Course syllabus


ACE575 ACE575 Sustainable building transformation lp4 VT24 (15 hp)

Course is offered by the department of Architecture and Civil Engineering


Figure 1: Diener & Diener Architekten. The Museum of Natural History, Berlin

Contact details

The teaching team includes teachers from ACE and external teachers working in architectural transformation, conservation, and sustainability. Additional, expertise will be brought in for lectures and special tutorials.


  • Paula Femenias, (telephone: 0735570048). Paula is Professor in Sustainable Transformation of the Built Environment, at the division of Building Design, ACE.

Teachers and supervisors:

  • Kaj Granath,, Kaj is an architect, PhD and teacher in building design.
  • Charlie Gullström is Research and innovation strategiest at SWECO and Adjunct Professor in Circular economy in architecture and urban planning at Chalmers
  • Mikael Sonnsjö,; Mikael is an architect with long experience and his own office.
  • Tabita Nilsson, Tabita is one of our teachers in the workshop and is responsible for a module on models as a tool for analysis and representation.
  • Greta Faxberg, Greta is an architect and project and teaching assistant at Chalmers.

Guest lecturers, tutors & reviewers

  • Gertrud Gudmundsson, Architect at Gajd architects. Long experience of working with renovation and adapative reuse

  • Oliver Benkert, Architect at Gajd architects, Specialist in accessibility

  • Koenraad van Cleempoel – Professor in Art History at University of Hasselt in Belgium. Koenraad will lecture on Adaptive Reuse a topic he has researched and written extensively about.
  • Ola Wetterberg – Professor in Conservation at Gothenburg University. Ola will lecture on Conservation theory.
  • Charlotta Berggren, ByDemand, 0708-572505
  • Bengt Karlsson, City architect Jönköping. Former teacher guest professor urban design at Chalmers

  • Anders Franzen, Antiquarian at Jönköping Museum

  • To be complemented

Course purpose

Short description of the course purpose and content: can be copied from syllabus in Studieportalen. Additional information can be added.



We primarily use the Canvas calender. If there are discrepancies between Canvas calender and TimeEdit, Canvas information is the valid.

Course literature

Two texts are compulsory for the course:

Plevoets, B., & Van Cleempoel, K. (2019). Adaptive reuse of the built heritage: Concepts and cases of an emerging discipline. Routledge. Chapter 1-5. [Available on-line through Chalmers Library]

Huuhka, S., & Vestergaard, I. (2020). Building conservation and the circular economy: a theoretical consideration Links to an external site.. Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, 10(1), 29-40.

For reference literature, see list in Assignment for Approaches & Cases

Course design

The studio will develop your practical and theoretical skills as an architect to contribute to the extended life, use, and value creation of existing built environments. The course is set in a framework of current climate and energy crises and strives for sustainable and equal rights to resources and places for all. Supporting the continued and efficient use of existing built environments and finding circular solutions beyond the current linear thinking will be of increasing importance for future built environments.

The studio aims to create an architectural intervention based on the understanding of a specific limited site and set of buildings. Your analysis of the area will inform and drive the design process to extend the life of the existing site and its building(s). You will study and analyse the built structures, their technical, spatial, cultural, and functional qualities, stakeholders and usage, natural environment as well as socioeconomic contexts. Your proposals should contribute to the avoidance of redundancy, strive to minimise resource extraction, waste production and the addition of surplus materials, consider economic feasibility and the relation to socio-economic realities, and carefully consider history, heritage, and collective memories.

The studio is built around an architectural intervention for the adaptive reuse of existing built environments. Starting from an initial analysis of the site, its physical and social prerequisites you should define and develop a project that will advance to include technical and architectural details. The design process is driven forward through regular tutorials and reviews.

The course will train you in choosing and using architectural methods to investigate, analyse and create ideas. Your work will be supported by critical-analytical apporaches through the use of theory from adaptive reuse and circularity. You will be trained and encouraged to use physical models as a tool for analysis, design and representation. 

