important refurbishment solutions that must be developed and implemented to achieve the predictable durability, resistance to climate actions, and reduced need for maintenance actions.
... The fact that the shophouse sat empty for a number of years will rapidly deteriorating the buildings and eventually cause the buildings to collapse (Mohd Baroldin and Mohd Din, 2012). As argued by Thomsen and Flier (2011), obsolescence is often treated as a condition to justify demolition of existing buildings. For example, shophouses in Kampung Kepayang, Perak which were abandoned and neglected for many years turning the village into ghost town. ...
Conference Paper
The most widespread building type of shophouses characterizes the historic core of Malaysia's towns. Different façade treatment, colours, height and width give a unique character to the buildings and hence contribute to the richness and distinctiveness of places as a whole. The combination of different types of uses or activities within the shophouse further makes the places recognizable. These vernacular buildings however continue to be seriously threatened by urban development and quickly disappearing in an increasingly fast paced developing country. Rapid loss of these valuable buildings necessitates the need for documentation in promoting and retaining a place's architectural and cultural diversity. A survey was conducted in Kuala Lipis, a small town in the state of Pahang, Malaysia to identify distinct shophouses buildings with local cultural significance. This study develops an inventory of 95 shophouse buildings that influence the distinctiveness of the town through its distinctive character and values. This information provides a platform for formulating an evidence-based decisions and policies which incorporate culture in preserving the identity of a place. Field of Research: Documentation
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Preserving historical buildings is a very essential aspect as these buildings represent sociocultural indicators of the past. Historic buildings may lose their function during their life stages and become deserted. Adaptive reuse is a way to sustain a building by changing its function according to its area needs and current context. Qishla Castle is one of Koya, Iraq’s most important historical buildings. In addition to its historical and cultural status, it has an important geographic location in the city center. This paper aims to test the potentiality of reusing this historical building. The Adaptive Reuse Potentiality ARP model was applied to the Qishla Castle in Koya. To apply this model to the Qishla area, a working paper was prepared, including a set of questions to estimate building obsolescence attributes, these questions were answered based on a survey and interviews with experts. Results obtained from experts showed that the building was constructed solidly and to a high level of quality despite its obsolescence. Building physical life is estimated at 250 years, the building age is 152 years, the useful life is estimated at 161 years, ARP value is 62.24%, that is, the Qishla building has a high potential for adaptive reuse.
In this sub-section and once recognized abandonment as a social fact, an analytical schema based on parameters (Sect. 3.1), factors (Sect. 3.2), reasons (Sect. 3.3), policies (Sect. 3.4) is proposed. The aim is to have a richer “toolbox” to critically revisit the issue as a complex problem.
Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are implemented by governments to tap into the private sector’s technological innovativeness and management acumen. However due to the dynamism of technological developments, equipment that still serves a purpose for which it was designed, could be rendered obsolete within a very short space of time. PPPs have very rigid contractual arrangements that most of the times are designed to ensure compliance and to minimise contractual entropy. The hospital PPPs pose a special problem as the cutting edge equipment that is critical to save lives could unexpectedly be introduced into the market blindsiding long-standing plans into the management of the facility. Using three PPP Hospital projects in South Africa, the issue of equipment obsolescence management was investigated.
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Buildings are major long lasting assets of the society and business enterprises and form a significant part of infrastructure management. They require continual maintenance and in many cases they can become inap-propriate for their original purpose due to obsolescence and are demolished. The present contribution ex-plores the obsolescence of buildings and in particular the definitions of obsolescence, the related influenc-ing factors and the associated uncertainties. Thereby definitions of the obsolescence rate based on the physi-cal and useful (service) life are clarified. The experienced useful life of buildings in Finland, Germany and North America is statistically analysed, utilizing available databases, and comparisons with the design (minimum) working life specified in standards are made. The probability of not exceeding the required min-imum service life is evaluated and discussed. Whereas many factors affecting the obsolescence rate are be-yond the control of civil engineers, particular attention needs to be paid to cases where the service life of the structure is determined by physical aspects related to deterioration. These cases are identified and recom-mendations to improve structural design are offered. The service life and the related renewal rate is influ-encing the risk acceptance criteria as given in ISO 2394. Such criteria are derived on the basis of economic optimization and the LQI marginal safety costs principle. A statistical model for the renewal rate is obtained and its influence on the target reliability is investigated for a representative failure limit state. The influence of the obsolescence rate is quantified and critically disputed.
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What is better: improvement or replacement by new construction? The choice between life cycle extension and replacement of existing buildings is at itself a vital but very difficult decision, involving a wide range of different aspects and affecting several contrary and often conflicting interests. The emerging ecological awareness of the building and real estate trade tends up to now mainly towards improving the energy efficiency of buildings. The introduction of the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is intended to seduce proprietors of existing buildings to upgrade their stock to the green top of the label range. Especially in the case of older building, the question will raise to what extent the investments needed to achieve that level countervail replacement by new construction. In the past decade we studied the decision making on demolition in the Netherlands. Based on the available literature and statistical data we analysed the actual practice in the Netherlands and built a conceptual framework for further comparative and case study research. In addition to this research we placed the choice between improvement and replacement in a sustainable context, made an inventory of existing literature about comparative findings, analysed the outcomes and compared them with our own findings. Overlooking the results so far we concluded that life cycle extension by renovation and reuse of existing stock is generally more sustainable, more effective and more efficient as replacement by new construction. But how valid is this conclusion under different circumstances, in particular substantially aggravated energy performance requirements? To answer this question, our paper distinguishes the most determining variables for the decision-making, discusses the possible outcomes and concludes with recommendations for the decision-making process.
