Obsolescence can be defined as the loss in the usefulness of a property or assets as a result of wear and tear. This can smack an estate in many ways as old methods and practices nurture out of date and lose their value. This chapter however, will be alarmed with obsolescence as it involves the physical structure and layout of an estate, management of recognition, avoidance and cure.

Right from the first day of development, the structure of a Property or every estate begins to decline or reduce in value and usefulness due to the phenomenon of obsolescence. The nature of this reduction or decline in value varies from one estate to another, but in most cases there is a series of recognized phases through which a building passes before it is finally worn-out (dilapidated) and ready to be destroyed or demolished, cleared away and replaced by a new structure. The rhythm and manner by which an estate ‘becomes obsolescent and renewed again is referred to as estate life cycle, Some estate life cycles turn very quickly so that the process of obsolescence occurs within a year or months, in some cases. In other cases, it may remain for several centuries even within a single stage of its life cycle; usually it is not easy to estimate at all times the average period for an estate to complete its cycle, but for domestic properties it is usually for a period of 60-100years.

This applies to building with traditional constructions but with the increasing level of technology today, this period will tend to shorten. In the centre of some old towns and cities examples of these types of old buildings can be found, A building reaches complete obsolescence or dies either when it is physically exhausted or when it is no longer economically prudent or wise to keep It in use, It is important to note that in case of buildings with outstanding historical interests, preservation as a living fossil might warrant continuous use of such property or estate.


The main stages experienced by most estates that pass from initial development to renewal can be summarized as follows:


This is stage of acquisition of land or site for development The acquired site may be a bare site with no previous building, at this stage. One of the owners fails .to continue expending capital or restricts expenditure on its existing use, It may give way to nuisance use such as rubbish dumps, trespass and other similar affliction.


This is the initial stage of development, At this stage, the estate is usually unaffected by obsolescence, should the development fit its use In every respect. In practice only a few buildings even when new, meet this standard. In most cases, certain alteration is made due to imperfect planning, defects in construction etc that Introduce elements of obsolescence. The level of utility of the building is usually greater when new than at any subsequent period.

Also at this stage (early years). Obsolescence is likely to take place at a high, even or regular rate as he advantages of being new and modern begin to wane. This depends on the rate at which comparable never and modern buildings are erected. It IS not impossible for a new building to become obsolete as soon as it is completed especially where there has been a delay in its construction.


This is usually the longest stage in the life of an estate and can be extended to last almost permanently. It is the stages where the advantage of being new disappears and the building settles down to its long-term level of utility and valve during the period. Physical delay of the building can be checked by prompt and proper maintenance. Reduction in value is usually small as modification, improvement and extension can be possible due to changes in demand.

  1. OLDAGE:

This is the stage when the building continues to sink rapidly in status it usually signifies the end of the middle stage. It also shows the sign of obsolescence, physical deterioration adaptation to poorer type of the use than that for which it has initially designed out of date fitting and finishing etc. There is always an acute problem of management at this stage, while it also shows a short economic life of about 15 years, improvement purpose becomes very difficult to ascertain. At this stage, the estate policy IS usually to restrict all expenditure to a minimum cost and to the run down the existing assets awaiting redevelopment.


This is the final stage of the estate life cycle when complete obsolescence is reached. It is a stage when the estate has little or no value as it stands. All things being equal, Clearance and redevelopment follows quickly. But many factors may prevent this e.g. lack of capital to execute new development.

Economic pressure may not be enough to propel renewal change in the immediate environment of the estate, thereby making redevelopment difficult. The continuous realization of certain level of income and use may hinder redevelopment.

The most important question that arises in connection with the estate life cycle, as far as estate management practice is concerned is the life remaining to a property at any moment in time. Time is not simply a matter of estimating the durability or physical life of a structure but its economic life as well, for the estate life is completed as soon as one or the other is spent.

One important consideration in estate management is that unless the increase. In value of redevelopment is likely to be abnormally, high, it is seldom economical to undertake like for like or the same redevelopment. For instance, to make it worthwhile to demolish one house and build another, the value of the new house must be sufficient to cover the value of the house and its cost of demolition plus the c.ost of constructing the new house.

The difficulty many Blight” in area is the replacement of existing properties. The only redevelopment possible is the replacement of existing properties. Blighted areas are areas, which are tending towards slum states.


The word “obsolescence’ comes from Latin “obsolescence” which means to grow old. It is not age, however, but change that chief cause obsolescence. Many ancient buildings are still useful and may perhaps serve their function better because of their age a church for example: on other hand obsolescence can attack a new building, even before it is completed.

Although obsolescence is present almost everywhere in some degree it becomes a factor to be reckoned with when a building or facilities fall below contemporary standards. These standards will vary with time and place; conditions that are acceptable now may not be in a few years time and the standards suitable to Mushin need not apply In Victoria Island in Lagos.

Obsolescence is, therefore, a relative term. So also “obsolete” which indicates that a property has no useful life as it stands, for a building can be obsolete in the context of one time land place, but not in another.


The problem or causes and types of obsolescence are diverse may be grouped into five categories, functional, physical and economic, statutory.


This is the deficiency in design, equipment or layout that makes a building less suitable for use than the general run of its contemporaries e.g. an office block built with high ancient concept, without a lift to serve the upper floor, divided into small awkward-shaped rooms will suffer from functional obsolescence compared to more modern and well fitted purpose built office premises.

Many deficiencies giving rise to functional obsolescence can be rectified through adaptation, conversion and the installation of modern equipment. An important cause of functional obsolescence, however, is the inappropriateness or ineptitude of the size of a building to meet modern demand. Functional obsolescence can be ignorantly built into a structure through faulty design, inconvenient planning or the installation of out-dated equipment.