The course is structured in four phases: Inventory & documentation, project phase 1, the concept and idea, project phase 2, the architectural project and project phase 3, presentation and exhibition. The first phase is built around the inventory and analysis of the buildings and the site and will lead up to project phase 1, a concept for the continued project. In project phase 2 you will develop an architectural project from the level of the building down to the details. During both phase 1 and 2 you can, if needed, come back to the site and the buildings to collect more material for your project and/or revise and further develop your concept/program (see Figure 1). In the final phase, you will work on the presentation for the final review and an exhibition.  

Overview of phases.jpg

Figure 3: How the different phases interact.

The first part of the studio is the contextualisation, inventory and theoretical foundations. In this phase, you make  investigations and learn about the buildings and the site. You will make use of existing documentations (documents, drawings, plans and historical photos), update drawings and plans, and make your own inventories of the area using your knowledge and perspectives as architects. You will choose your own approach and rules of the game to your architectural intervention through studies of literature on adaptive reuse and circular economy and reference projects.

During project phase 1, you will formulate a concept for the extended life of the site and its buildings and the site. In this phase you will be divided into groups based on your personal approach, and the groups will be kept through out the design phase. You will produce working documents in the form of drawings based on on-site measurements, corrected archive documents, photos, notes, sketches, etc. You will continue the inventory of materials if needed. 

In project phase 2 you will develop your architectural intervention. The concept becomes the red thread that leads you through this processing phase. As a start, you might need to do more in-depth research on-site. Your design will be supported by regular tutorials and special input from experts. You will work out a well-thought-out and coherent proposal that must include the building scale and come down to technical and architectural details. For the mid-review and the final review, you are expected to present a narrative from concept to your architectural intervention in drawings and models.

During project phase 3, the communication phase, you mainly focus on completing and presenting the project in the best possible way in drawings, images, text and models. You will practice presentation orally during the final review and the exhibition. As a final assignment, you will make an individual review where you reflect on your work process and the proposal you have developed. In this week there is also time to participate at the open seminars for 2024 MT thesis.

Overview ACE575.png

Figure 3, Overview of the course

The studio is full-time and will take place both at Chalmers but also at the site where we are working. You will be given a place at Chalmers where you together will build up your studio environment.

The course uses Canvas for communication of the scheduled activities and hand-ins, sharing of common material, and for communication between students and teachers.

You are expected to work in groups for most of the course with other students for the inventory, conceptualisation, analysis and development of concepts and projects. Groups are preferably made up of three students. The course also involves individual assignments. Individual assignments are literature studie, reference project studies, and an individual writing assignment.

As a second-cycle student, you are expected to take significant responsibility for your own studies and progress. Full attendance is expected at lectures, seminars, supervision, and review. Attendance will be taken at lectures, seminars, reviews, and supervision. When you have a legitimate reason (illness, doctor’s appointment) for not attending, a message should be sent to Paula, the examiner prior to that occasion or by the latest the same morning. n urgent cases of illness send an SMS to Paula 0735570048. When you miss a compulsory seminar or lecture, a complementary task will be requested. In the same way, a long absence due to illness might be subject to complementary tasks.

Changes made since the last occasion

The precedents to the course have been running for over a decade. A novelty is that the course since last year focuses on the meeting between theory in adaptive reuse of buildings and circular societies. When the course has gone from 22.5 to 15 credits it will have a shorter conceptualisation phase and focus on the development of a more limited architectural intervention.  

Learning objectives and syllabus

Knowledge and understanding

After the course, the student should be able to:

  1. Recognise and describe various architectural approaches and strategies to work with continued use, renovation, and/or transformation of existing built environments.
  2. Identify and select methods for inventory and analysis of existing built environments with respect to material and immaterial information and values.
  3. Identify challenges and possibilities for sustainable futures for a specific site and its buildings.

