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Extending the lives of buildings through transformation and refurbishment

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Why buildings need to last longer

Extending a building’s life is the first and foremost principle of circularity in the built environment due to the carbon savings it can deliver.

It’s a common perception that building new, highly energy efficient buildings will reduce a city’s carbon emissions. However, while increased energy efficiency will help deliver carbon savings in the future, we urgently need strategies that can reduce emissions today.

New building construction is responsible for a great deal of emissions due to the extraction of raw materials, processing into products, transport, and construction. Transforming or refurbishing an existing building prevents demolition and can keep resources that have already been processed in use for longer. This reduces the need to extract and process additional virgin materials reducing carbon emissions as well as minimising waste.

One of CIRCuIT’s findings is that building preservation generally results in lower emissions compared to new construction. This is exemplified by results from demonstrator 19, the Korso school in Helsinki illustrating that even an extensive refurbishment without the addition of façade insulation showed a 26% better carbon performance over 50 years compared to conventional demolition and rebuild.

Where possible, extending the life of existing buildings must always be considered before demolishing a building and reusing components or recycling materials as it results in greater environmental benefits.

Where possible, extending the life of existing buildings must always be considered before demolishing a building and reusing components or recycling materials as it results in greater environmental benefits.

To help make the practice mainstream, decision makers and built environment stakeholders need to be able to easily identify buildings at risk of demolition with the potential to be transformed. They also need to understand how and why they should drive greater transformation and refurbishment .

This chapter outlines practical ways cities can identify buildings at risk of demolition by highlighting learnings informed by the CIRCuIT project’s process. This includes showcasing a variety of examples that demonstrate what successful transformation looks like in practice. The resulting strategies enable and encourage more refurbishment and transformation in cities around the world.

How to identify buildings at risk of demolition

It is crucial that the construction sector makes significant changes to conventional practices and begins to prioritise resource conservation.

Presently, when the needs of a city change, built environment professionals – in particular building owners and asset managers – often choose to demolish rather than rethink existing buildings. In some cases, this is due to a lack of integration of refurbishment principles in city development practices, or a perception that it is a more expensive option. 

Driving change starts with ensuring stakeholders can easily identify buildings that can be refurbished rather than demolished.

CIRCuIT project partners worked with local built environment stakeholders to develop three ‘big picture’ strategies for identifying endangered buildings. The strategies apply across different building types and can be adapted or developed to fit local data, allowing circular economy practices to become an integral part of a city’s sustainable urban planning and policymaking.

1. Analyse building stock patterns 

Building stock data helps identify the kind of buildings typically demolished along with their replacements. This can help decision makers understand what buildings are at risk of demolition.

Data can be analysed by: using maps to extract geographical demolition data, using a building registrar to analyse replacement patterns or using text databases to identify demolition and replacement.

a) Use maps to extract geographical demolition data

This can work for cities that don’t have a building register. It uses maps from different points in time to identify demolished buildings by analysing their footprints. Maps can provide an overview of upcoming demolition and allow targeted demand for transformation through urban planning.

Key steps

  1. Acquire at least two maps of the city that showcase the location from different points in time, with at least a five-year difference.

  2. Overlay the maps in a geographical information system (GIS) or by other means.

  3. Compare building footprints manually or using computer software to detect changes.

  4. Analyse the changed footprints to identify whether they indicate demolition or something else (like building extension).

  5. Use additional data (for example Google Street View) to identify the key characteristics of demolished buildings, such as function and height/number of storeys.

  6. Compare the key characteristics, including location, to new builds to identify opportunities for retention. This can include where similar buildings are demolished and built, or where buildings with potential for adaptive reuse are demolished.

  7. Analyse existing buildings for key characteristics of demolished buildings to identify those at risk of future demolition.

b) Use a building register to analyse replacement patterns

This is recommended for cities with a building register that retains information about demolished buildings. In addition to a simple register analysis, cities with registers containing information about building location (e.g. coordinates) can supplement the analysis on demolitions and other building stock patterns with a geographical analysis similar to the first approach. A geocodable building register can substantially speed up the analysis as it can contain key characteristics of buildings, such as function, floor area, height, number of floors or building year.

