Monday, May 22, 2023

Repurposing Buildings: Adaptive Reuse in MN

In this webinar, presented live on May 17, 2023, we learned more about building adaptive reuse, deconstruction, and sustainability in historic preservation.


  • Benefits of Building Reuse - Josh Hauf and Ethan Boote, Rethos
    • Josh shared some information about Rethos, an organization supporting community vitality through enabling the retention and rehabilitation of old buildings. 
    • Buildings are a resource and sustainability within the built environment means preserving the value and practical use of buildings and their materials. To demonstrate this, Josh showed the Hierarchy that puts "preservation/ maintenance"' as most favorable, followed by "adaptive reuse," "deconstruction," and finally "demolition."
    • Diving further into "adaptive reuse," Josh discussed the many benefits including: construction and demolition waste diversion, reduction in new material manufacturing, preservation of historical, cultural, or architecturally significant buildings, and creating assets for community space. Adaptive reuse is great for indoors and outdoors! One example is Peter’s Biergarten in Winona that utilized a temporary open lot following a building fire. 
    • Josh and Ethan shared some resources from Rethos to help cities with adaptive reuse: 
      • Paul Bruhn Grant - historic rehabilitation of second-floor interior spaces in partnership with the National Park Service
      • Building Deconstruction & Salvage Toolkit and material reuse map - coming soon!
      • Historic Tax Credits - attracts private equity for substantial building rehab of listed National Register of Historic Places with a 20% Federal Income Tax Credit (potential for another 20% State Tax Credit) 
      • Historic Rehab Loans - Rethos provides a favorable loan in exchange for State Historic Tax Credits. Ethan shared many examples! 
  • Supporting the Walls - Melissa Wenzel, MN Pollution Control Agency
    • Melissa, who is the Best Practice Advisor for GreenStep Cities Best Practices 3: New Green Buildings, 22: Sustainable Consumption & Waste, 25: Green Business Development and 28: Business Synergies & EcoDistricts, started by sharing the many GreenStep Cities best practice actions that are related to repurposing buildings and adaptive reuse. See the full list below.
    • Melissa also discussed how adaptive reuse relates to the Minnesota Climate Action Framework, specifically in the Goals of: Resilient buildings, Clean energy and efficient buildings, and Clean economy.
    • Sharing a few examples, local Initiatives happening include Hennepin, Ramsey, and Washington Counties deconstruction and structural move grants; Becker County and Linwood Township WLSSD reuse programs, New History AmeriCorps program (Future: Dodge County, Pope/Douglas, New History reuse store in Duluth)
    • Melissa detailed MPCA initiatives for:
      • Funding:
        • Waste Prevention and Reduction Grants and Loans - $2 million for sustainable buildings and materials programs and projects
        • Environmental Assistance Grants - $119K in FY 2024 for sustainable built environment grants (future)
      • Tools:
        • Building Material Management Plan
        • Deconstruction RFP template
        • Deconstruction ordinance template (future)
        • Building Reuse successes around MN - many examples!
    • Finally, Melissa shared a short video that included examples of building reuse in South St. Paul: Drover Apartment, Vandalia Glass, Public Library
  • A Local Example: Great River Children's Museum - David Mohs
    • David provided a local example of a 25,000sf bank that was donated to the Great River Children's Museum. In fact, this won't be the building first reuse! The 1930’s original building was a chicken hatchery and grocery store, later turned into a bank and gym in the 1960s. The Museum is turning the space into exhibit galleries. 
    • The Museum has a priority of salvaging materials for the adaptive reuse. The have provided materials for free to contractors and volunteers and have been able to divert over 50,000 pounds of waste from landfill!  
  • Finding a Purpose
    • This interactive activity allowed attendees to join breakout rooms where they were encouraged to consider vacant or under-utilized buildings in their community (where you work or live) and envision the kinds of spaces they COULD become through adaptive reuse.
  • Q&A and Open Discussion

View the workshop recording: 

View the slides and additional materials:  

Additional resources: 

Best Practice Actions related to this topic: 

  • 2.7 Customize a model sustainable building renovation policy 
  • 5.1 Adopt an historic preservation ordinance/regulations and encourage adaptive reuse.
  • 5.2 Implement the Minnesota Main Street model for commercial revitalization.
  • 5.3 Plan for reuse of large-format retail buildings, or work with a local school, church or commercial building to either add-on space or repurpose space into new uses.
  • 5.4 Create/modify a green residential remodeling assistance/financing program to assist homeowners in adding space or features such as EV charging, renewables to their existing homes.
  • 5.5 Adopt development/design standards and programs that facilitate infill, redevelopment, and adaptable buildings.
  • 15.5  Set minimum sustainability standards to reduce the impact of your concrete use, asphalt, roadbed aggregate, or other construction materials.
  • 22.4 Publicize, promote and use the varied businesses/services collecting and marketing used, repaired and rental consumer goods, especially electronics, in the city/county.
  • 22.8  Adopt a construction and demolition (C&D) ordinance governing demolition permits that requires a level of recycling and reuse for building materials and soil/land-clearing debris.
  • 22.4 Public Education for Action: Conduct or support a broad sustainability education and action campaign, building on existing city & community relationships, networks & events 
  • 25.2 Create or participate in a marketing/outreach program to connect businesses with assistance providers, including utilities, who provide personalized energy, waste or sustainability audits and assistance.
  • 25.3 Promote sustainable tourism in your city, and green tourism resources to tourism and hospitality businesses in/around the city.
  • 25.5 Lower the environmental and health risk footprint of a brownfield remediation/redevelopment project beyond regulatory requirements; report brightfield projects.
  • 28.2  Document that at least one business/building uses waste heat or water discharge from another business or conducts materials exchange activities with another organization.
  • 28.3 Require, build or facilitate at least four sustainability attributes in a business/industrial park project
  • 29.3  Increase social connectedness through engagement, capacity building, public investment, and opportunities for economically vulnerable residents to improve their economic prosperity and resilience to climate change.
  • 29.5 Protect public buildings and natural/constructed infrastructure to reduce physical damage and sustain their function during extreme weather events.

Register for upcoming GreenStep Cities and Tribal Nations workshops here. You do not need to be a GreenStep community to attend.

 Visit the GreenStep Cities and Tribal Nations program website at

No comments:

Post a Comment