Office Buildings are Being Repurposed into Housing: Here's How Concrete Scanning and Coring Play a Role

October 20, 2023
The trend of repurposing office buildings into residential spaces is on the rise. Urban developers and architects are looking to give new life to old structures in order to meet the growing demand for housing in city centres. This is driven by peoples desire to live close to work, amenities, and public transportation. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift towards remote work, reducing the need for extensive office space and making commercial-to-residential conversions financially attractive for property developers.

According to a recent study by the Canadian Urban Institute, there is potential to repurpose office space into 18,000 to 22,000 housing units across 11 Canadian cities. However, this transformation wouldn't be possible without a combination of advanced techniques, including concrete scanning, concrete coring, concrete cutting, and Building Information Modeling (BIM). These four practices are imperative to successful project planning and redesign in this evolving landscape.

Concrete Scanning

Concrete scanning is the first crucial step in repurposing an office building into housing. It involves the use of advanced methodologies like Xradar™ Concrete Scanning to map the existing infrastructure within the building. Why is this so essential? In a modern office building, electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC systems are intricately woven throughout the structure. Identifying these systems accurately is fundamental to avoid costly mistakes during the renovation process. Not only does this prevent damage to essential utilities, but it also ensures that the new housing units will have functional and reliable amenities.

Calgary is one of the leading cities adopting office-to-housing conversions

Concrete Coring and Cutting

Once the scanning phase is complete, concrete coring and cutting take center stage. These processes allow for the creation of openings for windows, doors, and structural modifications. In the context of office-to-housing conversions, concrete coring and cutting play pivotal roles in reimagining the space. They allow for the creation of spacious living areas, improved natural lighting, and proper ventilation and drainage. Perhaps, the most the most complex challenge is the adaptation of plumbing and electrical systems. Shifting from an office layout, with one or two washrooms per floor, to accommodating multiple residential units on each floor necessitates the installation of plumbing for bathrooms, kitchens, washer-dryer connections, kitchen vents, and more. For example, a single bathroom alone requires coring for five essential components: sink, toilet, vent, drain, and shower. When you factor in kitchens, washer-dryers, and water lines, the redesign and renovation can be a complex procedure.

Coring is a delicate art; it must be executed with precision to maintain the building's structural integrity. This requires a deep understanding of the building's existing concrete structure, which is why concrete scanning is the necessary first step.

Additionally, concrete coring ensures that the building meets modern safety and building code requirements. This is particularly important when repurposing older structures, which may not adhere to today's standards. By creating properly sized openings for escape routes and emergency access, these buildings can be made safer for residents.

Beam layouts

Building Information Modelling

BIM is a digital representation of the building's physical and functional characteristics. This technology is a game-changer in the repurposing process. It allows architects and engineers to create a virtual 3D model of the building, facilitating the planning and redesign stages. BIM helps in visualizing how the converted space will look, streamlining project coordination and reducing the potential for costly errors.

Pre-design scan of existing office building

Calgary Fully Embracing Office Conversions

The growing trend of repurposing office buildings into housing represents a sustainable way to repurpose existing structures while addressing the urban housing crisis. In Canada, Calgary is leading the way in office conversions, after introducing a program that provides a grant of $75 per square foot for converting office spaces into residential units. Thirteen projects have been approved thus far, with another four under review by the city. They've had so much interest in the program that city officials have had to pause applications. A recent project in Ottawa saw a former government building repurposed into a 158-unit apartment building called Slayte. It doesn't come without its own set of issues and complexities, but it's a growing trend that will be widely adopted as the cities adjust to a post-Covid world in desperate need of housing.

Key Takeaways

Concrete scanning, coring, cutting, and Building Information Modelling are integral to repurposing office buildings into residential spaces. They not only preserve the building's structural integrity but also allow for efficient and creative redesign, ensuring that these converted spaces meet modern standards and provide comfortable living environments. With these essential tools in place, repurposed office buildings become not just homes, but innovative, functional living spaces that integrate seamlessly with their urban surroundings.

Are you considering such a project and need expert assistance? Look no further! Our team at Xradar specializes in concrete scanning, coring, cutting, and Building Information Modeling. We're here to help you transform your vision into reality.

To discuss how Xradar can assist you in repurposing office spaces with precision and innovation, don't hesitate to get in touch with our team today.