A key tenet of sustainable urban development is adaptive reuse, which is the practice of reusing existing infrastructure for a purpose other than for what it was built. Communities have much to gain from the adaptive reuse and transformative renewal of the older built fabric of the city. Retaining older buildings has environmental benefits as it bypasses complete demolition and reconstruction, and conserves the considerable embodied energy stored within the structure. Adaptive reuse is a key environmental factor in land conservation and the reduction of urban sprawl, as it promotes the reuse and revitalization of downtown and inner city sites. Existing buildings highlight the social character and identity of a community through the retention of the irreplaceable historic fabric. Existing buildings promote a strong and vibrant sense of place, leading to increased citizen engagement. Economic benefits can follow as the adaptive reuse and revitalization creates renewal, new uses, and captures the value of the existing building stock, creating a spur to the local economy. For these reasons, the adaptive reuse of existing and historic buildings is an essential component of sustainable urban development.
This article will review a case study of the new downtown campus for the University of Windsor and the use of three existing historic buildings as a relevant adaptive reuse strategy toward inner city regeneration and revitalization. The overall strategy for urban sustainability will be reviewed, as well as specific issues and opportunities for each of the three projects.