Skills and abilities

After the course, the student should be able to:

  1. Select and apply methods to describe and analyse a specific site and its buildings from different perspectives with respect to different stakeholders, and material and immaterial perspectives.
  2. Search for, identify and select references for institutional frameworks, scientific and grey literature, and exemplary architectural projects for the development of a concept for the continued use of the site and buildings(s).
  3. Formulate a concept and program for the sustainable extended life of the site and building(s) that makes references to institutional frameworks, literature, and exemplary architectural projects.
  4. Based on the inventory, develop a concept and program for an architectural intervention/project that will extend the life of a site and its building(s) and reduce (unsustainable) resource use through the production and use phase
  5. Visually and orally communicate and defend the proposed architectural intervention.

Ability of assessment and attitude

After the course, the student should be able to:

  1. Critically reflect on challenges and at times competing objectives and interests, for the extended and sustainable use of the built environment.
  2. Evaluate the impact of the proposed architectural intervention with respect to existing stakeholders, material and immaterial values, and the efficient use of resources.
  3. Critically reflect on the role of the architect and architectural knowledge for the extended sustainable use of existing built environments

Link to the syllabus on Studieportalen.

Study plan

Links to an external site.

Integrated learning

The course is given both in MPDSD and MPARC. In relation to other courses in MPDSD and MPARC that might also propose transformation projects, this course distinguishes itself by emphasising an understanding and developing existing built structures regarding technical, material, and cultural values. The course emphasises an architectural intervention that comes down to the level of technical and architectural details. The course also develops a theoretical understanding of the crossing between theories of architectural adaptive reuse and circular societies.

Examination form

The course has continuous examination, thus the active participation in common activities, lectures, seminars, tutoring, and reviews is required. Absences from scheduled supervision, lectures, seminars, and activities as well as shorter sick leaves are to be replaced by supplementary assignments. The examination is based on active participation as stated above, and the quality of compulsory hand-ins: 1) concept/programme, 2) mid-crits, 3) final review, and 4) individual short text. The quality of the hand-ins is assessed by the teaching team with support of invited external critics.

You must submit hand-ins for the individual text, and the group delivery for the concept review, mid-review, and final review. If you miss a deadline this must be notified, and you might be granted an extension of the deadline. You must take an active part in all reviews and the final exhibition. If you have not submitted the hand-in prior to the concept/mid-review/final review, you will not be able to present your work at the review. Prior to the final review, a 90% check will be carried out by the tutors/examiner.

If your project does not pass the final review, you cand be asked to make minor or major revisions and supplementary work. If you are asked to make minor revisions these must be submitted within a week. In the case major revisions are requested, a date for a new examination will be discussed in dialogue with the examiner and the student. It is not possible to revise or supplement your project if you have missed substantial parts of the course (lectures, seminars, tutorials) and failed to present a project at the final review that is at least 90% ready. Then you will be asked to take the course again.

Grading depends on the level of the quality of the student’s work. Failed (F), good quality (3), high quality (4), very high quality 5

Grade 5 Very high-quality of design project. Show excellent ability to integrate practical and scientific knowledge from different disciplines in concept and design proposals. All assignments should have high quality. Be able to formulate a written concept with academic quality using references to scientific and grey literature. Very high and active presence at all scheduled activities and active attendance in seminars, tutorials, reviews, discussions, and group work.  

Grade 4 High quality of design. Show the ability to integrate practical and scientific knowledge from different disciplines in the design. Be able to formulate a written concept using references to scientific and grey literature. All assignments should have high quality. High presence at all scheduled activities and active attendance in seminars, tutorials, reviews, discussions, and group work.  

Grade 3 Good quality of design. Show the ability to integrate practical and scientific knowledge from different disciplines in the design. Be able to formulate a written concept using references to scientific and grey literature. All assignments are submitted and approved. Attendance at all scheduled activities and take an active part in seminars, review, discussions, and group work. 





Course summary:

Date Details Due