Key steps

  1. Get access to, or an extract from, the building register.

  2. Make a simple descriptive statistical analysis of the demolished and built buildings, highlighting their quantities and key characteristics. 

  3. Compare the key characteristics of the two stocks to identify similarities and differences in (for example) functions or sizes of demolished and new buildings.

  4. If the register is geocodable, transfer the register information to GIS to analyse locations of demolished and new buildings to identify simultaneous occurrence in the same neighbourhoods or plots (like replacement).

  5. Using the same approach, analyse the existing building stock for key characteristics of demolished buildings to identify buildings at risk of future demolition.

c) Use text databases to identify demolition and replacement

This approach is suitable for cities that don’t keep track of demolished buildings in a building register and are too vast to analyse with maps. If the city has a non-indexed text database on building and/or planning permits, search the database text for ‘demolition’. 

Key steps

  1. Get access to, or an extract from, the city’s database on permits.

  2. Search the database for the terms of interest (for example ‘demolition’, ‘deconstruction’, ‘replacement’ etc).

  3. Analyse the identified permits for key characteristics of demolished buildings, such as location, function, floor area, building year etc.

2. Identify external factors 

Many factors can play a decisive role in determining whether a building becomes obsolete, and so influence the risk of being demolished. These can include the surrounding neighbourhood, the owner’s aims and expectations and whether the construction sector leans towards transforming existing buildings or building new ones.

To identify what external factors may play a role in determining whether a building is at risk of demolition, cities can a) analyse locational factors and b) analyse key stakeholder perspectives.

Analysing locational factors

Supplementing method one with a closer look at neighbourhood-level factors, like access to transport, facilities and services, can help identify urban characteristics that contribute to demolition. 

Key steps

  1. Establish where demolition has taken place in the city over a set period (outlined in method one above). 

  2. Collate data on locational factors that could play a role in increasing or decreasing a building’s risk of being demolished. These could include: 

  • transport access (proximity to motorways, public transport, airports etc)

  • distance and quality of facilities and services

  • historical and architectural characteristics

  • safety

  • land use

  • land and property value

  • planning zones and rezoning potential

  • density of occupation

Geographically compare your demolition activity data with locational data to identify common trends. For example, that a high percentage of demolitions over the past five years took place in areas with poor transport links, or particular issues in a neighbourhood. 

Analysing key stakeholder perspectives 

Understanding how the real estate and construction sector operates, how key stakeholders view building retention, and which factors are important to them in making demolition decisions, can be useful. It can also complement any available building and/or urban data.

Key steps 

  1. Speak to colleagues or other planning professionals to understand how planning decisions around redevelopment and demolition are made. Decisions made by built environment stakeholders can greatly influence whether a building is transformed or demolished.

  2. Conduct interviews and workshops with stakeholders to discuss the most influential factors. 

Questions could include:

  • What are the key factors that guide decisions to demolish or refurbish?

  • What do your short-term and long-term cost analyses include as assumptions?

  • Is the impact on social value and communities included in your analyses? 

  • What (or who?) might change a decision to demolish or retrofit? For example, tax incentives, legislative requirements, improved guidance, technological development, site context (location, building type). 

  • Do you have any insights on how the decision to refurbish or demolish has come up in existing projects? Are there case studies? 

3. Market research into current and future built environment trends could help identify types of buildings or areas at risk of becoming obsolete now and in the future. Discussions with built environment stakeholders may shed light on these. Additionally, review reports and articles on relevant topics. 

3. Adopt a multi-method approach 

This approach is recommended if there is access to the right data and stakeholders to provide a broader perspective.

Key steps 

  1. Use building stock data to identify what kind of buildings are typically demolished in a city and what they are replaced with. See method one above.

  2. Geographically compare demolition data with data on key external factors that may influence whether a building becomes obsolete and at risk of demolition. Identify common trends that may help predict where at-risk buildings are likely to be located in the future and the amount of floorspace that may be demolished. See method two above.

  3. Hold discussions with built environment stakeholders to gain valuable insights about planning decisions, redevelopment and demolition that may not be publicly available. See method two above.


