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Retrofitting for Future: Revitalizing outdated buildings – A Requisite to avoid Redundancy

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On average a commercial concrete structure is built to live a century while steel buildings can easily last 150 years. With everything around, us transforming so rapidly, the places where we work also need to upgrade to stay at par with the technological advancements. The environmental impact being the centre piece for policymakers across the world and global citizens becoming cognitive about the carbon footprint, emissions and energy efficiency, old buildings have no choice but to upgrade. To achieve net green energy goals, existing buildings must be retrofitted since they constitute a large majority of the total real estate.  

Post pandemic new order, with a focus on health and wellness makes the change imperative. Unlike cars or gadgets, the task to retrofit a building isn’t simple. It involves extensive analysis of existing infrastructure and adoption of occupier-driven solutions, which revolve around the concepts of smart buildings, collaboration, and energy efficiency. There are no generic rules, and each building requires solutions, unique to its design and construction.

The Potential – In the last week of September 2021, we at Colliers published a report on the need to Revitalize outdated buildings. As per the data available, 60% of the total CBD stock of the top six cities in India requires upgradation. Tapping into this potential will be a good investment opportunity for developers and investors. These include places such as Nariman Point in Mumbai, Connaught Place in Delhi, and MG Road in Bengaluru. Historically all these are iconic and have played a huge role in the growth of urban centres. Current scenario is ideal for retrofitting. People have been away from offices for close to 20 months now and have been wanting to get back to workplaces for various reasons ranging from, to reconnect with their colleagues, physical interactions with co-workers as well as aligning with the culture of the organizations they are associated with. As employees return to offices in the next 3-6 months, the occupiers and developers have the perfect opportunity to re-imagine these spaces, keeping safety concerns at the core.     

The Benefits – In the real world, every investment is related to the potential returns. There are multiple benefits of retrofitting for the developers as well as for occupiers. For developers, the foremost reason is to make their existing buildings more attractive to tenants, which essentially leads to higher rental incomes.

The second one is to align with global energy goals. Our sensitivities towards the environment are equivalent to nurturing a better tomorrow. By adopting the right solutions for our buildings, we can significantly reduce energy consumption and hence increase energy efficiency. A small example is to use smart glass for facades which lead to substantial savings on thermal loads.

Another remarkable benefit is to reduce operational costs through optimization. Retrofitting can help developers reduce the maintenance bills substantially by applying the technology and taking an innovative approach.       

For occupiers, this is an opportunity to re-imagine the way they work. One of the most significant outcomes of the pandemic is the evolution of Hybrid working, a combination of work from office and home. This translates to an approximately 25% reduction in the dedicated desks on a typical floor plate. What we are witnessing is that the organizations are willing to use this additional space for open collaboration, more meeting spaces, and more meaningful spaces rather than giving it up. The need for lesser dense offices is becoming a reality, which is again related to the health and safety of employees.  

Bringing innovative solutions and technologies brings innumerable benefits. For example, upgrading existing AHU filters to Merv 14 filters added with UV air disinfection system in ducts would mean cleaner air. Applying IOT based sensors for lighting reduces energy bills every month. A touchless office translates into a secure environment, prerequisite for physical and mental well-being.

There is a lot that can be achieved by design and the current situation provides the opportunity to utilize it to the best. Well-being-focused design elements like increased natural lighting and ventilation, integrated outdoor spaces are some of the recommendations from our side. It’s also time to review and focus on the latest RPWD and ADA rules, which are essentially the right steps towards inclusivity.

Conclusion – Retrofitting, refurbishing, and upgrading our existing buildings is the need of the hour. We have all heard the adage “Old is Gold” and this is equally applicable to our old buildings, however, we must polish the Gold to retain its shine.


About the author:

Ashish Puri, Colliers India  


By Ashish Puri, Director – Interior Designer Services, Colliers India 

Ashish is an accomplished Architect with over 16 years of experience in designing & building Workplaces, Retail spaces, Institutional, mixed-use & Hospitality projects. As Director of Interior Design Services,  Ashish leads the Colliers India ID portfolio,  working to enhance the design and delivery capabilities of the team, strengthening growth and facilitating meaningful client relationships. His holistic and collaborative approach had led to successful project outcomes along with building trust with the users.

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