An Open Building Strategy for Converting Obsolete Office Buildings to Residential Uses

Stephen Kendall1

1Director, Building Futures Institute, College of Architecture and Planning, Ball State University, Muncie, IN., 47306. TEL: 765.285.1911. EMAIL: [email protected]. Website:


This paper reports on a study of a strategy for the conversion of obsolete office buildings to residential use. We use a case study method with an existing historic structure in Detroit, the Kales Building, designed in 1924 by the famous architect Albert Kahn. The building, typical of many in downtown urban centers in the United States, is planned for conversion into 108 residential units. We compare an open building strategy to the conventional approach. Our study involves architectural and engineering design methods, new business forms, supply chain and information management, trades, and construction management. The study is intended as a demonstration of an open building approach that can be applied to many similar multi-unit buildings as well as to new construction. The ultimate goal is the creation of an Indiana company making integrated fit-out product bundles, thus taking this innovative process into the market. This open building strategy has several elements that are congruent with lean construction principles, not the least of which is deep rethinking of supply channel management, logistics reordering, and just-in-time services.


Open building, conversion, product bundling, supply chains, lean construction, industrial ecology



Kendall, S. 2003. An Open Building Strategy for Converting Obsolete Office Buildings to Residential Uses, 11th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , -.

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