Urban planners and policy makers should use a circular perspective on all city development

Consider transformation possibilities when identifying land for development in the city. Overprovision of new space will vacate and drive premature demolition of already existing buildings with life cycle extension potential. For example, the list of ‘at-risk’ buildings could figure in these decisions.

  • Tax empty buildings to prevent them becoming underused, vacant and falling into disrepair.

  • Establish a lighter and quicker route to change the urban plan or deviate from a building’s stated function to help transform buildings temporarily, before the long- term plan is implemented.

  • Design transformation projects for circularity ensuring transformed spaces can be adapted for another future use, or structures can be easily disassembled.

  • Try to engage early on to create a common understanding between building permit and heritage protection departments and developers.

  • Reserve funds for systematically developing life cycle extension in all branches of city administration.

Practical ways to extend a building’s life

This section outlines transformation strategies and drivers that encourage decision makers and built environment stakeholders to extend the lives of buildings as opposed to demolishing and building new. 

Renovation projects usually save between 50–75% of embodied carbon emissions compared to constructing a new building. As we must reduce emissions quickly and sharply, ensuring we extend the life of existing buildings and do not need a large influx of new materials is critical.

Cities often focus on preserving or transforming buildings with heritage value. Transitioning to a circular economy means shifting this focus to include more everyday buildings like workplaces and housing, such as post-war era stock, where preservation is typically not mandatory or even encouraged by public policy.

Assess transformation potential

CIRCuIT recommends municipalities focus on identifying which buildings are suitable for transformation. It is important that cities are proactive in being informed and informing others on the potential for preservation through transformation a long time before any demolition is scheduled. Depending on the case, this could mean identifying harmful substances, investigating possibilities for extensions, or finding the best transformation strategy based on a building’s existing layout.

When rezoning already developed areas with existing building stock, cities should consider the transformation potential of the area’s buildings. They should also consider the positive environmental impacts and devise city plans that enable maximum retention of buildings with preservation potential. Cities must also proactively inform and negotiate with current and future building owners about preservation potential through circular design principles.

Review financial and environmental factors

Most CIRCuIT transformation demonstrators showed there are financial savings from transforming buildings rather than demolishing and building new. However, there are still other conditions or considerations, such as risk management. They can make the transformation more expensive, less profitable, or less attractive to business decision makers.

CIRCuIT recommends reviewing processes in municipalities or applicable locally around how transformation projects are taxed compared to new construction. Legislation should be streamlined so that transformation projects are equalised or prioritised financially compared to new construction.

Removing financial barriers to transformation projects can make it cheaper or more profitable to preserve rather than tear down and build new. This can also help remove some of the risks in transformation projects. These include uncertainty on an existing building’s technical condition – which investors say is the main reason why many buildings are demolished rather than preserved.

Factor in resource savings

CIRCuIT’s demonstrator projects show large material savings thanks to the circular retention strategy, particularly where the structure and foundation are preserved. Transformation is less material intensive than new construction because most of the existing building parts are preserved. This means there are potentially big carbon savings from the reduced need to produce new building materials.

CIRCuIT recommends current or future environmental preservation value should be implemented in the municipalities’ work with urban development and handling applications for demolition.

Embed transformation priorities in procurement policies 

Procurement processes and public tenders are an impactful way for cities to drive their circularity priorities. For transformation, procurement recommendations are particularly relevant in the design stages of the project. To that end, draft designs should be procured for both alternatives– renovation and replacement, and both alternatives should be supplemented with LCA and LCC calculations to facilitate informed decision-making. Subsequently, detailed design and construction can be procured based on the selected alternative, where further environmentalcriteria can be requested (e.g. related to energy efficiency).

Construction strategies to promote life extension  

These different strategies can be used by cities to encourage extending buildings’ lives. 

Refurbishment and renovation

The most direct way to promote life cycle extension is simply taking care of built structures by regular and timely refurbishment and renovation. This includes upgrading buildings’ technical aspects, such as energy consumption and insulation.

Transformation and adaptive reuse

Transformation can include everything from changing structural and spatial properties or expression to changing functions (sometimes both). ‘Adaptive reuse’ refers specifically to change of function.