This is the easiest to appreciate. It relates to wear and tear on the fabric of a building. Although with modern material and techniques of construction it might be possible to erect a structure that is virtually immune against physical ravages, because of the probability of economic and functional obsolescence such a proposal is rarely worthwhile, except where possible, in case of certain public and religious buildings.

In the normal course of things, buildings wear out and perish with time.

But they do not wear out uniformly; they’ are made up of a number of component parts, each of which has a separate life.

Where a building survives for long time, it is usually due to the possibility of renewing its component parts as many times as possible, especially the short lived components.

For practical purposes, the elements of a building may be regarded as having different degrees of permanencies, some have a long life-foundation, main walls, brick works, structural frame etc, some a medium life-joinery, plumbing, cast iron goods, partitions and certain types of curtain walling and some a short life-decorations and service installations.

Until a building reaches the old age of its life cycle, physical obsolescence 15 not a severe problem for estate management, as it can always be taken care of economically worthwhile to keep premises in good repair due to obsolescence from other causes.


This arises where there is a loss in the usefulness of a building because of changes in the market for its services. The changes may be due to fall. In demand e.g. cinema house, or over supply, which forces economic obsolescence by creating excessive competition e.g. when a town centre becomes over developed with more shops than the required level.

Economic obsolescence need not always be permanent, it may vanish as soon as it appears, however, over supply can be removed by a revival or increase in demand. The cause of this type of obsolescence lies deep within the economy as a whole, and these include, change in the size and structure of the population technological improvement, change in population, change in taste and fashions, etc.


This is caused by a town planning law, when there is a change of use which affects the building in an area in such a way that the buildings which affects the buildings can no longer be used for what they were normally designed for e.g. a change from office use to residential use or the area being declared a green belt area.


This is common in the developing nations or the third world countries. This occurs when a newly developed building with all its modern facilities cannot be inhabited as a result of some spiritual manifestation on those whose attempt to stay in the property. There are reported cases of newly developed residential properties around the country e.g. Akure, Ilorin Benin City to mention but a few that the occupant sometimes wake in the morning after a couple of days insane, while other s finds it increasingly difficult to sleep at night as a result of unusual noise in the night such as Baby Cry, Cat Cry etc.

When these persist, the occupants will be compelled to ate such properties leading to obsolescence.


On the whole, building owners tend to regard their assets as permanent and take little account of the incidence of obsolescence. This is evidenced by how rarely sinking fund polices are invested with a view to securing the replacement of capital at the end of a buildings life.

Apart from the dangers of ignoring obsolescence, mismanagement can also open doors to rapid obsolescence. One of the important results of obsolescence is that it acts as limitation on the freedom of estate management action.

As premises decline, they become ill suited to their existing uses and become more difficult to adapt to other needs. Furthermore, once they have been adapted, they become consequently less adaptable. The difficulty of obtaining credit on such property acts as a further restriction on estate management.


It is essential to avoid obsolescence as much as possible. This requires the study of obsolescence, its recognition and also the practice of polices, which will minimize its risk.

Among the more important of these are:

  1. Sound maintenance
  2. Simplicity in design and layout
  3. Forward planning
  4. Elasticity
  5. Preservation of homogeneity
  6. Preservation of use balance



This is essential in any policy of conservation. It is the need for regular or routine inspection to detect signs of disrepair, the institution of repair programmes, care in the selection of materials and the method of construction.

Keeping building in Sound condition is very much a question of attending to detail and taking action quickly to prevent the spreading of decay. However, when a property is already subject to economic or functional obsolescence, the care of its physical structure is not a simple question of rectifying every defect; compromises have to be worked out which balance the needs of keeping the premises in a reasonable condition and the limits placed on expenditure due to the restricted economic life.


If a building is simple in design and layout, it is more likely to be adaptable to a wide range of possible uses as against one which is highly specialized and tailored to a particular use. Also, in terms’ of style, the less developed the ornamentation of a building, the more likely it is to resist change in fashion. This accounts for the long-lived nature of any estate. It must also be functionally harmonious to stand the test of time.


Where future changes can be predicated, it is essential to take these into account in design, planning and management. Any building planned now must take into account the future, rather than the existing, (for car parking space) and standard of comfort. The amenities of a new building should quite normally be above that which is acceptable at the time of construction when discounting the future.

However, the problem of timing presents difficulties. Some buildings are so far ahead of their time when completed, that they must wait until middle life before coming into full use and value while, in the meantime, they may become Prematurely obsolescent.


The major cause of obsolescence is due to changes in demand resulting in the need for larger or smaller premises than those available.

Whereas functional obsolescence due to old-fashioned services and equipment can often be simply corrected, adjustment in size can seldom be managed easily.

It is desirable, therefore, for an estate to be as elastic in this respect as possible, by having the space and ability to expand as well as the facilities for subdivision into self-contained smaller units, whenever need should arise. It is the practice on many industrial estates; for example, to leave large areas adjacent to existing factories to allow room for extension and in some cases up to 75 percent of the total site may be left for subsequent enlargement.


Misuse is an example of mismanagement which hastens obsolescence. It follows that the preservation of uniform standards in the use of property, the selection of tenants and the repair and management will help prevent avoidable decline. This policy is to be effective where the estate is large and is in the same control over a long period, it is possible to regulate, not isolate properties in an entire neighbourhood.

The identification of sound estate management with conservative policies has often been assumed because of success of so many large estates, which have been able to impose fixed, almost inflexible standard for a very long period.

The appropriateness of a conservative policy however depends entirely on circumstances and in certain conditions; resistance to change can hasten obsolescence.

The problem of obsolescence should be avoided as much as possible in order to prevent the total loss of property which is a form of Investment. However, where it cannot be totally avoided, necessary measures should be taken to minimize its risks