Obsolescence results when there is a change in the requirements or expectations regarding the use of a particular object or idea. The danger of earthquakes, for instance, has persuaded many communities to modify building codes to mitigate the consequences of such a disaster. This, in turn, has rendered many structures effectively obsolete since they no longer comply with
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence 2 OBSOLESCENCE IN FACILITIES Obsolescence is the condition of being antiquated, old fashioned, outmoded, or out of date. The obsolete item is not necessarily broken, worn out, or otherwise dysfunctional, although these conditions may underscore the obsolescence. Rather, the item simply does not measure up to current needs or expectations (see box). THE WORD ITSELF Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (1985) traces the word "obsolete,"—meaning "no longer in use," "old fashioned," "vestigial,"—to Latin roots in the sixteenth century. ''Obsolescence," the ''process of becoming obsolete or the condition of being nearly obsolete," appeared much later—in the mid-nineteenth century. People tend to replace or discard tools, clothing, and other possessions that they view as obsolete. Possessions also may be discarded or replaced because they are broken or worn out, but this is not the same as obsolescence. Preserved long enough in good condition—100 years is a commonly used criterion—an obsolete or "antiquated" object may be venerated as an "antique." The latter term is said to have entered the English language from French, at about the same period that "obsolete" came into use. Obsolescence results when there is a change in the requirements or expectations regarding the use of a particular object or idea. The danger of earthquakes, for instance, has persuaded many communities to modify building codes to mitigate the consequences of such a disaster. This, in turn, has rendered many structures effectively obsolete since they no longer comply with
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence the most recent safety regulations. In a less dramatic case, numerous office buildings have become obsolete because they cannot accommodate the increasing dependence of businesses on personal computers and an array of new communications equipment. In most cases things or concepts that are obsolete continue to function but at levels below contemporary standards. IDENTIFYING OBSOLESCENCE2 As was described in Chapter 1, when reduced performance of a facility affects the activities of building occupants, the impact can result in lost efficiency, rising costs, reduced output, and declining morale. Even if the occupants are not affected directly, property values may decline as potential tenants and purchasers look to more modern facilities to meet their changing needs and increased expectations. External changes that can cause obsolescence include introduction of new technology, neighborhood deterioration, or shifts in public demand for the services and amenities a facility provides. Such changed requirements or expectations regarding the shelter, comfort, profitability, or other dimensions of performance are typical, inevitable, and—in many observers' opinion—accelerating in pace.3 Federal agencies, like other building owners, have found it necessary periodically to modify facilities in order to bring them up to date and to remedy features that no longer fulfill user needs. Often, these modifications are especially costly because the designs of older structures are not adapted easily to new systems, finishes, and interior layouts. In extreme cases of obsolescence, it has been more cost effective to demolish and replace structures rather than renovate them. For example, St. Louis's Pruitt Igoe low-income housing project was demolished because of the project's apparent exacerbating effect on the social problems it was meant to solve. Sometimes problems arise because agency design guidelines are outdated or do not address new requirements, sometimes, when new materials or products are emerging rapidly, there is a general lack of information upon which to base facility decisions; and sometimes the slow pace of the federal budgeting process permits needs to shift while authorizations are sought to construct facilities for 2 The following discussion builds on principles of engineering economics and life-cycle cost analysis. Texts presenting these general principles include Johnson (1991) and Dell-Isola and Kirk (1981). 3 The judgment that rates of change are rapid or accelerating must be made in a particular context: buildings and other constructed facilities routinely are expected to endure for several decades. Changes of use or technology over periods of 5 to 7 years or less are rapid in this context.
