This paper examines some of the principles in conceptual design of commercial buildings that
enhance the adaptability of a structure to different uses. These principles allow a building to
be designed with increased longevity improving the potential environmental sustainability of
the structure. The purpose of this research is to attempt to fill part of the gap in current
methods of sustainable building design.
The most prominent aspect addressed in the design of a sustainable building is energy
efficiency. However, all buildings house embodied energy, the energy and resources used in
construction, and all buildings demolished significantly add to waste that ends up in landfill.
If a building is adaptable it can be easily adjusted to different uses. Therefore, construction
that not only embraces energy-efficiency but also longevity and flexibility, through adaptable
design, has much greater sustainable properties in that it has the potential to reduce long-term
resource use and waste. It is impossible to predict exactly how buildings will be used in the
future and what needs future societies will have. Therefore, the main factor determining
adaptability is flexibility.
This paper will begin with an overview of how adaptability has the potential to improve the
sustainability of commercial buildings. Structural features of adaptable design will be
examined; for example durability of main structural elements, inbuilt redundancy, large freecolumn
space and floor to ceiling heights, flexible facades, and flexible location of services.
Finally, current incorporation of adaptable design and the main challenges for the future are
described. The paper explores the conflict between the extra capital costs for including some
degree of structural redundancy with the long term saving when the building is remodelled or