Creating living space through conversion

Creating living space through conversion

Over time, people's needs and desires are constantly changing. This also has an impact on buildings and their functions. In the past, many old and empty buildings were demolished to make way for new buildings. Nowadays, however, existing buildings are increasingly being converted for new uses, such as residential housing.

In recent years, many former office buildings have been transformed into homes. This trend first emerged in 2000 in the Brussels Capital Region, subsequently spreading out to cities such as Antwerp, Ghent and Liège. In recent years, the real estate sector has also focused strongly on converting former industrial buildings into residential housing. In addition to transforming former warehouses into trendy lofts in inner-city locations, this trend also sees the redevelopment of large-scale sites including marshalling yards, port areas and industrial production sites.

Converting offices and industrial buildings into housing has various drivers:

  • A high demand for homes at attractive locations in urban and suburban areas due to population growth, smaller households and changing housing requirements.
  • A large supply of empty buildings;
  • A shortage of development land in prime locations for residential property development;
  • Increased focus on sustainable construction and area development;
  • Government support;
  • Potential economic advantages for the project developer.

By focusing on converting empty buildings, two social problems are addressed: 1) the problematic vacancy rate and 2) the shortage of affordable housing.

IDEA Consult was commissioned by ING to carry out a study on the Belgian conversion market. The study looked at the following elements:

  • What is the market (size)?
  • What are the priorities for project developers?
  • What are the opportunities and pitfalls for the conversion market?
  • What will future conversion projects look like?
  • How can we anticipate conversion in new construction projects by starting to build with conversion in mind?


  • Intermediate and private organisations