Densification or infill

This means adding more built square metres into an already built-up area with new construction. It may seem contradictory that new construction is a strategy for life cycle extension. Yet construction comes with additional income which may fund renovation or transformation. Making the space viable with a small addition saves the need for total demolition and rebuild.


Heritage listing is an effective way to save buildings from demolition. More inclusive listing strategies could consider wider building categories that value existing buildings for their embodied carbon intensity.

What successful building transformation looks like 

Working with each other and local built environment stakeholders, partner organisations in the four CIRCuIT cities developed and evaluated and the benefits they can deliver, four are highlighted here. 

Each of the demonstrators illustrated a range of buildings often at risk of demolition in the CIRCuIT cities and beyond and the typical challenges when trying to transform these buildings. These examples bridge the gap between theory, practice and policy. They don’t just prove that cities can embed circular construction techniques – but that these activities are scalable and replicable.


Transforming a 1930s commercial site into student housing

Virtual Demonstrator


Buildings on the commercial plot were originally developed for manufacturing, including production of timber, soda water and cast metal products.

Currently, the site houses businesses including auto repair shops, a night club, musicians’ studios, start-up companies and education services.

Threat of demolition

Industrial buildings account for the vast majority of demolished area in Denmark. Typically, a site like this is sold to a developer that will demolish it as far as possible so new housing can be built. The huge demand for housing in Denmark and soaring residential prices means the developer is likely to build at high density.

Transformation project

CIRCuIT partners in Copenhagen and local built environment stakeholders investigated how the site could be transformed into affordable student housing. Overall, the circular intervention’s lower material consumption resulted in a potential CO2 saving of 23%.

Key findings

Public data has an important role in assessing transformation potential. A publicly available database made it possible to create static calculations and a 3D model of the building’s construction and layout to support the design process.


Gröninger HÖf Parkhaus – Giving new life to a heritage‑listed building

Physical Demonstrator


This building is in a popular resort on the Baltic coast of Schleswig-Holstein, about 85km north-east of Hamburg city centre.

It was built as a one-storey car dealership in the mid-1950s and extended several times in the following years. In the early 2000s parts of the structure (sales areas) were heritage-listed because of the curved glass façade. In the last years before conversion, the building was briefly vacant during planning and project development.

Threat of demolition

Gaining heritage-listed status meant the building could never be demolished. However, analysis of demolished buildings in Hamburg showed it exhibits many characteristics typical of demolished buildings. This includes the commercial-industrial function, distant location and small, low-rise character. These buildings are often demolished without second thought to give way for denser and higher development – especially buildings without a heritage listing. A significant problem with buildings like this is how to use them and the land they stand on effectively while retaining spaces and components with preservation potential.

Transformation project

Transformation and extension of the existing heritage-listed building into a gym and vacation apartments was completed in 2020.

By strengthening the structure’s load-bearing capacity three extra levels for vacation apartments were made possible. This resulted in savings of 321 tonnes of materials, 186 tonnes of waste and 74 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The cost of the circular intervention was 4.2% less than demolishing and building new.

Key findings

Early collaboration with heritage protection authorities was key for success. It helped precisely identify areas for preservation, alongside those that could be modified and by how much.

Increased density and a new future-oriented use was achieved through revised room layouts and structural strengthening to enable three new floors above the original building. Close collaboration with architects helped harmoniously integrate modern, high-quality features people would expect with the original heritage look.

Vantaa/Helsinki Region

Transforming 1970’s public rental housing to accommodate more people

Virtual Demonstrator


This transformation covers two blocks of flats (one with three floors and one with five floors) in the Hakunila district of Vantaa. Both buildings were completed in similar Modernist style with precast concrete panels in 1979. The buildings have always been social rental housing.

Threat of demolition

There is no particular threat of demolition for the flats. However, there is pressure to demolish existing housing in the area as the urban population rises.

Social rental housing is particularly prone to demolition due to factors like:

  • typically having only one institutional owner, which eases decision-making on demolition

  • physical degradation of buildings or lacking necessary flat properties, e.g. in accessibility or demand on flat size

  • socio-economic environment with precarious groups, neighbourhood image issues

  • vacancy issues, mismatch of flat size with demand

  • city’s policy targets for urban densification and social mix/gentrification and the potential value of the plot with a renewed urban plan featuring substantially increased building rights (in m2). 

