Buildings are usually designed to be used for at least a number of decades. However, the users of buildings, including organizations, continuously change and generally speaking buildings can be adapted only at very high costs. The capacity for adaptation in a building is a huge benefit, irrespective of whether that adaptation is required because of a change in users, a change in demands, or the integration of new technology, or in order to accommodate an entirely different function.
There is no single solution to fit every situation, but some basic rules are generally considered to be obvious. For example, the vertical structural members should not cause problems in terms of any desired floor layouts. Columns are preferable to load-bearing walls, but if walls are used, then they should be properly spaced and/or easy to make an opening in at a later stage. One thing in particular that affects a building’s adaptability is the accessibility of services (through removable panels or access holes, for example), allowing for modifications or extensions to systems at a later stage.
In short, taking measures to support the adaptability of a building is the sustainable option. As John Habraken once wrote: “We should not try to forecast what will happen, but to make provision for what cannot be foreseen”. (Habraken, 1990*).
It is, by the way, a common misconception that adaptability automatically leads to higher costs. Examples of buildings constructed in accordance with the Slimbouwen process, for example, have shown that the very same technology that provides adaptability also substantially reduces building costs. This means that such buildings can compete perfectly well with those built in the conventional way.
* Habraken, J. N. (1999). Supports, The Urban International press U.K.