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Adaptive Reuse: Retrofitting Old Buildings vs. Putting Up New Hotels


The hospitality industry is finding innovative ways to repurpose old structures

Looking for the best place to put up a hotel or similar establishment is like looking for a spouse – all the best ones are already taken. Or, are they?

Isolated resorts still have their allure but travel and vacation trends have changed. People want to be where the action is, making the desire for hotels in city centers more popular than ever. There are two big obstacles this shift in preference presents to the hotel industry: all the best real estate is already spoken for, or the cost for new construction on these sites would be astronomical.

The solution? Adaptive reuse.

Everything old is new again

The Millennial quest for authentic experiences as greatly contributed to the trend of adaptive reuse in the hotel industry. In many cases, it ends up being a solid solution for everyone. Customers get the experience they’re looking for. Hoteliers are able to snag desirable locations, and the budget to rehabilitate the historic building makes it a profitable investment.

The result is a unique property that’s where people want to be, offering them the opportunity to plug into the local culture. Imagine staying in a hotel that began life at the start of the 1900s as one of the country’s first steel and concrete skyscrapers. It was originally built to house the headquarters of a bank, so a massive 10-foot safe door stands behind the lobby desk. This is the experience that greets guests staying at Houston’s popular Hotel Icon.

A mixture of benefits and challenges

Cities looking to breathe new life into their inner cores may offer tax credits as incentives to new owners who will purchase existing properties and renovate them. This is perfect for hoteliers searching for adaptive reuse properties. These buildings often have good bones, meaning that the overall cost to rehabilitate one may be less than demolishing it and putting up something new in its place.

Finding one of these properties often is easier than determining if it will be cost effective as an adaptive reuse project. Buildings constructed in our previous century have amazing stories to tell, but they also guard their secrets.

New owners may only realize after the purchase and an adaptive reuse project gets underway that they’ve purchased a collection of unrecorded problems that won’t meet today’s building and safety codes. Hotel companies who’ve already been down this path will tell you that, in many cases, the original blueprints of these buildings – if they’re still available – offer only partial insight into what’s beneath generations of renovations.

Unexpected bumps in an adaptive reuse budget are common, but even this extra outlay can be less expensive than the cost of new construction.

Old doesn’t always mean inefficient

Hoteliers headed down the adaptive reuse path have to undertake new thinking about old problems. For example, will it be possible to make an old building energy efficient?

This can be where adaptive reuse offers up some interesting surprises. Things were built differently a century ago – but it doesn’t mean they were built inefficiently. Buildings constructed before the introduction of modern HVAC systems incorporated these essential functions into the architecture itself. Travel back in time to buildings put up prior to the 1950s and you’ll find features that help, rather than hinder many facets of adaptive reuse, including energy efficiency.

Narrow leeway

Giving new life to old buildings for a unique hospitality experience also means you’ll be responsible for conforming to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. These adaptive reuse regulations stipulate that distinctive materials, features, and even construction techniques that exemplify craftsmanship must be preserved.

Structural additions may be limited or prohibited. You’ll likely only be able to work within the original footprint of the building. Rehabilitating these past-era interiors will also require demolition and construction equipment that can be used indoors, and which conform to present-day OSHA safety requirements.

The focus will be on equipment that’s both environmentally friendly and compact enough to fit through standard doorways. Triple E Equipment offers solutions for adaptive reuse hotel projects fitting the bill. The Sherpa 100 EHD mini loader is only 30 inches wide and has both manual and remote-control modes – and best of all, it emits no fumes, making it perfect for indoor renovation projects.

Learn more about battery-powered construction equipment that’s perfectly suited for your upcoming adaptive reuse project.

July 11, 2018 By Alex Berg in Blog