From Desks to Dwellings: The Residential Revolution in Office Spaces
Play • 28 min

Canada is in the grips of a housing crisis as the people who need homes far outnumber the available residential units. At the same time, Canada is also experiencing a vacancy problem after the steep decline in office space demand post-COVID. It would make sense, then, to convert the empty office spaces into residential units, but as today’s guest, Steven Paynter explains, this process is far from simple. Steven is the Global Leader of Building Transformation and Adaptive Reuse at Gensler – an elite global architecture, design, and planning firm. Steven and his team developed an algorithm to rapidly assess project viability for office-to-residential conversions, and he explains how this helped Gensler form a successful relationship with Calgary Economic Development. Our guest details the challenges that he comes across in other parts of North America, as well as the areas of opportunity to mirror the success of the work done in Calgary. We also discuss why offices will never be the same post-COVID, how “trash” office spaces can turn into diamond residential units, why most buildings are not suitable for office-to-residential conversions, and the costs of converting versus construction. To end, we gain a better understanding of the true value of Gensler’s algorithm, and what the future may hold for this game-changing initiative. 


Key Points From This Episode:


  • Introducing the Global Leader of Building Transformation and Adaptive Reuse at Gensler, Steven Paynter. 
  • Steven details his professional background and explains how he fulfils his role at Gensler. 
  • The ins and outs of his algorithm for assessing potential office-to-residential conversions. 
  • How Gensler formed a relationship with Calgary Economic Development.
  • Exploring the challenges and opportunities that Steven sees in other parts of North America after Calgary’s success. 
  • The way offices are changing and why they will never be the same as pre-COVID. 
  • How some features of an unpleasant office space are actually ideal for a family home.  
  • Why the percentage of buildings that are viable for conversions is so low. 
  • The costs of office-to-residential conversions versus new constructions. 
  • Understanding the true value of Steven and Gensler’s algorithm.

Listen to the episode wherever you get your podcasts, AppleGoogle Podcasts, or Spotify.

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