Storied Structures: 3 Considerations for Reposition and Adaptive Reuse Projects

Kristy Eudy

To any passer-by, a newly renovated site or structure might be placed in the generic category of just that—a renovation. However as older offices phase out and former warehouses become vacated, giving these buildings new life and purpose has shifted not only how they are labeled but the approach to how they are constructed. Known to the commercial real estate industry as Reposition and Adaptive Reuse, the efforts to renovate these spaces are even more clearly defined, as is the KRRS approach and best practices for these project types.

To distinguish between both categories, a building reposition is taking a former office building that was designed for another era and transitioning it for today’s workplace. This often means adding artful elements to the exterior in the way of murals or sculpture installations. It often includes opening the ground floor to a courtyard for an indoor-outdoor experience and offering amenities that contribute to a better work-life balance. A reposition also often connects a group of previously separate buildings and transforms them into a campus environment. Ultimately a reposition is “repositioning” the building for the way we now work and live our lives.

In adaptive reuse, we’re taking a once well-used space which had a completely different purpose and giving it new meaning. This could be a prior aerospace site, a bygone warehouse or historical location. We’re “adapting” its former existence and “reusing” it in a renewed way. In this type of work, it’s all about preserving aspects of the structure’s character like original wood, metal beams or skylights while blending in new elements to create its new identity. It’s also taking advantage of portions of the original design that are often energy-friendly and making it even more sustainable and useful by today’s standards.

Although the reasoning behind each of these project types easily translate as being inspired and even tend to revitalize their local communities, reposition and adaptive reuse projects are ultimately born out of necessity. This is especially true in more densely populated areas where new construction is not always an option, or even as cost effective to build from the ground, up.

After constructing many reposition and adaptive reuse projects in cities throughout Southern California, our commercial office and tenant improvement teams have several insights on how to best navigate what is quite different than any standard renovation.

Preplanning is Key

As the senior project manager for the 888 Douglas adaptive reuse project and now the Anderson Towers reposition, Micah M. recommends careful due diligence in examining the structure from the outset. “Once a contract is signed and we as the contactor are involved, there’s a lot at that point that can be found,” Micah said. He recommends getting KPRS involved early-on, not only with the preconstruction team, but also with designers. “Working solely with an architect in early phases can be limiting especially as drawings for older structures are also limited,” he said. Preplanning also means engaging with subcontractors for exploratory work, which is also recommended before any construction commences.

Accurate Design

Having overseen the 817 Vine adaptive reuse project along with a current soundstage reposition, Project Manager Zareh K. advises that a quality set of drawings are needed for the success of the project. “When you work with a new build, the plans are quite clear. But with existing structures, the plans can prove inaccurate when as-built drawings aren’t available. When the drawings aren’t clear, this can create challenges with pricing,” he said.

Working with the right architect partner makes all the difference as well. Once construction starts, he recommends having the architect on site and available several times a week for helping to move the project continually forward. Otherwise, issuing RFI’s for each item that comes up can take more time. Working with the right subcontractors and getting their input makes all the difference too. “Subs need to walk the building and make recommendations from the start.”

An Open Mind

Depending on a structure and its history, it’s possible that unknowns will be discovered. For this a contingency fund is recommended and encouraged for project owners. “If the structure is in good shape and similar to its previous use, then the changes aren’t so drastic,” Zareh said. “But the contingency will bring peace of mind for whatever is uncovered.” Micah also recommends keeping an open mind. “We always work with our clients to get the project where it needs to be. Even if it looks slightly different than what's in the plans, due to existing conditions and unknowns,” he said.

If you have questions about a reposition or adaptive reuse project, contact Assaf Nachshon, Vice President of Preconstruction. [email protected] | 714-364-6617

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