Old Wine, New Bottles…

It’s commonly said that the longer you keep a wine, the better it will taste. If you ask people in the business they will tell you that this is a misconception; that most of the wines are drunk “young” and that only few of them are suitable for aging. Of those, only the bottles that have been properly stored and sealed will age as expected. If done in the right way, the result is a happy costumer and a victory for the brand behind the wine.

How is this related to our existing built environment?

On one side, the “Old Wine, New Bottles” article written by Noah Buhayar, shows a brief summary of old projects that are going or will be going through improvements that should increase their energy efficiency with significant savings on future operating costs. On the other side, there is a growing understanding on the importance or urban infill to prevent sprawl, where re-use of existing units plays a vital role in order to accommodate future needs without recurring to new development.

Under that assumption, the way we preserve these units for “smart aging” is more than important to achieve expected growth, but the only way we can do that is involving developers and investors in such a great task.

The article presents some examples showing units being transformed, the savings expected, and a projected number for the cost of these improvements, but doesn’t go far enough. If we want to get the whole real estate market involved in this process, we have to speak their language. Knowing how much a potential building developer/owner might save in operating expenses is important, but we also need to show how these benefits will affect future financial metrics. Will these improvements help a developer/owner to access better interest rates in the loans involved? When resale proceeds, will the existing improvements help the developer to obtain lower cap rates and make the most of his investment? By the time of resale, will the projected savings effectively allow the buyer to get higher rents and lower vacancy rates?

All these are questions that might help us to promote the re-use of existing units and involve those who actually are building the city in the process of developing a smart growth and a more livable built environment; creating synergies that addresses the interests of all the parties involved instead of individual ones.

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