Queenslanders urged to give buildings a second lease of life

With the age of Brisbane?s commercial buildings averaging 29 years, Professor Jay Yang has warned that Queenslanders will incur a massive bill to replace or upgrade them in future years.

He said the infrastructure Queensland was building on the back of the resources boom to meet burgeoning population needs would one day be obsolete or underutilised as the resource market declined and people moved elsewhere to work.

?This will require new approaches to managing construction waste,? Yang forecast. ?We will need to consider the life-cycle financial viability, future maintenance and running costs of new items as well as the waste they create when they need upgrading or replacement so that we don?t leave future generations a costly burden.?

He added that under those circumstances, it would also be considerably more expensive to demolish, recycle and rebuild Brisbane?s ailing infrastructure.

?If our office buildings are left as they are, they will continue to have high energy consumption and a high output of carbon dioxide,? Yang explained. ?They may not cope with changing business operating patterns.?

He has mooted major upgrades and refitting to existing commercial structures for ongoing use rather than tearing them down.
??Relifing? old buildings makes better use of existing assets instead of acquiring more land for new ones and has a lower carbon footprint than demolition and new build,? Yang continued.

He added that an increased recognition of the importance of the office environment for the physical and psychological health of occupants, coupled with the optimisation of floor space and the work environment, meant buildings would need to be ?gutted? and refurbished from the inside out.

Yang will further investigate these sustainability challenges in partnership with researchers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany under a Queensland International Fellowship awarded by the Queensland Government. He said that Germany led the world in action on ageing buildings and highway infrastructure beyond its expiry date.

?[Germany] … faced many of these problems when the buildings from massive rebuilding of cities that followed World War II came of age,? Yang explained. ?It?s important that we learn from Germany?s experience for the Queensland context so that we don?t overdevelop, prepare for reuse and other alternatives, and think about minimising waste now. Future thinking is integral to construction sustainability.?

He added that Germany?s population in recent years had been decreasing due to population shifting away from infrastructure and motorways which (including parts of the Autobahn) now carry fewer vehicles than they were originally designed for.

Source: Queensland University of Technology

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