Transformation project

Instead of demolition and replacement, urban densification targets were pursued through a retention and extension approach, with additional floors added on top of the existing buildings. Through consultation with the owner, it was decided there was no need to change the flat or room layouts. They serve the needs of renters well, as evidenced by the low vacancy rate. Instead, it was decided to balance out the flat-size offerings in the buildings with the help of additional floors to house smaller flats. The facades, building services and interiors of existing floors (including flats and shared facilities) were renovated as part of the overall transformation.

Additional floors were designed to be added on top of the existing buildings with the help of steel beams, running from cross-wall to cross-wall. This provides freedom for the placement and sizes of the new flats, as the new walls will not need to coincide with the underlying load-bearing walls.

The wooden load-bearing frame of the additional floors is lighter than concrete and helps to avoid the need to reinforce foundations, but also results in shorter spans. This fact, together with creating smaller flats, means that layouts may not be particularly adaptable in future.

Key findings 

If a city has a densification target, extending housing blocks with additional floors can be a technically, economically and environmentally viable alternative to demolition and new build.

The approach is particularly viable in social housing, as there is only one owner who can easily make the decision to transform. Because the building is non-profit, the project’s demonstrated cost saving is more relevant than the potential profit from demolition (a factor that can limit the interest of for-profit housing providers). As public actors, social housing companies could set an example for other types of housing providers.

Depending on the size and shape of the site and its location, a densification target may only be achievable if new buildings are constructed on the site as well as adding additional floors to existing buildings. The terrain and soil of the site may influence whether this is possible and what the cost implications will be.


Extending the life of a 1980s commercial shopping outlet

Virtual Demonstrator


The subject of the transformation is a large commercial shopping outlet, which was completed in 1987 and functioned as a Do-It-Yourself store.

The structural scheme was created to be column-free through a structural steel spine truss along the length of the building. This is supported at an intermediate point by steel tension cables. The building is clad with sheet metal and sits on a concrete podium deck.

Threat of demolition

A developer recently acquired the outlet and surrounding land. The plan for the site is to build high-rise residential properties and retail outlets on it. This is because of the huge demand for residential properties in London. As a result, the large shopping outlet is at high risk of demolition.

Transformation project

In an attempt to save it, CIRCuIT partners in London explored options for retaining and transforming the whole building. The sectors these options covered included retail, multifunctional/cultural, healthcare, transport, industrial/manufacturing, agricultural, sport and research/educational.

After considering the different options and the potential environmental and economic benefits, the developer decided none of the transformation options were suitable.

However, dismantling and re-erecting the entire structural frame on another site was chosen as an alternative option.

This circular intervention (retaining the substructure, steel frame and roof) would save up to 1.2 million kg of CO2 compared to a new building alternative.

Key findings 

This kind of project could potentially be replicated across other out-of-town retail units. This could result in a reduction in whole life carbon emissions of 400,000 tonnes of CO2 across Greater London.

Making the case for building transformation

A ‘business case’ makes the case for change. It is directed at a specific audience who can make the proposed change and describes actions to be taken outside of BAU and expected outcomes.

Each business case includes five perspectives presented under the headings: strategic, financial, feasibility, risk and scalability. Together these commentaries and the demonstrator templates provide evidence on the benefit of investment in the proposed changes for both the decision maker and the community.

A full list of all business cases developed from demonstrator results can be found in Appendix A1.2

B. Public and private asset owners can identify the optimum cost and carbon
approach to projects by commissioning assessments of different degrees of retaining and transforming existing assets. 

Strategic: Public and private asset owners can improve projects’ costs and carbon profiles by commissioning early-stage assessments of different degrees of retention and transformation to meet future needs. This is rather than just comparing default demolition or a façade retention-only approach against minimal refurbishment of existing buildings.

Financial: In the demonstrator projects on which this case is based, life cycle costing found the total costs of optimal approaches to existing buildings result in savings of 7% and 26-41% compared to default new build or façade retention only. The savings range from €1m to €5.5m, indicating a strong case for investment in assessments.

