Counterintuitive Building Types

FFG︎︎︎ funded cooperative research project at TU Graz (2022-2025)
Andreas Lechner (PI) 

Fig. 1 Retail Park Rosental, Styria, AT (2023)
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 seems counterintuitive at first, since for most of these properties only demolition, recycling, and renaturation are deemed 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, 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 of culture, and provides key data on cost, energy, and sustainability.

Project Partners

Project management

  • Andreas Lechner (PI), Graz University of Technology – Institute for Design and Building Typology

Project or cooperation partners

  • Graz University of Technology - Institute for Design and Building Typology
  • 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

In CBT selected commercial and retail properties provide empirical foundation as existing structures and resources for the project’s case studies that will convert and further develop them towards more positive energy, use, and life cycle balances. The 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. 

Fig. Research Matrix with different transformation scenarios for three strip malls in Austria 

CBT is funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG

Link 1: CBT @ FFG - Stadt der Zukunft (9)
Link 2: CBT @ NachhaltigWirschaften.at
Link 3: CBT @ NachhaltigWirtschaften.at (English)

Counterintuitive Typologies
Research & Teaching Lab

Associate Professor
Dr. Andreas Lechner

TU Graz / Faculty of Architecture
Institute of Design & Building Typology
Lessingstrasse 25/IV
A-8010 Graz, Austria

T   +43 316 873 6298
E   maike.gold@tugraz.at 

︎︎︎Instagram @counterintuitive_typologies

︎︎︎Graz University of Technology

TU Graz

Funded by
︎︎︎FFG – Austrian Research Promotion Agency


Last update: 27/08/202

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