Building Obsolescence and the Challenges for Building Surveyors

How long will my building last? Not a question that many people ask frankly but everyone in property should consider the implications around property lifecycles more carefully. The reaction to the age of buildings can vary depending on your place in the property market, if presented with a 20 year old industrial building for instance a great deal of manufacturer’s looking for space may think the building is ideal, equally many investors and property companies looking for investment stock may not think twice about the age of the property believing prospects of obsolescence and diminishing occupier demand are minimal.

Contrast that industrial building scenario with what Occupiers, Investors and Funds may think about 20 year old office buildings, the reactions may be quite different, in fact the options for a market of purchasers may be quite different too – the potential for residential conversion being one. The ageing profile of different types of buildings can vary considerably.

The fact that there are still many buildings in beneficial use dating from Victorian times across the towns and cities of the UK is testament to the lifecycle of some properties even if they have been ‘re-cycled’ in to new uses – loft conversions to residential being a good example.

As a Building Surveyor we look at what we have in front of us primarily from a standpoint of the condition of the fabric of the building but we also have to advise on the potential for future re-use of buildings and their flexibility for adaptation or changes of use. The questions around obsolescence, particularly of offices, is a very ‘hot topic’ though and the challenges of building in flexibility and addressing the challenges around building energy efficiencies are something we are giving a lot of thought and client advice.