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Based on experiences of carrying out building-performance studies in non-domestic buildings in the United Kingdom and around the world, the question is addressed of how these might apply in the emerging area of housing evaluation studies. Principles are offered covering both non-domestic and domestic buildings. The research area and approach are defined, and types of feedback and their effectiveness are explored, along with the sorts of methods that should be used and some wider topics including duty of care and some of the implications of ‘real-world’ research. Key lessons from fieldwork are presented.Sur la base de l'expérience acquise en réalisant des études sur les performances des bâtiments dans des bâtiments non résidentiels au Royaume-Uni et à travers le monde, la question est abordée de savoir comment celle-ci pourrait s'appliquer au secteur émergent des études d'évaluation des logements. Des principes sont proposés, couvrant à la fois les bâtiments résidentiels et non résidentiels. Le domaine de recherche et l'approche sont définis, et les types de feedback comme leur efficacité sont examinés, ainsi que les types de méthodes qui devraient être utilisés, mais aussi certains thèmes plus larges, incluant le devoir de diligence et certaines des implications découlant des recherches en «situation réelle». Les principaux enseignements de ces travaux de terrain sont présentés.Mots clés: évaluation des bâtiments, performances des bâtiments, évaluation énergétique, feedback, enquêtes auprès des occupants, évaluation après occupation, recherches en situation réelle
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revised) The 20 th century saw an enormous worldwide growth of the housing stock. In particular the building boom after WW-II, during which the housing stock in most countries was multi-folded, focussed the attention of the housing sector primarily to the planning and realisation of new construction; the consciousness of the enormous maintenance and management task to come was still a far cry. The begin of the 21 st century shows a completely different situation that urges for a paradigm shift. New construction in most western countries has faded down below an annual production of 1% of the existing stock, and often well below. Parallel to this, the ageing existing stock draws growing attention. The necessary investments in major repairs, renovation, adaptation and redevelopment count at present for a total turn-over well beyond that of new construc-tion. Improving the energy efficiency to the required standards of tomorrow will give these investments a strong extra boost. Though the change from new addition to the adaptation and transformation of the existing stock is well under way, large parts of the construction and real estate practice seems hardly aware and to stick to business as usual: new constriction, if not in greenfields then in brown-fields. The knowledge about how and when to successfully maintain, manage, adapt, trans-form and redesign has still a way to go. At the same time, the awareness grows that housing problems are only partly related to the physical supply side and solving them requires more than bricks and mortar. The paper illustrates the paradigm shift in Western Europe and explores the consequences for the future management of the housing stock.
Whole life-cycle costing (WLCC) is rapidly becoming the standard method for the long-term cost appraisal of buildings and civil infrastructure projects. With clients now demanding buildings that demonstrate value for money over the long term, WLCC has become an essential tool for those involved in the design, construction, operation and risk analysis of construction projects. Whole-life costing: risk and risk responses offers a thorough grounding in both the theory and practical application of WLCC. Part I deals with the fundamentals, providing the general background to appreciate WLCC concepts and whole life risk management techniques at the key decision-making milestones through a project's life. Part II covers the design stage, including service life forecasting and environmental life-cycle assessment techniques in WLCC. Practical frameworks both for assessing whole life risks and risk responses, as well as guidance on developing WLCC budget estimates are also developed. In Part III, the authors consider WLCC during the construction and operations stages, with a strong emphasis upon risk analysis methods and dynamic WLCC assessment. With its mixture of established theory, best practice and innovative approaches, this book will help you make more accurate assessments of the long-term cost effectiveness of projects by: Providing a thorough grounding in the theory of WLCC. Demonstrating how decision-making uncertainty can be reduced by basing choices on sound risk management principles. Identifying a systematic approach to planning the post-occupancy costs.
The choice between replacement and life cycle extension of existing buildings implies a vital but very difficult decision, involving a wide range of aspects and affecting contradictory and often conflicting interests. Originally, building quality and public health played a decisive role in improvement of the housing stock, mainly by slum clearance. More recently, functional and economic considerations tend to dominate the decision-making, resulting in increasing demolition and demolition waste. Although environmental aspects (e.g. energy consumption and building waste) are of growing importance, sustainability does not seem to be a major aspect in the choice between demolition and life cycle extension until now. To address the questions of what is more sustainable: replacement or life cycle extension, the decision-making processes surrounding housing demolition in the Netherlands are analysed and a conceptual framework is created. Sustainability has the potential to be a major criterion in housing stock management and, in particular, on the decision processes about dwelling replacement or life cycle extension. From that point of view, life cycle extension is often a better solution than demolition.
A new methodology is presented for estimating age distribution and survival functions of an urban building stock. This allows for a random sample of the undemolished stock together with a complete inventory count of the demolished part to create a Kaplan-Meier estimator for the survival function. This method can be applied to any building stock with difficult access to data. A demonstration of this method is applied to a sample of German urban stock and used to illustrate the data-collection process, the survival analysis and an estimate of the dynamics. Findings from this sample indicate a slower dynamic in the residential part in comparison with the non-residential part, which is related to seemingly different survival functions. Another finding is that the percentage of undemolished buildings seems much lower for older buildings than for the younger structures. Through a Weibull fit, little future change in this survival pattern is estimated. The estimates obtained in this preliminary study challenge many assumptions of service life, economic life and effective life time. It is found that the effective life time of building stocks is much higher than generally assumed, and possibly independent of their age. For recent buildings, the implication is whether the existing service life or economic life approaches are adequate to understand and plan for a potentially higher survival rate.
A short note on understanding the ways in which social, economic and technical factors interact to affect the deterioration typically found on many large-scale urban social housing projects, a process called housing marginalization. Argues that more research and international collaboration is needed to test and develop the model of decline outlined. -after Editor
Half TitleTitleCopyrightContentsForeword by Nigel Dorman, NHS EstatesPrefaceAcknowledgements