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence which programming and design are complete already. All of these are causes of obsolescence. The initial capabilities of a facility and how it is maintained, though not causing obsolescence directly, can influence the onset of obsolescence. For example, use of inflexible partitioning systems or failure to maintain mechanical systems can hasten the time when users or owners judge that a facility is no longer adequate for their needs, particularly if, at the same time, other facilities and mechanical systems offering better performance have become available. The impact of obsolescence may be directly adverse, as is the case when changes in neighborhood character cause declines in rents or when new concerns for energy conservation lead owners to decide that a building's heating or cooling demands are excessive. Frequently, obsolescence may simply mean that new technology or design standards offer improved performance compared with the existing facility can deliver, and users are placed at a disadvantage compared to occupants of newer or modernized facilities. Obsolescence may have consequences for the user's business. For example, the adoption of optical bar-code technology in motor vehicle freight management has led to longer trailers, necessitating longer loading bays for U.S. Postal Service facilities. Older post offices—that is, those with short bays and low roofs—are seriously obsolete regarding this changed technology. Similarly, the advent of multimedia office automation systems (i.e., integrating sound, video, and still imaging with data storage and access) could revolutionize office design and use by replacing conventional voice and data communication. Apart from the major monuments that survive, sometimes for centuries, with function unaltered, most facilities, to some degree, become obsolete before their structures basically unsafe or otherwise unfit for use. However, obsolescence becomes a significant design and management issue when it occurs prior to the end of the design service life: the length of time for which a building, subsystem, or component is designed to provide at least an acceptable minimum level of shelter or service, as defined by the owner.4 For many types of buildings, and for purposes of financial analysis, this design service life typically is assumed to be 15 to 30 years. Interior finishes and technology subsystems generally are expected to have much shorter service lives, whereas structural frames, foundations, and exteriors are recognized to be longer lived. These expectations of design service life provide the basis for making many decisions in the course of facilities planning, design, and management. Service life often differs from physical life: the actual time it takes for a building, subsystem, or component to wear out or fail, or the "time period after 4 Definitions of a number of terms useful in discussing facilities obsolescence are included in the glossary, Appendix B.
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence which a facility can no longer perform its function because increasing physical deterioration has rendered it useless" (Kirby and Grgas, 1975). Sometimes failures caused by design or fabrication errors bring an early end to the physical life. However, more typically, over the years roofs need replacing, mechanical equipment breaks down, metals corrode, and sealants erode, regardless of users' needs, economic factors, or technological advances. These conditions are not obsolescence, although the repairs or replacements may incorporate materials or parts that use new technology and thereby defer or redress obsolescence. For example, the physical life of the basic structure and many of the interiors of the U.S. Capitol building are approaching 200 years and are likely to continue for additional decades. Nevertheless, obsolescence over the years has led to many changes in electrical and mechanical systems and to construction of several new buildings to provide offices and meeting rooms when the original plan became inadequate. In contrast, the Washington, D.C. old central post office, constructed on Pennsylvania Avenue at the end of the nineteenth century, was by the 1960s essentially obsolete and abandoned by the U.S. Postal Service in favor of newer and more functional facilities. However, the facades and structure were preserved when adaptive reuse in the 1970s converted the building to offices, a shopping mall, and a tourist attraction5 (Craig et al., 1984). Whatever the cause, any element that has reached the end of its physical life has, in fact, failed and must be replaced, repaired, refitted, or abandoned. An element that has reached the end of its service life, on the other hand, can continue to function (albeit at less-than-adequate performance) and may or may not be replaced or refitted. Obsolescence can end the actual service life sometimes years before the designers anticipated that the end would occur (see box). The many separate systems that compare a building (e.g., lighting, HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning], roofing, and cladding) must each perform well for the building's overall performance to be adequate. If any one system fails or becomes obsolete, the entire building may be judged unacceptable. PROGRESSION OF THE SERVICE LIFE Figure 1 illustrates conceptually the progression of a facility's performance during its service life (i.e., following completion of construction). 5 Much of the building's interior was demolished, but aesthetic and historic concerns, combined with such governmental financial incentives as credits and preservation, saved the exterior and motivated reuse.
