Sustainability Through Adaptation: Reimagining Existing Spaces with Mass Timber Construction

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In a period when it is becoming more and more apparent how we, as humans, have been negatively impacting our planet, it is important for us, as designers, to take a step back and evaluate how new methods of sustainable design can be incorporated into the existing built environment to leave a positive impression on our climate. We have discussed sustainability through design, building typologies, construction materials, and building systems but we can also explore the sustainable method of reusing the existing built environment. This thesis explores how adaptively reusing existing buildings can be a sustainable source of architecture. Buildings that have fallen into neglect and/or ruin can be revitalized through the construction method of mass timber to produce less greenhouse gas emissions during the structure’s life cycle while leaving a larger, healthier impact on our climate.

This thesis explores the benefits of mass timber as a sustainable construction method and demonstrates how mass timber can be used as an alternative to steel frame construction on the site of a 1919 US Navy industrial building. The existing masonry and steel-framed structure stands as a neglected building that can be adapted through sustainable methods. By respecting the structure’s heritage and original purpose, this thesis proposes a secondary building and revitalization of the existing structure through reusing existing structures with recycled material, like mass timber.

The thesis looks at opening the site to the evolving community of the Washington D.C. Navy Yard. Maintaining the site as a community gathering space, this thesis proposes a food hall program, building off the weekly farmers' markets that take place in the structure’s adjacent plaza, and aims to fill the community's need for a public civic space in the adjoining community library program. The program of this thesis aims to draw people in to explore the built environment of alternative and sustainable construction methods.