Reduce, Reuse, Reclad

Kintsukuroi and the trace of time in architecture



Photo of Daniel Nauman, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP

Daniel Nauman, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP

Senior Associate


Photo of Jessica Santonastaso

Jessica Santonastaso



Photo of Jennifer Sze, RA, USGBC LEED AP

Jennifer Sze, RA, USGBC LEED AP

Principal and Director of Special Inspections

Vidaris, Inc.


Kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with powdered precious metal, is a practice of celebrating the life and history of an object. It is an embodiment of the belief that a piece can be more beautiful and valuable for having been broken and repaired.

What if we thought about our aging buildings in the same way? What if, instead of tossing aside or accepting the broken, we transformed these buildings into something more valuable? What if in reimagining their facades it is possible to create something richer and more beautiful than a brand new facade could be?

We believe that designers can bring new life to downtowns, salvage the embodied energy in aging structures and create historied buildings that offer the unique, premiere environments the market demands.

But repositioning and recladding outdated buildings comes with challenges. These existing structures often come occupied, creating logistics challenges in scheduling and sequencing. Floor to floor heights, structural layouts and systems from another era require creative programming and planning strategies. Significant updates to older buildings require a careful and nuanced analysis of current codes and zoning developments. Each of these areas of concern and more will have impacts on the facade design and detailing in ways that are unique to each reclad project.

Although the range of issues requiring project specific analysis in these projects is vast, there are some similarities and lessons to be learned as designers approach transforming these dated facades into high-performance envelopes for adaptable, sustainable, high performing buildings. This paper will explore these design challenges on a range of projects from One Indiana Square in Indianapolis, IN complete in 2009 to One Post Office Square in Boston, MA, currently under construction. We will draw on perspectives beyond architecture and include voices from engineering and construction.


In developed countries, 50% of the buildings that will be in use in 2050 are already constructed and over 70% of floor-stock today is over 20 years old (Fig. 1)

Members Only


The process of repositioning buildings through overclad (a process where significant portions of building envelope remain and are layered over with new) and reclad (a process where the building envelope

Members Only


Reclad projects create possibilities to enhance building performance in multiple ways. Whether the building repositioning is an opportunity to replace outdated mechanical systems or the renovation impacts envelope alone, increased

Members Only

Design Approach

Each re-clad project has its own set of architectural and performance drivers and its own set of constraints. Understanding the existing structure, MEP systems and zoning requirements all impact the

Members Only

Glazing Design and Selection

At One Post Office Square, designing a new curtainwall for the tower provided an opportunity to increase the efficiency and performance of the building envelope. The design team selected glass

Members Only

Existing Structure and Anchorage

One of the initial decisions to be made for overclad and reclad projects is to determine how the new cladding system will be supported. The new façade can be anchored

Members Only

Occupied Buildings and Logistics

Often re-clads are not vacant. The construction sequence must work with and around existing occupants. Sequencings and coordination are critical.

At One Indiana Square, the building was over 70% occupied at

Members Only

Design Assist and Delivery

It takes a knowledgeable team to address the complexities of reclad and overclad projects. Each perspective brings value to the design and efficiency to the execution, and it is beneficial

Members Only

Conclusion and Future Work

Urban city centers are filled with aging buildings in prime locations. A successful repositioning can result in higher rents and lower building operating costs. The design industry, along with building

Members Only


Additional thanks to Nilesh Bansal and Sasha Zeljic, Gensler and Ben Gomez, Benson.

Rights and Permissions

Figure 1 by US Energy Information Administration, CBECS 2012, Table B9.

Figures 2,3,4,7,8,10,14,16 and 17 Courtesy of Genlser.

Figure 5 Courtesy of Gensler with Photograph by John Edward Linden.

Figure 6 Courtesy of Gensler with Photograph by Chris Barrett.

Figure 9 Courtesy of Gensler with Photograph Copyright Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing.

Figures 11,12 and 15 Courtesy of Vidaris.

Figure 13 Courtesy of Gensler with Drawings by Benson Industries.