Facilitating the adaptability of buildings through the separation of components

Shabtai Isaac, F. Sadeghpour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose Buildings need to be adaptable with relative ease to new user requirements, regulations or technologies. Adaptability reduces the effort and expense involved in adding, changing or replacing building components (such as partitions, doors or plumbing fixtures), throughout the building's life-cycle. This increases the buildings' value and sustainability, as well as the building user's satisfaction. In practice, however, most buildings are designed and constructed to suit their current use, while their future adaptability is ignored. Our research follows an approach that is based on the systematic separation of building components whose replacement occurs at different intervals. Such a separation reduces the efforts, waste and costs currently involved in adapting buildings to the changing needs of their users. Method A number of methods are used in order to support the design of adaptable buildings. The building components in the design are ordered through pair-wise comparisons of their replacement rates. This is preferable to an assessment of the actual life expectancies of the components' in light of the uncertainty regarding external factors such as maintenance policies and future technologies. The relationships between specific building components with different replacement rates are then detected using graph-based methods. A clustering algorithm is applied to a weighted graph representing the design, in order to distinguish between groups of components with different replacement rates. Building components with different replacement rates are then separated through the systematic application of buffers in the building design. A scenario-based method is used to evaluate the costs and benefits of these buffers. A path-search algorithm5 automatically identifies the components that will be affected by changes in each scenario. Results & Discussion Preliminary research included an implementation of the proposed methods in a small-scale case study. Results of this test gave an indication of the feasibility of these methods, suggesting that they might support the design of adaptable buildings. This could facilitate an alternative to current housing policies for elderly people – i.e. adjusting buildings according to the frequently changing needs of their inhabitants, instead of requiring the inhabitants to keep moving as they need more assistance
Original languageAmerican English
Issue number2
StatePublished - 14 Jun 2012


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