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Preserve a maximum of the building by well maintaining and repairing the building. Or decide to preserve the largest possible volume of the building during renovation (instead of deconstruction).


Preservation of a building (or some of its elements) is part of a general principle of sustainability, of not consuming resources and materials uselessly, of repurposing space, and of recovery, reuse, repair, and maintenance. The conservation of elements follows a decision logic according to a set of criteria, such as the historical value of the building, the intellectual property, the condition of the building elements, the type of building, the costs, and the environmental impact.

And why are we still demolishing?

Many demolition works are not so much the result of wear and tear on buildings, but are related to changing trends, with (functional) changes in use, or are the result of a cost-benefit analysis that shows the economic advantage of a demolition-reconstruction compared to renovation.

When to take action?

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Who can take action?

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Design team, client

No expertise needed 

Strategies for preservation


Before the builder decides to demolish a building, he must consider whether this is unavoidable.

Can the building be used for other functions? Can the building be renovated/adapted/expanded as an alternative to its demolition?

In other words, the client should develop a long-term vision of the building to maximize and maintain its value. This can be done by coming up with future building scenarios. (see action Scenario planning)


If it has been decided to renovate, it is important that as few changes as possible are made to the existing building. In this way, the available raw materials are kept intact as much as possible. Of course, the current applicable standards, norms and rules must always be taken into account.


Study which building elements and materials could possibly be preserved. Estimate the possible heritage value of the building and the possible savings through its preservation (financially and ecologically) and verify the condition of the elements to be preserved.


Adapt the new materials to the existing context; adjust the supporting structure where necessary (call on a structural engineer to ensure the stability of the building), such as in the case of expansion; adapt to the building in terms of use.


Modernise: meet current standards and regulations regarding accessibility, fire safety, earthquake resistance, thermal regulations, etc.


Reflect: If some building element are not able to be preserved:

  • What causes this?

  • Could it be avoided in the future and how?

Possible clauses in the specifications

  • Evaluation of the potential for the preservation of the existing building elements and based on the ambition of the highest degree of preservation

  • Mandatory preservation of part or all of the building and clarify which parts or elements should be preserved.

  • Prohibition of modifications to certain parts of the building.

  • Awarding extra points for tenders where part of the building is preserved.

From 'Vademecum circulair bouwen' by Brussels Environment

Exemplary case

Preservation by Lacaton & Vassal

The architecture office Lacaton & Vassal won the Pritzker prize in 2021, and their rallying cries are :


"Never demolish, never remove –

always add, transform and reuse" 

"'Sometimes the answer is to do nothing"

For example; the Tour Bois-le-Prêtre, built in the early sixties along the ring road of Paris, is a high-rise block including 96 apartments. When the building showed some degradation, the building client envisaged demolition. Thanks to Lacaton & Vassal, it was decided not to demolish and to expand and transform the building instead. They have added an extra outer shell that serves as a winter terrace.

More information on the project


Copyright: Hisao Suzuki - Philippe Ruault - Daniel Rousselot, via


Copyright: Hisao Suzuki - Philippe Ruault - Daniel Rousselot, via

More information and sources

Vademecum Circulair Bouwen - Leefmilieu Brussel

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