The Problem of Wasting Useful Life in Modern Buildings

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The Problem of Wasting Useful Life in Modern Buildings

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This thesis investigates the current practice around how buildings are handled when their end of use time comes and the disparity between building life utilization vs building life usefulness in modern buildings. The purpose is 1) to explore the ecological impacts that the current building cycle has on the surrounding environment through greenhouse emissions and define areas which can be improved, 2) to define and explore financial impacts of current building utilization as well as what role finances play in occupants decision making, and 3) to evaluate different ideologies on how buildings useful life can be more sustainably utilized. A secondary purpose of this thesis is to determine and recommend emerging and original design practices, construction practices, and occupancy use plans that can aid in the ongoing effort to make buildings more sustainable. A building's end of usefulness compared to its end of use exposes the disparity between the two and the faults in current building use practices. As a building's life cycle is generally designed for one function, a major fault in lack of adaptability becomes clear within sustainable construction. Current design and construction practices have limited how long a structure is useful to its occupants by limiting that building's ability to adapt for future uses. When a building gains the ability to adapt through pre-planning on the design end of its life cycle, future functions can be planned for in a way that greatly increases the chances a building can be utilized while still being ecological and economic friendly. Through the explained framework, a clear path forward on how construction can change buildings that have been historically unsustainable to buildings that can adapt and grow as occupants' needs grow while remaining economically and financially viable.


University of Minnesota M.S. thesis. September 2021. Major: Architecture. Advisor: Richard Graves. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 75 pages.

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Stephenson, Matthew. (2021). The Problem of Wasting Useful Life in Modern Buildings. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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