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How Long Is Your Building’s Lifespan?

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Once your building design is fully functional, you may begin to wonder if it has a “lifespan”. That is, will your building one day become outdated? Will it cease to help its occupants the way it once did when it was first built? Or will it no longer be perceived as beautiful in the eyes of those that experience it?

You may ask — What will determine your building’s lifespan? Well, there are a multitude of things that can age a building — these include: the way building materials weather, the way a building’s surrounding context may change, the changing needs of its occupant population over the years, or architectural technology that becomes obsolete or is no longer state-of-the-art. All of these, or just one of these, may contribute to making your building no longer relevant one day.

Additionally, your design solution may become outdated, as someone else comes up with a better way to solve for a problem or need later on down the line. Yes, this becomes part of architectural evolution — the development and innovation of new architectural ideas, tools, and methods that help architecture to progress.

But you may say to yourself —

How can I prevent my building from having a lifespan that is too short? How can I ensure that my building will stand for its full lifespan (a lifespan that brings value to people)?

The answer here is to design your building for change and growth.

You see, when materials, context, occupants, and technology need to change, your building can be designed in a way that flexes with them. Your building should also be able to grow. Can your building design learn from its interactions? Can it increase in functionality with use? Can its beauty grow over time?

To ensure that your building’s lifespan is long (and valuable to people), make sure that it stands not only because of the strength of its materials, but also because of the adaptability of its composition. In other words, to create an architecture that stands the test of time, be sure to consider how it will weather, change, and grow. Your building’s ability to stand tall should also be balanced by its ability to flex as the winds of change blow in its direction — while still being true to the essence of its original design.

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Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

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AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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