Architecture, engineering & construction

Orms revives a 1970s building as a boutique hotel using adaptive reuse architecture

Architects transform an outdated heritage structure with sustainable building practices

Orms reused, adapted and extended a 1970s Brutalist building to convert offices into a contemporary boutique hotel. (video: 3:58 min.)

  • Adaptive reuse in architecture is the repurposing of an existing building for new use – to bring new life to outdated structures, build more sustainably and preserve architectural heritage.

  • In London’s Kings Cross district, an adaptive reuse project by UK architecture firm Orms transformed a 1970s Brutalist office building into a contemporary boutique hotel, The Standard London.

  • With a bold design that added three storeys atop the existing structure, the project team used Autodesk Revit, 3D modelling and digital twin technology to retain the bones of the existing building, support the weight of the three new floors and design energy systems to optimise sustainability.

In the bustling King’s Cross area of London, UK architecture firm Orms renovated and reimagined an outdated 1974 office building into a 266-room boutique hotel, The Standard London. The existing building, located opposite two major railway stations, was a former municipal facility built in the architecturally significant Brutalist style.

As lead consultants on the project, the Orms team was responsible for the exterior architecture shell and building core. Using an adaptive reuse (US Site) model, the renovation project retained as much of the existing building as possible to preserve its post-war architectural heritage. From there, the building was extended and extensively remodelled, with a bold design that added three new storeys atop the existing structure to host a restaurant, bar and roof terrace.

When heritage buildings are repurposed, every project is unique – there are no prototypes to follow. Using Autodesk Revit, 3D modelling and digital twin (US Site) technology, Orms and MEP and structural consultants Arup and Heyne Tillett Steel created models of the building’s highly complex structures, integrated its systems and mapped out solutions for heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting to optimise sustainability. With these technology tools and adaptive resource processes, the project team transformed an obsolete building into a modern, style-savvy London flagship for a trendy international hotel group.

Watch the video to learn how Orms tackled this adaptive reuse architecture project.

[Video Transcript]

Christian Natterodt, Associate/Project Architect, Orms: The construction industry on its own is responsible for one-third of the waste of this planet. We cannot keep on knocking down buildings and building new ones. There are lots of different projects where we can adapt them, save the construction carbon and turn them into something new and beautiful.

The Standard London is one of those amazing destination hotels. The hotel almost puts their arms around you and gives you a big hug, a sense of joy also wants to be translated into its architecture itself.

The building is from the 1970s. A building which is dirty, a building which is not modernised anymore. It’s normally something a lot of people would like to demolish. So how can we save the embodied carbon which is within that building itself, save construction cost and turn that building, which is part of the history of the place as well, into something very special?

Andrew Middlebrook, Lead Structural Engineer, Heyne Tillet Steel: Every retrofit is different and interesting as a result of it. There’s never exactly the same approach every time.

Natterodt: We’ve got a concrete core with a concrete facade and two levels of basement. These complex shapes can be drawn in 2D, but they can only really fully be understood in 3D.

In the building industry, you did not have a prototype. Every building we build is the prototype and the finished product.

[Autodesk] Revit and 3D modelling allows us to understand complex shapes a lot better. Using a digital twin (US Site) of the building itself, we can zoom into every single aspect. We can spin it around, coordinate it with the structural engineer, with everyone else before we even start onsite.

Middlebrook: We did as much research as we could to find the bones of the building and then using Revit we built a complete 3D model. And that’s allowed us to really retain as much of the existing building as possible.

Within Revit, you can assign properties to the materials – the embodied carbon, for example – and that allows us to quantify how much carbon is going to be used.

Michael Stankiewicz, Senior Mechanical Engineer, Arup: When we design a building in a refurbishment setting, we are instantly constrained. To get to that next level of sustainability, we need to understand heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, granular detail and really design how to use energy wherever it’s needed. Having a tool like Revit means that we can map out energy systems, designing extremely efficient buildings.

Natterodt: We need to ensure that the buildings we do build now are adaptable. We need to have the documentation in place to ensure that elements can be reused.

Middlebrook: If we need to share collaboratively and quickly and online and do clash detection and build the building together, only Revit can do that.

Christian Natterodt: Reuse and retrofit – those will be the architectural tasks of the future. Buildings, which have been designed in a different period for different aspects, we can bring them back to life to secure their future for the next generation.