High rises’ high costs, part 3: Maintenance costs

Earlier, I’ve written about how high-rises face higher up-front costs, stemming from both lower efficiency and higher construction costs. But the high-rise cost penalty doesn’t just apply to upfront construction costs — their ongoing maintenance expenses are typically higher than for low-rise buildings. The Institute of Real Estate Management publishes an annual benchmarking report for […]

High rises’ high costs, part 2: Land-efficient, but not floorspace-efficient

I wrote earlier about how higher per-square-foot construction costs make high-rise housing considerably more expensive to build than low-rise housing. Those higher prices don’t stem from any one factor; costs for everything increase as buildings get taller (courtesy James Barton and Steve Watts of Davis Langdon/AECOM, in a CTBUH Technical Paper): Increasing building heights doesn’t linearly […]

Against Euclidean zoning

Since takedowns of Euclid are thankfully all the rage these days… The most obnoxious question I got during oral defense at UChicago was from a genuine-article “provocative libertarian” economist, who launched a broad attack on zoning as a severe impingement upon “freedom” (i.e., his treasured consumer choices). My stammering defense of zoning then amounted to, […]

Friday photo: Why did Chicago courtyards disappear?

Here’s my old block in Wicker Park (and namesake for this blog): the 2100 block of West North Avenue. It’s also an interesting illustration of how Chicago’s 1957 zoning ordinance made courtyard apartment buildings illegal — even though this eminently livable, passively vented building type defines high-density Chicago neighborhoods like Rogers Park and South Shore. What did courtyards […]

New steel & wood innovations that make mid-rise construction easier, faster, cheaper

Earlier this year, I wrote about some new materials and techniques that could make structural engineering for mid-rise buildings easier, faster, and cheaper. If widely implemented, these could make human-scaled mid-rises more affordable, more widespread, and frankly better looking. 1. While I was in California, I saw two examples of steel-framed mid-rise buildings constructed using ConXTech, […]

Between rocks and a tall place: two height limits hold back affordable mid-rise construction in DC

In the fable of the Three Little Pigs, one pig builds a house from straw, a second from sticks, and a third from bricks, with very different consequences. Notably absent from the pigs’ tale is any mention of each little pigs’ construction budgets. For humans living in the 21st century, it’s not protection from hyperventilating […]

Fortress Illinois

A very long time ago (it looks like June 2000), I wrote a college paper about the history of Illinois Center and Lakeshore East. Since someone asked about it, I’m going to post it. There may be more in “City Building,” the recent monograph of SOM’s urban design projects. Note: the footnotes and formatting are […]

Tidbits, 11 May

In a classic case of Manhattan myopia, Ed Glaeser makes an oversimplified argument that high-rises can spur economic diversity in Economix. Two crucial shortcomings to the argument: (1) high-rises have inordinately high construction costs per unit, due to expensive steel/concrete structures and elevators; and (2) their highly standardized units and interiors, and high ratio of […]