A New Lease on Life: Designing for wellbeing in adapted office buildings
Increased urbanisation in New Zealand cities has seen obsolete office buildings adapted into residential apartments to cater for the growing population. The conversion of such buildings imposes additional concerns for designers as they must alter the original design for residential use without negatively impacting users’ physical, mental, and social wellbeing. COVID-19 associated lockdowns have seen more emphasis placed on personal wellbeing within residential apartments as people have been confined inside for weeks at a time. However, while there is a significant amount of research into the conversion of office buildings into residential apartments, relatively few address the issue of wellbeing directly.
This research seeks to analyse how office buildings can be adapted into residential dwellings, factoring in the wellbeing of users, with a particular focus on daylighting, natural ventilation, and views. The importance of users receiving daylighting, ventilation and views within a building is irrefutable. However, minimum standards in the New Zealand building code relating to daylighting and natural ventilation are insufficient to address wellbeing.
This study systematically analyses a series of built precedents both local and overseas to extract common conversion techniques and illustrate their potential effects on occupants’ wellbeing with specific focus on daylight and natural ventilation measures. These common conversion techniques are then tested on a series of representative office building forms - tower, slab and hybrid - identified in Te Aro, Wellington. Along with new spatial planning and facade design, the potential of the techniques is tested through lighting analysis and natural ventilation diagrams. One building is further developed, exploring more refined façade design and lighting simulations to present a possible outcome.
The aim of this research is to produce general design principles that can be applied to office-to-apartment conversions for the predominant user group: 18-34 year olds.