Building conversion scheme wins €5M funding

A scheme to examine the best way of adapting existing buildings for alternative use has won funding worth almost five million euros.

Professor Alessio Ishizaka

Professor Alessio Ishizaka

The University of Portsmouth is part of a consortium of organisations investigating how to preserve and protect buildings of cultural heritage by adapting them for different functions. Re-purposing old or existing buildings is seen as a key factor in land conservation and reducing urban sprawl.

Alessio Ishizaka, Professor in Decision Analysis in the department of Operations and Systems Management, said: “Some of our most interesting buildings are under threat because they are not used, such as abandoned churches and vacated warehouses. It makes sense to reuse what we have and to breathe new life into them. We need to ensure that our cultural heritage continues to live for present and future generations while preserving the intrinsic and in some cases, historic value of our current buildings.”

Sites recognized as being of cultural heritage are increasing but so are the costs for their maintenance and public resources available to fund this are becoming scarcer. However, private investors are increasingly focused on the short time for payback. This lack of funding support means that there is a growing risk that more heritage vanishes year by year as culturally significant buildings are lost.

The University of Portsmouth has received 320,000 euros to develop a new system that will improve how decisions are made on which buildings should be re-used and why, and help identify how best to fund the projects. Professor Ishizaka is leading a team to develop an evaluation tool that will consider the many complex factors that go into making a decision and find the best approach. The team will analyse existing planning and financing tools and regulatory systems and use them to develop a new model for decision-making.

An old gasometer in Vienna becomes a shopping centre

An old gasometer in Vienna becomes a shopping centre

Professor Ishizaka said: “The current approach is fragmented with many different tools and methods in use. What we need is more comprehensive system and a holistic approach to decision making. We will develop a robust decision support system that includes how a project will be funded. It will capture the vast range of organisations and individuals who have an existing interest in a project, could have an impact on it or may wish to invest in it. They might be investment funds, ethical banks, venture philanthropy, foundations as well as the heritage community.

“We want to empower local stakeholders and heritage communities to make the best decisions for their cities by creating approach to how we reuse existing heritage buildings to maximise social, economic and environmental targets and retain their legacy.”

The wider scope of the €5M project is huge and crosses several European countries. The project will be tested in several cities including Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Rijeka in Croatia and Salerno in Italy.

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