Feasibility: Skills exist to implement assessments of various approaches to building retention. The benefits should be considered at the start of projects and consultants appointed on the basis of proven abilities and their willingness to interrogate the best use of existing assets.

Risk: Regulations might change during a development project. Setting out early on with evidence of the optimal approach to existing assets minimises the risk of developing a BAU approach and creating abortive work that’s non-compliant under new regulations.

Scalability: This approach would not work on sites where city planning allows significantly taller new buildings than can be achieved through retention and extension of existing buildings. Nevertheless, the demonstrator cases are widely applicable across many other sites and building types. While the Korso School project showed significant economic advantage in carrying out various levels of refurbishment, North Row was more marginal. In marginal projects, making the economic case for building retention may require new financial incentives such as (in a UK context) charging VAT equally on new build and refurbishment.

Related demonstrators: Demonstrator 19 – Korso School, Demonstrator 24 – North Row

D. Public and private asset owners can activate a neighbourhood and support new businesses by retaining existing assets for temporary use during long-term, phased regeneration projects.

Strategic: Public and private asset owners can activate a neighbourhood and support new businesses and job creation by assessing masterplans to identify existing assets to retain for temporary use during long-term, phased regeneration projects.

Financial: In the demonstrator project on which this case is based, construction costs for adapting and upgrading an existing building were 6% less than providing an equivalent new building. The projected return on investment over a fifteen-year temporary use period was enhanced by 8% compared to the new build alternative. Compared to a scenario in which the existing building is demolished, not replaced, and the land is rented out, the building retention option creates significantly higher net revenue, more jobs and a greater net total Gross Value Added.

Feasibility: Building retention to support temporary use is a familiar concept and skills exist to achieve it. The challenge is to recognise opportunities early on, assess their merit in terms of placemaking and social as well as economic value, and place sufficient weight on these benefits when briefing for design and phasing. Triple bottom line assessments should inform the approaches taken towards existing buildings.

Risk: Temporary uses can be seen as a risk for landowners in terms of safety and logistical reasons or delays in getting vacant possession when the site is due to be developed. A building or site will not always be suitable for temporary uses – for example if access blocks construction vehicles – but this can be considered in the early planning stages. Vacant possession can be ensured by establishing lease arrangements and maintaining clarity about the temporary use period.

Scalability: Large-scale redevelopment of industrial areas, such as the project that provided this demonstrator, are common in expanding urban areas where there is high demand for housing. With long redevelopment timeframes, there is good scope to treat existing buildings as assets that can provide income and social benefits through temporary use.

Related demonstrators: Demonstrator 23 – Block F

N. Private asset owners, investors and developers can gain recognition and achieve market differentiation by assessing whole life carbon when deciding between retrofit and demolition.

Strategic: Private asset owners, investors and developers should include results of whole life carbon assessments in strategic decision-making over retention and retrofit versus demolition and new build. This will help them meet changing legislation and public perception.

Financial: In the demonstrator projects on which this case is based, life cycle costing over a 50-year period found the total costs of retrofit scenarios to be 37%, 36%, 25% and 4% lower than new build.

Feasibility: There is growing capacity among consultants including access to software to enable whole life carbon assessments. In the demonstrator projects, the whole life carbon of retrofit scenarios was found to be 23%, 19% and 6% lower than those of new build. Giving the results of assessments sufficient weight in strategic decision-making, beyond meeting statutory minimum requirements, will be a matter of developers’ setting their own policies and targets.

Risk: Gaining recognition for transforming underused buildings and exploiting opportunities for creating new housing in existing assets minimises businesses’ exposure to the risk of demolition becoming an unacceptable approach in many contexts. Developing the capacity to work efficiently with existing assets builds businesses’ resilience to shifts in policy and taxation that incentivise retrofit over demolition and limit whole life carbon.

Scalability: There are few barriers to introducing whole life carbon assessments and taking them into account when deciding between demolition and new build. The demonstrator projects indicate economic and environmental benefits as well as reputational benefits in doing so. The ability to scale retrofit as a solution requires greater familiarity working with existing buildings across the construction value chain and innovation in surveying methods to de-risk and generate better information about existing buildings.

