Study: Office Conversions One-Third More Affordable Than New Housing

Where conditions are right for office-to-residential adaptive reuse, projects can be completed faster and at a significantly lower cost than new construction.

1 minute read

November 21, 2023, 12:00 PM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

White round pillars in empty office building with windows across all walls and white floors and ceiling.

Astro-0/KOTO / Adobe Stock

A study from Gensler reveals that converting office buildings to housing could cost 30 percent less than new construction—where conversion is feasible. As Nish Amarnath explains in Smart Cities Dive, “Gensler said U.S. office vacancies reached a 30-year high in the second quarter of 2023, according to the Council of Economic Advisers,” prompting a strong interest in the adaptive reuse of office buildings.

According to the study, 25 percent of the over 1,000 buildings and sites surveyed met the criteria for conversion. “Factors including building form, location and floor plate size helped Gensler determine a building’s suitability for adaptive reuse into housing. Gensler notes that ‘unpleasant’ office features, like low ceilings, can be translated into desirable attributes for a residential building by removing office ducts, lights and drop ceilings to make way for ‘luxurious’ 11-foot clear ceiling heights.”

An adaptive reuse initiative in Calgary is expected to yield an increase in residential units of 24 percent in that city’s downtown core. Meanwhile, the U.S. federal government announced a $350 million investment to support office conversions and adjusted regulations to make office conversion easier for local governments.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023 in Smart Cities Dive

Ornate, tan stone capitol building with a gold dome roof and low-rise city buildings in the background.

States Are Banning Guaranteed Income Programs

Four states now have laws in place that prevent cities and counties from creating or continuing guaranteed income programs, and several more have tried or are trying.

May 23, 2024 - Bloomberg CityLab

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Close-up of electric stove range with front burners red-hot.

California Cities Suspend Natural Gas Bans Following Court Ruling

A Ninth Circuit court ruling forced Berkeley to reverse its ban on natural gas in new buildings, prompting other cities to suspend their own efforts to promote all-electric buildings.

May 28, 2024 - East Bay Times

BART heavy rail train on elevated track pulling into Concord, CA station with cloudy sky and trees in background.

Bay Area Transit Projects Awarded $18 Million

The funding supports eight ‘near-term’ projects slated for completion within the next one to three years.

1 hour ago - Contra Costa Herald

Silver UTA On Demand transit van in Utah.

Utah On-Demand Transit Hits 1 Million Rides

The service connects outlying communities with fixed-route transit lines.

2 hours ago - Utah Transit Authority

Texas Flood

Texas Flood Plan Shows One in Six Residents Live With Flood Risk

One-fourth of the state’s land falls within 100-year or 500-year floodplains.

3 hours ago - The Texas Tribune

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.