Transformations: From old uses to new communities | Inquirer Business

Transformations: From old uses to new communities

Any makeover is an exciting opportunity for both the professional and the subject. In the field of planning and architecture, old functions take on a new realm of purpose in adaptive reuse, urban renewal, and in design rehabilitation.

This refreshing takeover happens with a good market study, a proper project plan and a great team. Sometimes, it can be an old building such as the American Army Navy Club resurrected into a hospitality space now known as the Rizal Park Hotel; the Food Terminal Inc. is shaping up as Arca South; an old mine site is rehabilitated to nurture a new community; while an old residence is converted into a two-storey shophouse. It could also be a series of barns or a row of warehouses converted into offices or residential quarters. However one breathes new life into an old structure or animates a parcel of land with a new purpose, certain studies and checklists must be followed to attain new objectives.


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A market or a business study must provide a commercial goal that allows the new purpose to monetize the actual value of the land or structure. Parameters are brought in to measure financial impact, the increase in property value, a near-accurate project cost, potential income to be derived from the new use and market segmentation. With top financial institutions, certain points are garnered with feasibility that matches sustainability in the re-purpose.

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A complementing technical study must ensure that utilities, traffic flow, road and infrastructure network ascertain the viability of the dream. Experts are brought in, beginning with the architect-planners, laying the new systems, lines and grades that will require the support of excellent, new engineering.


Structural designers are engaged to evaluate old foundations and supports; civil works designers validate new access, drainage and carriageway networks; electrical engineers provide power connections and distribution networks, replacing outdated utilities, allowing the possibility of linking alternative energy sources with the main grid, and remaining cognizant of the available power line options in the site; while plumbing and sanitary designers create new ways to collect rainwater, new piping with strong pressure for water supply, storm water and sewage treatments.

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The land or dilapidated building must be checked for life safety and health as well as existing environmental hazards. This is where life can be re-nurtured and in this case, the health and wellness component is reviewed thoroughly. Were there residues and toxic chemicals that weren’t disposed of properly? How is the new site sanitized accordingly? Laboratory tests must take place prior to project delivery.

Sustainability must be ensured when planning this resurgence of architectural life. Any resurrection allows for hope and in this case, provides a chance for the architects and engineers to empower this new development with amenities, features and utilities that favor future-proofing, biophilic intent, green principles and renewable energy benefits. Second chances are great not just in personal life sometimes but also with architecture.

Anyone with a second chance and a new lease on life must allow this resurgence to happen. This applies to the land and the built environment, too. Otherwise, a beautiful heritage structure or a site with intrinsic natural elements should just be left almost untouched, or at best only conserved methodically through processes of heritage conservation. It is with this hope that transformation takes place and the world is made a better place.

Transformations: From old uses to new communities


Arch. Cathy Saldaña is a leading female architect in the country, fishing on planning and architecture in the hospitality, retail-mixed use, high rise residential, healthcare and industrial design sectors. She is the managing director and CEO of her own firm, PDP Architects which stands for: People. Design. Places. She is an advocate of inclusive architecture and sustainable design in cities and communities.

Email the author at [email protected]

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