Adaptive reuse is the adaptation of historic buildings from one use to another while preserving their heritage value.

Sometimes this may be nothing more than a change in activities, however in many situations buildings require modifications to suit their new purpose. As a result, reuse allows historic buildings to be properly cared for, and their origins to be understood and remembered, even where their purpose and function have changed.

Adaptive reuse is an important element in retaining historic buildings and other places for future generations. What's more, there are considerable benefits for environmental sustainability.

Heritage South Australia in the Department for Environment and Water funded a Sustainability and Adaptive Reuse Fellowship at the University of South Australia in 2018 which enabled an exploration of how conservation and adaptive reuse of heritage buildings helps the environment by reducing carbon emissions.

Read the recent Fellowship report on 'Carbon Trading and State Heritage Places'.


One of the main obstacles to adaptively reusing older buildings is the cost associated with compliance with current standards particularly in relation to fire, disability access and earthquake standards.

Heritage South Australia has collaborated with the Office of Design and Architecture and Planning and Land Use Services to explore ways to make adaptive reuse easier, and has produced the Adaptive Reuse Guidelines for State Heritage Places in South Australia.

The guidelines aim to increase understanding of options and processes, and to support the Adaptive Reuse of State Heritage Places in South Australia. The guidelines will help heritage building owners, building certifiers, statutory planners, and the community navigate these regulatory requirements to benefit the adaptive reuse and conservation of the state’s iconic heritage-listed places.