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence OBSOLESCENCE ILLUSTRATED An enterprise (government agency or private corporation) has decided to use the ground floor of a downtown building as a customer service area and, as part of its plans for the space, intends to locate a small gallery there for rotating exhibits. The exhibition area may attract some visitors, but the enterprise expects most viewers to be people who have other business with the customer service staff. The interior designer suggests using a custom carpet, featuring the organization's colors and logo, as a strong and unified public image for the space. The specifications for the carpet are developed based on standard materials available and projected use over the next 5 years. CASE 1: Visitor traffic is close to what was forecast, but the carpet wears badly. The problem is found to be a cleaning agent, used for a short period by a maintenance contractor, that reacts with fiber in the pile. After 3 years the carpet must be replaced. CASE 2: Visitor traffic far exceeds expectations. The carpet wears well in comparison with traffic but nevertheless is badly worn after 3 years, at which time the enterprise decides to replace it. CASE 1 and 2 are concerned with physical life and failure, caused by maintenance errors or unanticipated usage, rather than obsolescence. CASE 3: The enterprise undertakes strategic planning and a reorganization that result in substantial changes in corporate image. As part of this process, a decision is made to discontinue the exhibitions and convert the ground floor area to offices. The custom carpet, still in good condition, is removed and junked after only 3 years. CASE 4: New medical evidence identifies chemicals used in fiber manufacturing as serious allergens, and the EPA issued regulations effectively banning the use of these chemicals in applications that bring them in contact with people. The enterprise is notified by the manufacturer that its custom carpet incorporates these chemicals but that the regulation exempts materials in place. Noting that there have been no complaints during the 3 years since the carpet was installed, the enterprise decides that no immediate action is warranted. Cases 3 and 4 are examples of obsolescence caused by changes in functional requirements or regulatory (i.e., social and political) factors. "Performance," meaning the facility's ability to provide the shelter and service for which it is intended, can be measured by any of a variety of parameters, depending on the particular facility type or subsystem being considered. For example, roof performance might be characterized by the likelihood that no leakage will occur, and HVAC systems might be characterized by energy-efficient use. Measures may also include financial, economic, or sociological
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence Figure 1 A conceptual view of service life. factors. The complexity of building systems defies definition of any single parameter adequate to measure all aspects of performance. Hence, to judge performance or obsolescence effectively, one must consider each functional system or subsystem. As shown in Figure 1, performance at initial occupancy—the facility's initial capability—is typically less than the design ideal. Generally, a modest "shakedown" or "shakeout" period of time necessary for the building, subsystem, or component—and its operating personnel—to reach this anticipated optimum level of performance. Careful commissioning of new facilities can help to assure that much of this shakeout is accomplished prior to occupancy. Problems unresolved in the shakedown period or a design that fits poorly with the user's needs will be reflected in a peak performance level below an optimum that might otherwise have been achieved. Assuming that the facility's initial capability does approach the optimum peak performance, the new facility will continue to deliver that performance, barring catastrophe and with proper operations and normal maintenance, at a reasonably steady level for some years. But there inevitably begins a slow decline owing to wear, aging, and functional change. Eventually, performance falls to a level that users judge to be the minimum acceptable. Because of the performance drop, the users may move, owners may take action to renovate their facilities, or the facilities may be demolished and replaced.
