From Office to Home: new research explores the case for Radical Re-use’

Could the radical re-use’ of existing office buildings solve concurrent CBD challenges — in Melbourne and beyond? 

A housing crisis with critical levels of under-supply, rising vacancy rates of older B, C and D grade office buildings, the resulting lack of vibrancy in some quarters of the city, and the urgent demands of a warming climate have propelled Hassell’s latest research into the prospect for adaptive re-use in Melbourne’s CBD. 

Conducted for the Property Council of Australia in collaboration with Ethos Urban, Hassell’s whitepaper — Radical Re-Use: From Office to Home — addresses the potential conversion of B, C and D-grade office buildings into residential complexes and proposes a paradigm shift in urban development that can be applied across cities around Australia and internationally. 

The post-pandemic reality poses many challenges for the Melbourne CBD and the future of older commercial buildings. This transformative period, defined by strong demand for premium office space, has resulted in a lot of sub-prime office space being severely underutilised,” explains Cath Evan, Victorian Executive Director at the Property Council of Australia.

Hassell’s comprehensive property audit of Melbourne’s city centre identified 86 buildings built before 1990, which represent roughly 6.5% of CBD office buildings, as ripe for radical re-use’, subject to individual feasibility studies. 

If half of those edifices — that are generously proportioned, structurally sound, well-located and either vacant or under-tenanted — were repurposed from office to homes, it could yield 10,000−12,000 new apartments for up to 20,000 people. An outcome that would significantly add to Melbourne’s housing supply while upholding sustainability principles, including a reduction in upfront embodied carbon and the preservation of existing architectural assets.

Importantly, the report outlines a framework for getting Office to Home right’ and identifies planning, design and market constraints that must be overcome for successful transformations. 

Our approach transcends conventional wisdom and envisions a revitalised urban landscape that accommodates diverse lifestyles while also contributing to a regenerative future. By embracing the challenge and exploring unconventional solutions, From Office to Home demonstrates it is possible to radically re-position parts of our city and breathe new life into existing urban spaces.

86 pre 1990s buildings ripe for radical re-use
B — D grade buildings most likely to be vacant or under-tenanted
10K homes for up to 20,000 people

Download the report

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