It’s the question on every developer’s mind right now. Is adaptive reuse feasible for my building? Cost-effective? What will a housing conversion project entail?
Since 1994, Ankrom Moisan has been involved with adaptive reuse projects and housing conversions. The depth of our expertise means we have an intimate understanding of the limits and parameters of any given site – we know what it takes to transform an underperforming asset into a successful residential project.
For customized guidance through the adaptive reuse evaluation process, contact Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Housing Studio Design Director and residential conversion expert.
The Rule of Six
While there is no magic formula or linear ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to conversions, we have a framework that should be considered when approaching an adaptive reuse project. We call it “The Rule of Six.”
The Rule of Six outlines six key characteristics that make a project a candidate for successful conversion, and six challenges to be prepared for during the renovation process.
With this informed process, we’ve been able to get over 30 one-of-a-kind residential conversion projects under our belt.
The Six Key Characteristics for a Successful Conversion
Not every building is a good candidate for conversion. By evaluating multiple structure types and working closely with contractors on successful projects, we’ve identified six key characteristics that lead to the creation of successful, low-cost, conversions.
If a property has any of these traits – whether it’s one characteristic of all six – it might qualify as a candidate for a successful conversion.
- Class B or C Office
- 5-6 Levels, or 240′ Tall
- Envelope Operable Windows Preferred
- Walkable Location
- 12,000 Sq. Ft. Plate Minimum
- Depth to Core Not to Exceed 45′
To find out if a property makes for a good adaptive reuse project, consider conducting a feasibility study on the site.
Reach out to get started on your feasibility study today.
The Six Challenges to be Prepared For
West Coast conversions can be particularly challenging with their seismic requirements, energy codes, and jurisdictional challenges – your conversion team should be prepared for these hurdles. The solutions vary by project; contact us to see how we can solve your project’s challenges.
- Change of Use: It’s the reason we upgrade everything. The simple act of changing a building’s use from office to residential immediately triggers a ‘substantial alteration.’ This label starts all the other necessary upgrades.
- Seismic-structural Upgrades: Buildings on the West Coast must meet a certain code level to be deemed acceptable for the health, safety, and welfare of end-users. Often, this required level does not match the current code, meaning negotiations with the jurisdiction are necessary.
- Egress Stairs: Stair width is usually within the code demands for conversion candidates, but placement is what we need to evaluate. When converting to residential, it’s sometimes necessary to add a stair to the end of a corridor.
- Envelope Upgrades and Operable Windows: West Coast energy codes require negotiated upgrades with jurisdictions, as existing envelopes usually don’t meet the current codes’ energy and performance standards. Operable windows are a separate consideration. They are not needed for fresh air but are often desired by residents for their comfort.
- Systems and Services Upgrades: These upgrades often deal with mechanical and plumbing – checking main lines and infrastructure, decentralizing the system, and adding additional plumbing fixtures throughout the building to support residential housing uses.
- Rents and Financials: Determining how to compete with new build residential offerings is huge. At present, conversions cost about as much as a new build. Our job is to solve this dilemma through efficient and thoughtful design, but we need development partners to be on the same page as us, knowing where to focus to make it work.
At the outset of any conversion, we analyze each individual site and tailor our process to align with the existing elements that make it unique. Working with what you have, our designs and deliverables – plans, units, systems narratives, pricing, and jurisdictional incentives – are custom-fit.
To better understand if adaptive reuse is right for your building, get in touch with us. We can guide you through the feasibility study process.
To see how we’ve successfully converted other buildings into housing, take a look at our ‘retro residential conversion’ case study.
By Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Housing Studio Design Director.
Contact: +1 (206)-576-1600 | email@example.com
Making the Future Feasible
Ankrom Moisan has offered feasibility studies as a service to existing and potential clients for decades. For those who are unfamiliar, a feasibility study helps assess the viability of a potential development on a particular property. It aims to help a real estate investor understand the future amount of revenue-generating area on a piece of land, and what a reasonable sales prices might be for that land.
Typically, the feasibility study process begins when a client, landowner, or broker reaches out to us. We usually start with a site analysis, to get an idea of the average unit size and parking ratio, and then conduct a ‘fit test.’ That fit test quickly and efficiently diagrams potential development outcomes that could be realized on the land parcel. When conducting a fit test, we look at the site’s zoning code, relevant building code, physical site characteristics, visible utilities, site context, and building typology constraints. These constraints are often related to building uses, building type, height and size, or the amount of parking required. For example, a housing-use structure has much different parameters than an office-use one. Further, a ‘Stick-Frame Wood’ building typology will yield something quite different than Cross Laminated Timber or Concrete.
Examples of a feasibility yield study.
If desired, we can go further and analyze architectural outcomes that consider preliminary ideas about building design and character. Sometimes, a client will provide their own constraints or parameters, like a more detailed unit type and amenity program. Renderings of varied detail may be added to this process to help visualize a proposed project idea; they are useful to illustrate the early-stage potential of development ideas to a wider audience.
Example of a Tier 2 Feasibility Study Perspective View.
We often provide our clients with multiple (and sometimes contrasting) design ideas. By discussing the advantages and drawbacks of each idea, we reach a point of mutual understanding with our clients and can begin to fine-tune their vision.
Animated early visioning sketch for a multifamily housing urban land parcel assessment.
It is all about leveraging future architectural solutions to effectively utilize what a site has to offer. We are constantly seeking improvement in this process and are regularly evaluating methods to do so. From a basic ‘back-of-the-napkin and a calculator’ approach to a deeper architectural examination informed by years of design experience, or even the use of Artificial Intelligence software that can automate metric evaluation of a site, we consider all possibilities and methods of maximizing a project’s design according to client desires and site parameters.
3D Massing Views and renderings conducted for a Tier Three feasibility study.
Through this process, we give clients, landowners, and brokers meaningful guidance towards the value of their land parcel. This process is especially helpful for people interested in working with Ankrom Moisan for the first time, as a feasibility study is an uncomplicated way for prospective clients to get to know us and learn how we work. It is a great opportunity to see if we work well together.
We have a vast resumé of work and pull from a wide range of past experiences with different building types – everything from tall to small, across a variety of uses (retail, hotel, office, hospitality, housing, etc.). We enjoy this work as it is an essential part of our process. We enjoy offering feasibility study services that share our expertise with longtime and prospective clients, landowners, and brokers alike, showing exactly why Ankrom Moisan is a valued design partner.
By Jason Roberts, Managing Design Principal, Bronson Graff, Associate Principal, and Jack Cochran, Marketing Coordinator.