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence The design service life of facilities is projected to be the time required for performance deterioration to reach minimum acceptable levels. Efforts to make precise predictions of the length of service life, physical life, and the course of performance with time—for major building components, subsystems, and entire buildings—have been the subject of study for several decades, and progress has been slow (refer to Appendix D). Experience, custom, and rules of thumb continue to be the primary sources of estimates for these parameters. Design decisions and owners' investment decisions typically are based on an assumption that adequate performance can be delivered for 15 to 30 years (a design service life, as previously defined). Rarely, however, does this period elapse without some periodic renewal or refurbishment—replacement carpets, painting, and overhauling of compressors, for example—that increase performance during the service period and effectively extend the service life (see Table 1).6 A variety of regulatory requirements and design practices influence actual service lives; also, in the private sector, tax laws and the lending practices of financial institutions may have as much or more to do with determining this time period than does engineering information. For example, safe and stable building structures typically survive beyond the time periods over which their accounting values are depreciated to zero. In practice, actually, most buildings provide adequate service over periods considerably longer than those explicitly considered in design, and the physical life for a building as a whole normally can be expected to extend beyond the design service life—to 20 to 40 years or more. As Table 1 illustrates, anticipated service lives very substantially among building types and building subsystems. If maintenance is neglected or conditions of use are more demanding than anticipated during design, performance deterioration may proceed more rapidly than expected. As Figure 2 illustrates, this deterioration is indicated by a more steeply declining performance curve, and the minimum acceptable performance is reached sooner. Thus, the service life is reduced. Such a reduction in service life—below design levels—is typically is judged a failure by users or owners, although sometimes a maintenance effort above "normal" levels can extend the service life beyond its design target.7 6 These service-life estimates may be understated. Experience in the United States is that properly maintained centrifugal chillers, for example, will last 18 to 22 years, as will a roof. 7 Definitions of design service life, optimum performance, and normal maintenance are, in principle, choices to be made by designers and owners, based on analysis of life-cycle costs and benefits. Most typically, no such analysis is conducted, and these definitions are adopted implicitly from so-called standard practice.
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence Table 1 Renewal of Cycles of Selected Building Components (in years) FACILITIES COMPONENTS Public Housing Condominiums Retail Hotels Office Airports Upper floors 10a — — — — — Roof Construction 20b — — — — — Coverings 10 10 7 10 10 5 Stairs 5a 20b — — 10 10 External Walls 5a 25b 5 10–15 15 5 Parting 5a 10a 5 10–15 15 4 Windows 10 15b 10 — — 10 Doors External 5 25b 7 7–10 10 10 Internal — 10 10 6 — 10 Games court — 2–3 — — — — resurfacing Ironmongery — 20b 7 6 8 5 Wall finish 5 — 7 4 5 5 Floor finish 5 10 7 6 12 2 Ceiling finish — 25b 7 — 6 5 Decoration External 5 3–5 5 5 3–5 1 Internal 5 1–2 5 6 10 1 Sanitary fittings — 5 7 20 10 5 Water/sanitation — 10 5 3 10 10 Air-conditioning Cooling tower — 10 10 10 10 — Chiller — 10 10 10 10 — Ducts — 10 10 10 10 — Electrical Wiring 20a 10–15b 10 20 12 — Fittings 20b 10–15b 10 6 6 — Drainage 15b 10–15b 7 20 15 — External works 10 3–5 10 10 15 — a Minor replacements. b Estimated figures. Source: Fong, 1990.
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence Figure 2 Maintenance practices can influence service life. RISING EXPECTATIONS AND THE ONSET OF OBSOLESCENCE For the sake of simplicity, Figures 1 and 2 portray as unchanging the levels of performance judged to be optimum or the minimum acceptable as unchanging over the period of the facility's service life. This is seldom the case in practice, except perhaps regarding a few basic aspects of performance, such as structural stability and shelter from inclement weather. More typically, users' and owners' expectations change over time as a result of the development of newer facilities, the introduction of new products, and increased experience (see Figure 3). For example, new lighting technology and product designs coming on the market may offer lower energy consumption and make the existing lighting fixtures seem old fashioned. People also may come to expect faster elevators, installed data transmission systems, electronic security systems, and personalized zoned heating and cooling controls. Figure 3 portrays the rising expectations that may cause performance to reach minimum acceptable levels much sooner than they would otherwise. (On the other hand, occupants of older buildings may accept some aspects of performance that would be judged unacceptable in a new facility. Such declining expectations sometimes have the effect of extending the facility's service life.)
