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Designing for adaptability in architecture

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posted on 11.11.2014, 12:35 authored by Robert Schmidt III
The research is framed on the premise that designing buildings that can adapt by accommodating change easier and more cost-effectively provides an effective means to a desired end a more sustainable built environment. In this context, adaptability can be viewed as a means to decrease the amount of new construction (reduce), (re)activate underused or vacant building stock (reuse) and enhance disassembly/ deconstruction of components (reuse, recycle) - prolonging the useful life of buildings (reduce, reuse, recycle). The aim of the research is to gain a holistic overview of the concept of adaptability in the construction industry and provide an improved framework to design for, deploy and implement adaptability. An over-arching research question was posited to guide the inquiry: how can architects understand, communicate, design for and test the concept of adaptability in the context of the design process? The research followed Dubois and Gadde s (2002) systematic combining as an over-arching approach that continuously moves between the empirical world and theoretical models allowing the co-evolution of data collection and theory from the beginning as part of a non-linear process with the objective of matching theory with reality. An initial framework was abducted from a preliminary collection of data from which a set of mixed research methods was deployed to explore adaptability (interviews, building case studies, dependency structural matrices, practitioner surveys and workshop). Emergent from the data is an expanded and revised theory on designing for adaptability consisting of concepts, models and propositions. The models illustrate many of the casual links between the physical design structure of the building (e.g. plan depth, storey height) and the soft contingencies of a messy design/construction/occupation process (e.g. procurement route, funding methods, stakeholder mindsets). In an effort to enhance building adaptability, the abducted propositions suggest a shift in the way the industry values buildings and conducts aspects of the design process and how designer s approach designing for adaptability.





  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering


© rsiii 2014

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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