We all become nostalgic once in a while; in fact nostalgia is one of our emotional needs. Mature societies are nostalgic about and sensitive to their heritage and one example is that they make efforts to keep historic architecture alive. Reviving and regenerating old buildings and city districts are indeed the much needed and accepted instruments of architectural conservation.
In India, many buildings such as community halls, town halls and libraries, and of a religious nature, are fairly well conserved but it is the office buildings that seem to attract apathy not interest. In cities such as Mumbai many buildings are listed as “heritage buildings”, meaning that any structural modification and internal refurbishment need to be approved by the heritage committee of the city corporation.
Nowadays, growing vacancies in old office buildings, particularly in the historic central business districts of Indian cities, are a concern not only to their owners but also to conservationists who fear that the structures will deteriorate due to poor maintenance or from unsuitable use. These heritage buildings are already struggling to retain their occupiers for they have smaller floor plates, inadequate parking space, too many columns obstructing the “open work space” lay-out, extensive use of outdated building materials such as wood, and are located in densely packed neighbourhoods.
While these historic buildings are often structurally sound and might well last another century, their services and area infrastructure are crumbling and the making of changes might mean the damage and loss of heritage elements. This is where the problem lies. Heritage Committees need to be pragmatic and accommodating to ensure that these assets are given up-to-date infrastructure and services, and are safe and secure for the people working there.
The government could also introduce incentives for owners and occupiers to help them make their buildings competitive in the office market. Lower property taxes and stamp duty, company tax deductions, preferential allocation of public parking etc, are some of the motivators that will help these heritage assets remain in good condition.
About the author
Ashutosh Limaye is the head of Research and Real Estate Intelligence Service, for Jones Lang LaSalle in India, based in Mumbai.