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence Figure 3 Standards or expectations of performance may change with time. Shortening of the service life because of rising expectations is the essential characteristic of obsolescence. As was already, obsolete systems frequently are replaced even though they are performing at levels that were considered adequate at the time of design. If they are not replaced or refurbished, they impose a variety of other costs on the building's users and owners. These costs spring primarily from losses in productivity of the people who use the facility. Staff forced to work under awkward or unhealthful conditions perform less effectively than their competitors and feel stress. Output is restricted or diminished, and absenteeism and health care costs may rise. A number of factors, falling roughly into four broad categories, may cause rising expectations, obsolescence, and increased expenses: Functional factors, that is, those related to the uses a building or spaces within the building are expected to serve (e.g., when the building's occupants change); Economic factors, referring primarily to the cost of continuing to use an existing building, subsystem, or component compared with the expense of substituting some alternative (e.g., when a building cannot compete effectively with its newer neighbors for tenants and rents); Technological factors, referring to the efficiency and service offered by the existing installed technology compared to new and improved alternatives
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence (e.g, when electrical power distribution and grounding systems are no longer able to accommodate the demands of current office automation); and Social, legal, political, or cultural factors, that is the broad influence of social goals, political agendas, or changing lifestyles (e.g., when a building fails to meet the requirements set in new legislation for accessibility by people with physical disabilities). In fact, when owners or users judge their facilities (or some components of their facilities) to be obsolete, they often arrive at the conclusion because of the complex interaction of many such factors. Factors in the fourth category, and particularly promulgation of new regulations or standards, are particularly important because they can cause a sharp rise in performance requirements within a short period of time. Figure 4 illustrates the effect. The Americans with Disabilities Act, for example, is forcing many building owners to make physical changes in their otherwise satisfactory facilities to enhance accessibility by handicapped persons. Similarly, the removal of asbestos from many school buildings is a response to public health concerns, even though the response may not be required by law. Appendix C discusses further the effect of regulatory factors in fostering obsolescence. Figure 4 Changes in standards of performance may be relatively rapid. One of the options for prolonging the service life of a facility is rehabilitation or renewal. Repairing walls and repainting interiors, replacing old
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence light fixtures with more efficient ones, and moving interior partitions to accommodate new functions are among the activities that building owners and users undertake periodically to improve the facility's overall performance. Figure 5 illustrates how these periodic renewals raise performance level and extend service life.8 Figure 5 Periodic renewals raise performance and can extend service life. SCALE OF THE OBSOLESCENCE PROBLEM Obsolescence becomes a significant problem when it occurs in the early years of a facility's service life. Although the committee could find no comprehensive basis for estimating the scale of facilities obsolescence problems, anecdotal evidence suggests that the problem is substantial. With frustrating 8 In the absence of such renewals, buildings typically are abandoned, becoming blights on the landscape and community, or demolished, becoming a burden to the natural environment. Dealing effectively with obsolescence thus potentially has very broad benefits.
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence frequency, new hospitals, research laboratories, and office spaces are, to quote an official of one major university, ''obsolete before construction is complete.'' Unprecedented rates of new business formation, corporate mergers and consolidations, and growth in the information-based sectors of the U.S. economy of the 1970s and 1980s have forced much of the functional obsolescence. Committee members familiar with both commercial real estate management and government facilities utilization note that 3 to 5 year intervals now are typical for virtually complete changes in office-space utilization. As a result, many large institutions are choosing modular partition and furniture systems for their major facilities in order to make it easier to reorganize space to fit the reorganized company or agency. Other institutions have invested additional funds as part of the design and construction of new facilities in order to make provisions for later expansion and changes in patterns of use (see box). SAVING MONEY BY DELAYING OBSOLESCENCE One traditional approach to avoiding obsolescence is to build excess unfinished space in new structures. Finishing is completed when the space is needed for current activities. At Iowa State University the Pearson building was constructed in 1962, with no provision for a basement. A basement was added in 1980. The Agronomy Addition, constructed in 1984, included an unfinished basement shell that was then finished 2 years later. The cost to construct space under the Pearson building was estimated to be about 20 percent more than if it had been built along with the rest of the