Past forward: Recycling Architecture © Pexels
20 Jun 2019

Past forward: Recycling Architecture

2 - 4 minutes

Can safeguarding and reusing the disused buildings play an important role in the rejuvenation process? Can we also argue that this type of adaptive re-use is a sustainable option or not?

It can contribute to meeting the growing need for new buildings as it promotes urban strengthening and encourages the revival efforts.

The future of malls and departmental stores in the age of the fast-moving e-commerce era appears grim. As traditional retailers shut down, old spaces are getting new faces. Recently, a vacant Macy's outlet in a Washington mall was altered into living quarters for the homeless.

In the meantime, the demand for warehouse space is not expected to slow down. No surprise that Amazon took over an old mall in Ohio to house a new Amazon e-commerce fulfillment center. And that's after Amazon had already moved into a new facility where Randall Park Mall used to sit in North Randall, Ohio.

Amazon fulfillment center

Real estate development groups save considerable project costs when they initiate reuse projects as demolition and re-building costs could be reasonably controlled. Run-down malls with low footfall offer renewed wide and open spaces within central locations.

"Developers say it takes a community ready to accept that the mall has failed as well as understanding that there are viable job opportunities in logistics real estate. The dramatic shift in the retail industry and growth of e-commerce have led some analysts to estimate that 400 or so of the roughly 1,100 malls in the U.S. will close in the coming years," Esther Fung, a real state reporter for The Wall Street Journal in her article The Best Place for a New Warehouse? An Old Mall.

If pages of history could offer a narrative, the need for a warehouse rose when trade reached a critical mass requiring efficient storage to control the pricing strategy and simplify the exchange process. This is evident in ancient Rome, where the horreum (pl. horrea) became a standard building form. The most studied examples are in Ostia, the port city which served Rome. The Horrea Galbae, a warehouse complex on the road towards Ostia, demonstrates that these buildings could be substantial, even by modern standards. As a point of

Ostia antica

reference only less than half of U.S. warehouses today are larger than 100,000 square feet (9290 m²).

These types of projects — converting a shuttered retail space into industrial complexes — have historically been hard to do and are still somewhat rare to see through from start to finish. David Egan, head of the industrial and logistics research division, Commercial Real Estate Services made an interesting remark in an interview with CNBC, "That said, I think we will see more of it. [The trend] will grow slowly, but it will grow."

As sales shift to the internet, retailers and third-party logistics providers like UPS and FedEx develop a growing need to procure easy-to-maintain properties and spaces dedicated to handling the flow of online orders. Industry experts sense that this trend makes reasonable business sense.

In the interview, Egan further said, "Retail assets tend to have greater value than industrial assets". A diminishing preference for the experience of malls and shopping centers presents the current ownership with a creative conundrum.

Shopping centers © Pexels

Perhaps, the only way out is excavating used spaces. Adaptive reuse is potentially the most practical and immediate solution to meet the burgeoning demand of warehouses and warehouse management. Who knows what the future holds? The answer lies in restoration or rehabilitation, and a keen understanding and love for structural compatibility.

Let the market decide.



Business Editor




  1. Amazon Turns Shopping Malls into Warehouses, Changing America's Community Landscape
  2. From dead mall to Amazon warehouse: Here's how shuttered retail stores are getting a new life
  3. A Macy's Goes from Mall Mainstay to Homeless Shelter



Your Citation

CAD Evangelist. "Past forward: Recycling Architecture" CAD Evangelist, Jun. 20, 2019,

CAD Evangelist. (2019, June 20). Past forward: Recycling Architecture. Retrieved from

CAD Evangelist. "Past forward: Recycling Architecture." CAD Evangelist (accessed July 24, 2019).

copy citation copied!
Tagged under
CAD Evangelist

The CAD Evangelist is an alternate source of insights for the A/E/C industry. It is a non-profit platform sponsored by BluEnt, a design, technology and engineering group with offices in New York, Toronto, New Delhi, Muscat, Amsterdam and New Delhi. BluEnt partners with home builders, real estate developers and general contractors to plan workload efficiently. Companies rely on BluEnt for design development, project management and monitoring.