Related demonstrators: Demonstrator 13 – Godewind Park, Demonstrator 18 – 1930s commercial plot, Demonstrator 21 – Vantaa office building

In the demonstrator projects, the whole life carbon of retrofit scenarios was found to be 23%, 19% and 6% lower than those of new builds.

Y. Citizens can form cooperatives and create new affordable homes and workspaces by identifying and transforming underused assets.

Strategic: Citizens can form cooperatives to work with municipalities to identify underused assets that are otherwise a blight on the urban landscape and at risk of demolition, and transform them into productive buildings.

Financial: In the demonstrator project on which this case is based, transformation of an underused multi-storey car park into housing resulted in a saving in demolition costs of around 15%. It also led to a total construction cost reduction of around 5%, compared to demolition and new build.

Feasibility: A key step for citizen-led cooperatives is to form relationships with city planners and collaborate in identifying underused assets suitable for transformation. The demonstrator project found that there is increasing appetite among cooperatives to invest in alternative residential-led mixed use developments.

Risk: Early investigation of existing structures is critical to ensure any hazardous materials or historic contamination can be remedied and the associated costs and risks are understood.

Scalability: The demonstrator focused on a multi-storey car park. Many cities are aiming to reduce car use and keep cars out of inner-city areas. This means reuse and transformation of car parks is one opportunity to scale creation of valuable living, social and commercial spaces in inner cities. In Hamburg, nearly 10,000 parking spaces in multi-storey car parks are expected to be suitable for transformation in the next twenty years. Municipalities can support cooperatives by systematically identifying these and other assets at risk of demolition to maximise the likelihood of their transformation and the social, environmental and economic benefits shown in this demonstrator.

Related demonstrator: Demonstrator 15 – Gröninger Hof Parkhaus

Citizens can form cooperatives to work with municipalities to identify underused assets that are otherwise a blight on the urban landscape and at risk of demolition, and transform them into productive buildings.

Further reading

For further information about these outputs and the work behind them, please read the following reports, which were published by members of CIRCuIT partner organisations during the lifetime of the project.

  • D5.1 How to identify buildings for life-cycle extension? Guide for case selection via the mapping of transformable neighbourhoods and buildings

  • D5.2 Developing and applying replicable strategies and design principles for keeping buildings and neighbourhoods in circular use

  • D5.3 Policy brief and business case of building transformation

All these reports can be downloaded at circuit-project.eu/post/latest-circuit-reports-and-publications


The following individuals authored the deliverables that form the basis of this chapter.

Aapo Räsänen, Tampere University

Andrea Charlson, ReLondon

Anja Giebelhausen, Hamburg University of Technology

Ann Bertholdt, The City of Copenhagen

Antony Maubach-Howard, Hamburg University of Technology

Ariana Morales Rapallo, Hamburg University of Technology

Colin Rose, ReLondon

Daniella Anamaria Nan, Arkitema Architects

Emmi Salmio, Tampere University

Frederik Høgdal, Lendager Group

Henna Teerihalme, Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority

Janus zum Brock, Hamburg University of Technology

Julie Swartz Andersen, Arkitema Architects

Kaie Small-Warner, The Building Research Establishment

Karoline Fogh Gustafsson, Technical University of Denmark

Kerstin Kuchta, Hamburg University of Technology

Khaled Al-Zaben, Hamburg University of Technology

Kimmo Nekkula, The City of Vantaa

Mahsa Doostdar, Hamburg University of Technology

Maja Olsson, Lendager Group

Marco Abis, Hamburg University of Technology

Mathias Peitersen, The City of Copenhagen

Nikolaj Callisen Friis, Lendager Group

Rachel Singer, ReLondon

Rune Andersen, Technical University of Denmark

Satu Huuhka, Tampere University

Signe Bang Kornes, Arkitema Architects

Tessa Devreese, ReLondon

Tiina Haaspuro, Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority

Tim Riis Tolman, Lendager Group

Vilma Wathén, Umacon Ltd

Image credits

Asger Nørregård Rasmussen, Maker

Kimmo Nekkula, The City of Vantaa

Rune Anderson , Technical University of Denmark

Peter Swallow, Grimshaw Architects