building. This 20 percent premium was a cost of obsolescence. The initial investment required to construct an unfinished shell below grade, based on the Agronomy Addition experience, would have been approximately 25 percent of normal fully finished costs for the basement. That is to say, an additional investment made at initial construction of one-quarter of the cost for a fully finished basement would have made the overall construction easier (i.e., constructing the shell space and later finishing it, versus construction of new space under a finished building) and avoided the 20 percent premium. In retrospect, the savings the university might have achieved from constructing "shell space" under the Pearson building, in anticipation of a need as much as 18 years later, would have yielded a greater than 8 percent annual rate of return on the investment (allowing for increases in construction costs). Avoiding disruption of ongoing operations and earlier use of the space are additional savings that such action yields. The construction of "shell space" is one strategy for delaying or avoiding obsolescence. Source: Information provided by the Iowa State University Office of Facilities Planning and Management. Economic factors have tended to match these functional changes. Facilities leases are written for shorter periods of time and, in the case of commercial office space, commonly are renegotiated every 5 years. Rapidly growing
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence property values, high inflation, and high interest rates in the past two decades have shortened substantially the time horizon for facility investment decisions, forcing more rapid economic obsolescence of older facilities. The trend has been most notable in some residential markets, where "tear-downs"—demolition of sound older houses in order to permit new construction on the property—has become commonplace. The severely depressed real estate market of 1991 supported the contention of some professionals (e.g., Pilzer, 1989) that there has been too much new construction at a time when rates of business expansion have declined. In addition, for users of retail space, brand-focused, higher-efficiency (as measured in dollar sales per square foot) mass merchandisers are becoming predominant, reducing the overall demand for retail commercial space. These trends, coupled with the impact of computer-based mail and telephone ordering, just-in-time delivery, and, consequently, reduced inventories, point to a continuing decline in the need for retail space and warehouses. Similar downsizing is occurring in many manufacturing businesses, and the move to smaller offices and to the "telecommuting" that permits information workers based at their homes to be linked by telecommunications into a productive corporate network may lead to similar results in the office sector. Taken together, these trends suggest that many new facilities have become obsolete. The energy crisis of the 1970s and subsequent lesser fuel-price shocks have stimulated development of energy-saving technologies for HVAC equipment (e.g., direct digital controls, variable air-volume devices, and electronic sensors and software for controlling system balance), new insulation materials, and energy-conserving facade and roof designs (Kelsey and Webb, 1990; Sequerth and DeFranks, 1987). Such developments have rendered many older HVAC systems—and sometimes entire buildings—obsolete. Rapid change in telecommunications and in computer technologies has had a similar effect on buildings, giving rise to the new professional activity of "wire management." Buildings lacking such elements as raised floors, easily relocatable data-grade cables, and switches to accommodate local area computer networks and private telephone systems are viewed by many users as obsolete (Building, 1985; Building Design and Construction, 1986; Building Research Board, 1988; Doyle 1985; Sraeel, 1988.) In the future, further advances in flat-wire and wireless technologies may reduce or eliminate the need for these raised floors and cables, thereby rendering yet other facilities obsolete. Changes in the technology of equipment used in a number of fields and consequent shifts in work patterns also have caused facilities to be judged obsolete. Desktop personal computers, for instance, have supported greater reliance on ad hoc interdisciplinary teams rather than on a departmentalized organizational structure and linear-production work flow in many offices, leading in turn to office layouts that may change every 2 to 3 years. Research chemists have found that new discoveries and shifting research priorities, with
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence consequent demands for new equipment and lab configurations, have reduced the typical functional life span of chemistry laboratories to about 7 years.9 In hospitals, same-day surgeries—comprising only about 15 percent of cases a decade ago but currently over 60 percent in many facilities—have drastically altered patterns of space use and the demand for surgery and supporting laboratory facilities. Such new diagnostic and treatment technologies as positron emission tomography (PET) have brought to the hospital new large and heavy equipment that cannot be moved or housed easily in older buildings. Such highly specialized activities as intensive coronary care, trauma treatment, and neonatal medicine require uniquely equipped operating rooms that were not foreseen when older, and now obsolete, health care facilities were designed. