A number of articles have come out this last month noting, all with optimism, that Canary Wharf Tower is to be revamped and refurbished - at a cost of somewhere between £100m and £400m - rather than demolished. 

It seems the news is good for contractors (and ISG have said they earned £600m in turnover fitting out London building stock last year). 

At the same time, it seems to me, movement against demolition generally is gathering momentum - since I shared this article last year, I have seen many more articles in a similar vein, as well as webinars and panel discussions along the same lines. Adaptive re-use is recognised as more 'planet-friendly', but there are also interesting discussions around designing buildings now for 'end of life' scenarios. This presentation, Circular economy: strategies for concrete buildings (concretecentre.com) was particularly fascinating and eye opening. Particularly as a big fan of concrete, often cited as one of the biggest enemies of the environment (terrible statistics abound, interesting resources here and here, though I was pleasantly surprised to find 90% of concrete demolition waste is reused as aggregate). 

One of the reasons I find this particularly interesting is that adaptive re-use projects were among my favourite to work on as a structural engineer. They combined research into history, testing and investigations, a bit of creative thinking, and often complex coordination. Existing buildings can be very difficult to work with - the unknowns do not lend themselves well to the long and expensive processes involved in construction, so risk management can be critical. 

The costs can stack up, particularly in upgrading MEP and envelope, before even considering structural strengthening. The presence of asbestos continues to be a problem. For some existing buildings, it simply may not be a cost-effective solution (this does of course depend on your definition and perspective of 'cost'). 

There is a balance to be struck as always: efficiency ('lean' design) versus flexibility of use, for example. But as we start to think about future uses now, we are certainly saving future engineers some headaches. Not only can re-use projects be wonderful spaces, they also have the potential to save thousands of tonnes of carbon. I too am optimistic.