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

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