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, now coming into full force, is the most recent example of social and political causes of obsolescence. Characterized as a civil rights law (Raeber, 1991), the ADA requires that new and remodeled buildings be fully accessible and safe for people with disabilities, and it introduces a new set of agencies (the Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, new to facilities regulation) to issue guidelines and enforce requirements. The result of this social and political source of obsolescence may be to make many buildings that might otherwise be remodeled to accommodate functional or technical change too costly to update. Similar costs may result from imposition of the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards, applicable in lieu of ADA for federal and federally funded facilities. A workshop sponsored by the committee (Appendix C) examined other such causes of obsolescence and identified a wide range of environmental and occupational health concerns, now emerging, that could become important in the next 3 to 5 years. These concerns are summarized in Table 2. INCENTIVES TO AVOID OBSOLESCENCE The costs of obsolete facilities are incurred when the effort is made to update the facility or when the user and owner lose operating efficiency owing to facility performance. It is these costs—imposed directly on the owners and managers of facilities, indirectly on users, or on both—that are the primary incentive to avoid obsolescence. Effective delay or avoidance of obsolescence can reduce the overall costs of facility ownership. Avoiding obsolescence means following several courses of action: (1) planning and designing to avoid obsolescence and to provide the flexibility to respond to the early onset of obsolescence; (2) construction to assure that the 9 Comment of participants in a 1991 workshop sponsored by the NRC's Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology.
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence Table 2 Potential Future Issues of Environment and Health That Could Influence Building Obsolescence (nonresidential) Nature of Problem Examples or Details Implications for Building Obsolescence Refrigerants in HVAC equipment ▪ Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) banned in new applications and production and to be phased out because of damage to ozone layer ▪ Potential substitute, HCFC-123 (halogenated CFC), now shows toxicity Manufacturers are searching for alternatives. Building industry may have to develop systems that can accept as wide variety of materials. Energy efficiency may decline. Installation workers could be exposed to chemical hazards. Exposure of construction workers to hazardous materials ▪ Asbestos ▪ Sprayed insulation ▪ Mercury (in paint) ▪ Lead ▪ Formaldehyde ▪ Tetrachloroethylene ▪ Methylene chloride ▪ Fibrous glass, manmade mineral fibers Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations require notification of workers regarding all such risks. Problems will arise as new materials are found to be hazardous. Indoor radon Problem tends to be more acute in some geographic areas. Associated with ground contact and therefore anticipated to be less of a problem in nonresidential buildings. EPA ranks this problem high, but the public has not been responsive. Good ventilation (i.e., positive pressurization) reduces risk, but manufacturers may hesitate to introduce some products that could influence liability exposure. Indoor chemical air pollutants (other than radon) and toxic materials ▪ Residual solvents (associated with paints, fabrics, carpets, and adhesives) ▪ Synthetic polymers older facilities. ▪ Biocides (mercury in paint, pest-control materials) Increased measurement capability may implicate an increasingly large number of materials. Monitoring of conditions may become standard, requiring retrofitting of older facilities
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence Biological allergens and pathogens ▪ Materials selection and maintenance of HVAC filters and duct linings ▪ Wall and floor surfaces and coverings Similar to indoor chemical air pollutants Fire toxicity ▪ Polymeric materials (wiring, finishes, insulation, pipe, conduit) Increased toxicity testing may implicate an increasingly large number of materials. Retrofitting could be required when renovations or alterations are made. Waste reduction, materials cycle, and disposal of hazardous and toxic chemical and biological wastes ▪ Demolition and waste recycling ▪ Paints, mastics, and sealers waste disposal ▪ Cleaners and solvents More stringent restrictions on landfills and pressures for recycling could alter construction processes and enhance attractiveness of some materials over others (e.g., steel frame rather than concrete, for recycle potential). Space for storage and compaction or other processing of materials for recycling will be required. Special fire protection and other safety provisions may be needed. Ultraviolet and visible spectrum light ▪ Control of light-intensity influencing glare and worker performance ▪ Screening of ultraviolet radiation, for cancer risk Photosensitive or other specially tinted glass, or screening materials, could be required in facilities housing workers. Electromagnetic radiation ▪ Video display terminals ▪ Electrical cables and controls ▪ Radio frequency controls and signals Shielding could become necessary, and development of noncabled applications could be influenced. Water shortages and conservation ▪ Sinks, toilets, other plumbing fixtures ▪ Plumbing for greywater recycling ▪ On-site primary treatment Water-saving fixtures may become more important in some areas, and recycling requirements could lead to increased retrofitting requirements. Global warming, greenhouse effect ▪ Direct emissions of CO2 ▪ Energy consumption for indirect CO2 emissions reduction Verification of the problem could require retrofitting of gas/oil-burning boilers and furnaces, incandescent lighting, and underinsulated buildings. Source: BRB staff and workshop participants (refer also to listed references).
