Adaptive reuse is the process of reinventing an existing building or site for a different purpose. This is a way we can reclaim forgotten spaces and conserve land and built history. In essence, recycling space. The construction industry is one of the biggest waste producers and CO2 emitters. The reuse of buildings is a route towards reducing this, conserving the embodied energy of existing structures.

Reusing older buildings is becoming quite popular in the regeneration of areas, often resulting in unusual and bespoke buildings.

An example of this is Little Kelham, a group of low carbon homes, shops and cafes, situated in Kelham Island. This is a new sustainability-focused project built within the context of its industrial heritage. More close to home is our office here at Mesters Works, an old spring factory, where we have recently finished refurbishing the last part of the office, our meeting room (below). Originally these rooms were part of the finance department for the spring factory.

Thread Meeting Room

The factory floor and other surrounding outbuildings are also being creatively adapted. The factory floor is now a flexible event space for events such as the Peddler Market, a street food event every first Friday and Saturday of the month. Thread enjoyed some great food at the last event on Friday (image below). The old vaulted basement is now also up for rent and could make an amazing atmospheric space for re-use.

The Peddler Market

Thread is also involved in a few residential re-use projects, including the conversion of an old chapel into a two-bedroom family home. Wensley Chapel was deemed no longer feasible for community use and therefore a good example of the adaptive reuse of an old building. Built as a Methodist Chapel for Wensley, it uses the available limestone and gritsone of the area for a simple design. The floor plan has a three tall bays with pointed arch windows sitting to each side of a curved apse, shown below.

Wensley Chapel Interior Before

The chapel retains all of its original features to enhance the original use, thus creating a new family home that reads as an old chapel- an unusual medley. The main feature of the chapel is the decorative metal curved mullions within the pointed arched windows that will be retained and expressed through lightwells running through the new first floor level. The new floor has been slotted in-between the existing walls and the steel structure functions to support new floors whilst also tying together the existing solid stone walls which had started to bow. The first floor and structure can be seen from Thread’s last visit on site (see next image). The existing roof will be replaced and rooflights will flood the first floor with light and ventilate the bedrooms of which the master bedroom is positioned in the curved apse. On the ground floor, beneath the master bedroom, is an open plan living space that steps down to the dining area. This then leads to the kitchen, main entrance and ultimately the porch.

Wensley Chapel new internal structure

The existing porch add-ons to the chapel were demolished due to being unsympathetic later additions to the original building, and the original central bay that forms a pitched roof entrance is being rebuilt using the original stone. This creates a balanced front elevation, and furthermore conserves the original form of the chapel which was the key design concern. Slotting homely proportions into the footprint of the chapel has made good a building that needed a new life, creating a unique residential building that is already part of the community and context. Reduced, reused, recycled.

Wensley Chapel before and after
Wensley Chapel before (left) and during conversion (right)