Building Tomorrow from Yesterday

By Hugh Schuitemaker

The idea of sustainability is growing in Adelaide with the work of a young UniSA student recognized for offering a possible solution to issues surrounding overcrowding and resource consumption.

Bachelor of Interior Architecture (Honours) student Madeleine Hughes was recently awarded the Zero Waste SA Pam Keating Memorial Scholarship for her research into the adaptive re-use of heritage sites across the city.

Currently in the final year of her second degree, Madeleine says her project is about making better use of already existing structures in Adelaide.

“People may not think of it this way, but a vacant building is going to waste,” says Madeleine.

“I’m looking at the ways in which it’s better to reuse an old building rather than demolish it… and if this can be applied to the many heritage sites across Adelaide.”

Madeleine’s first inspirations for this research came early on in her degree, in an architecture course taught by UniSA professor of Sustainable Design, Steffen Lehmann.

“We were given an assignment to redesign a multi-story car park for sustainability and reuse,” says Madeleine.

“I was interested in those concepts straight away.

“I believe there are three aspects to sustainability… environmental, economic and social,” says Madeleine.

“All of these must be in effect to have a truly sustainable city.”

From there Madeleine continued to expand those ideas, basing her thesis around the possibility of applying the concept of adaptive reuse to the city of Adelaide.

“Adelaide has a high potential to be a sustainable city, we’ve had steps taken by local councils and state government towards this,” says Madeleine.

“However, we need to change the behaviors and consumption levels of the construction industry.

“These heritage sites can be adapted into housing, social centers for the community… there are so many possibilities.”

While working on her thesis over the last year, Madeleine became aware of the Zero Waste SA Pam Keating Memorial Scholarship, which recognises outstanding research in environmental conservation and waste management.

“The more I looked into the scholarship, the more I thought that this is exactly what I was doing with my research,” says Madeleine.

“I think that it fits perfectly with what Zero Waste SA aims to do as I’m looking to reduce waste on a large scale.”

The scholarship, valued at $10,000, has helped immeasurably in being able to continue with the project.

“This is an important issue at the moment and it’s hard to sum up in a 10,000 word thesis.

“I’ve been able to take time off work to focus solely on my research, having to work at the same time would have made it really difficult,” says Madeleine

“Most importantly it’s given me the encouragement and confidence to continue on with the research.”

Madeleine is now contemplating undertaking a PHD next year, while continuing to expand her ideas on sustainability and adaptive reuse.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to create an environmentally and socially rich city which benefits everyone.

“If a building is sitting vacant, what can we do to stop it going to waste?”

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