Today, approximately 80% of people in Europe live in buildings that are thirty years old or more. Around 50% of people live in houses that are fifty years old and more. The possible obsolescence of this housing stock is a critical issue – both across the continent of Europe and beyond. The reasons for this obsolescence are various: changing lifestyles leave old models of houses outdated; changed demographics mean more single occupiers and an increasingly aged population; in many instances the quality of construction and environmental standards have been superseded by a concern for fuel efficiency and reductions in carbon emissions. In other cases, the communities that once lived closely in old estates and neighbourhoods have crumbled – leaving people in isolation and lacking services.
Future predictions all indicate that these issues have no solution in sight and that they will persist in posing problems. Indeed, these problems are likely to be exacerbated as the nature of our societies and ways of living continue to evolve. The complexity of the issues faced in avoiding the obsolescence of our aging housing stock clearly requires critical reflection. Answers will involve the architectural, the urban, the technological and the socioeconomic.
Building on this hypothesis, the Obsolescence and Renovation conference raises questions that affect both private and public housing stock; the south and the global north; and both pre and post World War II housing across the world. On that basis, the issues we raise are relevant to architects, planners, interior designers, sociologists, and policy makers across Europe and beyond.
Specific areas of interest include Best Architectural Practices that explore design interventions that adapt old buildings to contemporary housing demands; Best Urban Practices that analyse urban design strategies for making existing neighbourhoods more inclusive, safer and connected; Best Environmental Practices that explore improvements to the environmental performance of the older housing stock; and Best Practices on Policy, Management and Participation. How can professionals, public authorities, developers and neighbourhood community groups etc. collaborate on neighbourhood regeneration?