Housing may indeed be in greater demand in the future as the population continues to grow, shift and centralize, but other building types may see decreased demand. Parking structures are one area where architects are beginning to design for adaptive reuse in a future that may be less car-dependent.
“We’re definitely working on some office-building concepts that include future-flexible parking,” Mather explains. “Parking has driven building design for a long time, but with different modes of mobility, like cycling, scooters and autonomous vehicles, becoming more prevalent, we can scale down the amount of parking required. In 2016, Gensler completed an 8-story office building in Cincinnati that has three levels of parking above the ground floor. Those parking levels are designed to be converted to office space in the future.” (Learn more about this office building in “84.51 Centre”.)
As construction and demolition’s impact on the environment becomes better understood, the value of building for the present and future increases. The longer the lifespan of a building, the more its impact is spread out over time. Designing with an eye to flexibility will allow future owners and designers to make the most of the structures being built today.
“The only thing I don’t like about the term ‘futureproofing’ is that it implies these are issues we don’t have to worry about right now,” Freed says. “In reality, everyone should be incorporating futureproofing into their annual planning processes and using it to prepare for likely disruptions.”
In an industry and society that can so often be focused on the immediate return, it can be challenging to plan for and consider a future we can’t even imagine. But it has been done before and it can be done again.
“The Iroquois people have a saying,” Freed continues. “‘In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.’ Even if you simply do this as a mental exercise, you will see the benefit of the approach.”
Located in the central business district of Cincinnati, 84.51 Centre is a mixed-use development designed by Gensler. It includes underground and above-ground parking with street-level retail and the headquarters for a consumer analytics company above.
The 280,000-square-foot headquarters space, designed to maximize productivity and staff engagement, is bathed in natural light. Office areas are organized into neighborhoods, centralized spaces or shared areas with the majority of workspaces open-plan. Two full-height light canyons create visual connections across all five levels of the workspace, shortening travel distances between floors while drawing people together and encouraging collaboration.
The above-ground parking levels are designed with the same floor-to-floor dimensions and structural detailing for expansion. Built with the future in mind, 84.51’s parking garage can be transformed into offices when the need arises years from now.