Counterintuitive Building Types - Innovation Potentials for Sustainable Transformation of Commercial and Retail Locations

Selected commercial retail and properties provide existing resources for this project’s case studies that will convert and further develop them towards more positive energy, use, and life cycle balances. The currently underperforming properties will be transformed into more active and attractive places of higher experiential density and environmental relevance through multiplication of space and uses in the interior and exterior areas, demonstrating opportunities for more sustainable development of these understudied building typologies.

Short Description



Starting point / motivation

Buildings and construction processes cause about 40% of all CO2 emissions and can therefore make a significant contribution to tackling the biggest problems of our time - climate collapse and loss of biodiversity. This requires multiple paradigm shifts, which this project addresses in a little-researched segment of the planning and real estate sector: the countless retail, retail park and commercial properties that have been built on greenfield sites and connected to individual transport in recent decades.

Contents and goals

Can remodeling and rebuilding these substantial building inventories integrate more circular economy approaches? This approach seems counterintuitive at first, since for most of these properties only demolition, recycling, and renaturation seem reasonable, yet this project would like to use selected properties to develop scenarios that build on these existing resources and their infrastructure connections and think them toward more sustainably positive energy, use, life cycle, and social balances.

Through the multiplication of space and uses - communal, logistical, sports and leisure-related programs, temporary/experimental residential and office uses, etc. - these properties could not only be structurally redesigned and further developed and equipped with state-of-the-art technologies, but also create socially sustainable, identity- and community-creating "third" places with the corresponding quality of stay and long-term profitability for society as a whole.


In this cooperative R&D project, possible building and energy solutions for the climate-neutral city will be developed based on these monofunctional and underperforming building stock of the last decades.

Based on architecturally and urbanistically sophisticated conversion and further development scenarios, existing buildings, conversions and extensions will be designed, modeled and computationally verified as an integrated and combined system for climate-neutral buildings and neighborhoods.

Expected results

The project connects key sustainability goals by building on extensive existing resources, designs the transformation and rebuilds them into more socially valuable "third" places, and provides key data on cost, energy, and sustainability.

Project Partners

Project management

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Andreas Lechner, Graz University of Technology - Institute for Building Science

Project or cooperation partners

  • Graz University of Technology - Institute for Structural Design
  • Graz University of Technology - AG Sustainable Construction
  • University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna BOKU - Department of Spatial, Landscape and Infrastructure - Institute for Spatial Planning, Environmental Planning and Land Use Management
  • WMV Immobilien AG

Contact Address

DI Maike Gold
Lessingstraße 25/IV
A-8010 Graz
Tel.: +43 (316) 873 6291