Fang kailun is a rising star of urban planning in China. With two master’s degrees from the world’s top 100 universities, she promotes new ways to protect historic buildings: giving historic buildings new life.
Historic buildings both reflect and shape who we are, bringing our history to life and telling the story of our collective identity. But in many countries, people are not aware to protect historic buildings and many heritages are destroyed all over the world.
The sustainable regeneration of historic buildings is often seen as an oxymoron because there are several factors that act as barriers. After taking part in several historic building regeneration projects, Fang Kailun learned the lessons and summarized several suggestions to attract investors to give new life to historic buildings.
Risk of historic building regeneration: vacancy
The historic building cannot be vacant. When they are left vacant, they are at a greatly increased risk of damage. As no people live or work inside the historic building, the small damages are not easy to be found. The accumulation of small damages will lead to big destruction. If a vacant historic building has been declared unsafe, stabilization and mothballing may be the only way to protect it from demolition. So the important way to give new life to historic buildings is to attract people to use them. Adaptive reuse is the repurposing of buildings that have outlived their original purpose. Its main goals include preserving architectural and cultural heritage, transforming urban blight, and igniting social change.
Limitations of Adaptive Reuse
Fang Kailun spent one-month interviewing different investors and she knew the key problems and concerns about why they are not willing to come into the historic buildings. The main factors are as follows: (1) The tenancy term is too short for them. In China, for example, many owners of historic buildings are owned by the government. They usually rent the historic building to the investors only for five years. The investors told Fang kailun that they spent around three years restoring the historic building on average, and they just have two years left to run a new enterprise inside the historic building. (2) The problem in fire control. Historic buildings have high cultural importance but they also present a multitude of fire risks. However, they are hard to meet the modern fire control requirement of new buildings. So, the investors don’t know how to renovate the historic building. (3) The function inside the historic building is hard to change. Many historic buildings used to live in the past, but the investors like to operate in other functions like the hostel or restaurant and they find it hard to fulfill.
Policies to encourage new investors
After deep interviews with different investors, Fang Kailun summarizes some new policies needed to promote in China. She thought the tenancy term should extend to 20 years so that the investors will have more time to earn money in the historic buildings. And making a historic building safe can be tricky, but there are approaches that can offer benefits like Fire doors and heritage doors, Upgrading heritage doors, and so on. Bringing dilapidated buildings back to life revitalizes neighborhoods by providing affordable housing, increasing public safety, and offering new commercial opportunities in mixed-use spaces. These spaces are also ideal for small businesses, thanks to low lease costs and central locations, making it easier to establish important relationships with customers and neighbor
Moreover, Fang Kailun provides practical and tailored help to realize the contribution old buildings can make. She inspires change, and broker cooperation, and helps to navigate the sort of design, management, and delivery issues that can only be addressed by the breadth of expertise, statutory locus, local knowledge, and national perspective that defines us.
In sum, the policies are important to give historic buildings new life. Fang Kailun advocates to do research on historic buildings and promoting new ways.