The Nature of Obsolescence

Daisy Ratnasari

The word obsolescence comes from the Latin word “obsolescere” which means to grow old. It is not age, however but change that is the chief cause of obsolescence. Many ancient buildings are still useful and may perhaps serve their functions better because of their age. For instance, churches, mosques, shrines, monumental and historical buildings are known to have been constructed many centuries ago and are even more functional and useful in their old ages in their respective uses than when they were initially constructed.

According to the chambers dictionary obsolescence can be defined as the going out of use of: in course of disappearance tending to become obsolete.

From the above descriptions of the word obsolescence, we can then relate it to buildings, and when related to buildings can be best described as when buildings tend to go out of use either economically, physically, statutorily or even functionally.

It is important to note that, obsolescence can track a new building, even before it is completed, obsolescence is present almost everywhere in some degree, It becomes a factor to be reckoned with when buildings or facilities fall below contemporary standards. These standards will vary with time and place as conditions that are acceptable now may not be in a few years time.

Obsolescence is, therefore, a relative term, so also is the word “obsolete” which indicates that a property has no useful life as it stands; for a building may be obsolete in the context of one time and place, but not in another. For instance a building might be structurally okay but unable to generate enough income to keep it in the present state, also a building can become physically obsolete after completion as a result of a constructional defect.

In light of these obsolescence could be disused in four broad categories, namely

1. Physical obsolescence
2. Statutory obsolescence
3. Functional obsolescence
4. Economic obsolescence

These four categories will be further discussed in subsequent write ups.

So in a nut shell obsolescence in buildings refers to the gradual process or a condition of a building not being able to meet up with the contemporary standards in terms of functionality, statutorily, physically and economically, within a particular place and time causing the building to be obsolete.

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