Achieving Sustainable Urban Form through the Adaptive Re-Use of Buildings for Residential Use
Introduction Two of the most important issues facing society in the Western World at the end of the twentieth century are how to accommodate substantial growth in the number of households and how to recreate vital and viable city centres. One solution advocated by policy makers is to increase the number of homes within city centres. Indeed, too many cities, as we reach the next millennium, are typified by Hirst's description:
There is an eerie silence in the city - towering offices dominate the streetscape but no one appears to be in them. A distant mechanical hum and the fluttering of litter in the wind shows the only evidence of occupation. (1996, p.8)
Cities play a pivotal role in bringing people together as a focus of social and economic activity. Town and city centres are multi-functional places providing an organic mix of functions, acting as a shopping and market place, an arts, cultural and entertainment centre, a business and transport hub and, once again, increasingly a place to live and visit. The contraction and rationalisation of many of the traditional roles of the centre such as industry and commerce has provided the space for this renaissance in the provision of dwellings in city centres. This is in sharp contrast to the over-riding trend in Britain during this century for the dispersal of population away from traditional centres. The public's perception of urban areas has been very poor. However, in recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in urban living (URBED, 1998). In addition, since the mid-1990s, there have been television programmes and numerous articles in newspapers and magazines extolling the virtues ofliving in the city centre. Indeed, in November 1996, The Observer announced that 'urban life is sexy again' (Harrison, 1996, p.12).