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence facility has the required characteristics to enable the performance anticipated in during planning and design; (3) operations and maintenance systems that monitor change and act (when possible) to increase performance or slow its degradation thereby deferring obsolescence; and (4) refurbishment and retrofitting to accommodate change. The losses through failure to manage effectively are measured in early occurrence of unsatisfactory performance, a reduction in service life, and costly obsolescence. Many ways have been found to avoid obsolescence in the two decades since a speaker at a 1971 BRB symposium observed that routine renovation and rehabilitation, had for the past 50 years, been the most effective approach to taking advantage of most of the "architectural and mechanical changes occurring due to new technology" (Cherry, 1972). That speaker's experience in the early 1970s was that such items as column grids over 30 feet and underfloor wiring ducts in concrete structures, when evaluated on a discounted cash-flow basis, generally did not warrant the additional expense (although designing to provide up to 100 pounds per square foot of additional floor load-bearing capacity did give tenants and owners useful options for rearranging functions). Two decades later the conclusions have changed. The construction-related industries have found ways to reduce the costs and add flexibility, and others may yet be developed. Chapter 3 presents the committee's assessment of the experience and prospects for avoiding obsolescence and its costs. References Building Design and Construction. 1986. Retrofit expands wire capability of cellular floor. November:113–114. Building Research Board. 1988. Electronically Enhanced Office Buildings. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Cherry, I. 1972. Office buildings. Building Research, Journal of the BRAB Building Research Institute 9(2):23–26. Craig, L. A., et al. 1984. The Federal Presence: Architecture, Politics, and National Design Press, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. Dell-Isola, A., and S. Kirk, 1981. Life Cycle Costing for Design Professionals. New York: McGraw-Hill. Doyle, M. 1985. Older buildings ripe for telecommunications retrofit. Building Design and Construction. June:66–68. Fong, C. K. 1990. The Construction Agenda. Singapore: Construction Industry Development Board. Johnson, E. 1991. The Economics of Building. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Kelsey, D., and D. R. Webb. 1990. Moving into digital control through retrofitting. ASHRAE Journal 32(7):12, 14–16.
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence Kirby, J. G. and J. M. Grgas. 1975. Estimating the Life Expectancy of Facilities. Technical Report P-36. Champaign, IL: U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory. Pilzer, P. Z. 1989. The real estate business and technological obsolescence. Real Estate Review 19(3):30–33. Raeber, J. A. 1991. Federal accessibility The Construction Specifier. August: 82–89. Sequerth, J., and T. DeFranks. 1987. "Intelligent" features upgrade facilities. American City and County. March:42, 45–48. Sraeel, H. 1988. Retrofitting power distribution: Keeping pace with technology. Buildings. November:64–66. Warburton, P. 1985. Designing for Change. Electronics and Telecommunications in Buildings. Building. July:46–47.
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