Our neighbourhoods, towns and cities are full of forgotten buildings and hidden spaces. Ranging from abandoned basements to rooms over shops, empty garages to underused car parks and warehouses. Many are hidden in plain sight, and all have potential.
In communities striving for social, environmental and economic sustainability, these forgotten and hidden assets represent both a hyper-local sign of deprivation and a significant missed opportunity. Repurposed and revitalised, these forgotten buildings can become local anchors of place and vitality.
Demolition and rebuild is a complex, costly and slow process – increasingly out-of-step in a resource constrained world in which social and technological change outpaces new build project timescales. Instead, repurposing buildings can be quicker, require less material and keep embodied carbon and energy locked away in fabric retained.
With less than 1% of UK building stock replaced each year, existing buildings will be integral to the future of our towns and cities and key to their economic survival. Repurposing empty and (un)derused buildings is thus both essential and a huge opportunity for localised green growth and delivering social value in existing neighbourhoods.
Bringing built assets into beneficial and sustainable reuse within a dynamic and increasingly online world is a big challenge. Repurposing buildings in an evolving social and economic context requires creativity in design, delivery and operational solutions. New, layered, purposeful and resilient uses are needed to reimagine and revitalise our high streets and neighbourhoods.
The Unforgotten Buildings challenge is far from being purely technical. It requires asset owners to put in place governance structures, systems and processes that support innovation and enable new flexible ways of leasing or managing their properties. It takes purposeful and proactive individuals, who can think strategically, manage uncertainty, communicate vision, get stakeholders on board, and help envision and enable the project’s success at every stage.