"Make no little plans...they have no magic to stir men's blood."
Daniel Burnham

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

‘I want it this way and I want it now’

Is the rapid progression in home building leading to a lack of quality dwellings?

In recent years, the common push has been to put out cookie cutter homes on cookie cutter lots, but, the culture is changing. Many prospective homeowners are avoiding the cookie cutter neighborhoods, great, you may say, but no. These homeowners are looking for the custom looking home for the fraction of a normal custom home price, nine or ten foot ceilings, the same number of bathrooms as bedrooms, crown molding, granite countertops, designed and manicured flowerbeds. Not only is the price of these dreamy homes very important but so also is the speed in which the building is constructed. These two factors are leading to the disappearance of a quality home.

No longer can you get that white painted wood picket fence that coincides with the Classic American dream, you will have to settle for vinyl or another fabricated substitute. Looking for wood shutters, these have been replaced by vinyl as well. Wood doors and windows, those are becoming rapidly a thing of the past. Stone or brick walls? You might as well forget about it. Thin brick veneers and “lick and stick” stones have leeched the lifespan of homes built today. Do you really think that your, four bedroom, four bath, recently constructed home will last centuries? Then again longevity must not be the American dream anymore.

Let’s look at the facts:

Normal wall construction of wood and OSB can be expected to last thirty years* and maybe more depending on the sheathing material. Historically a wall construction of virgin growth timber or Stone or Brick well over a hundred years* and for the latter the possibility is there for much more.

When comparing a vinyl or other type of laminate flooring to natural hardwood flooring the numbers continue with the same consistency. The new materials have a life expectancy between thirty and forty years.* The all natural wood flooring (the type found in many houses over fifty years old.) has a life expectancy of over a hundred years.* The wood floors are expected to last at least twice of these readily accepted equivalents in today’s market.

The use of aluminum products versus the old style copper products will net you a loss of at least half* of what the copper can withstand. Copper piping, copper wires, copper sinks, have all proven themselves time and time again, each time blowing out the competing materials.

There must be a middle ground between the energy efficient yet, short-lived materials that are designed for today’s housing market and those long lasting products that have allowed buildings to last for a hundred years and many more in some examples.

What of products like bamboo? Bamboo is fast growing yet, lasts approximately a hundred years equal to that of the natural wood floors of the past. What about painting with a plaster mixture rather than regular paint, paint has an average lifespan of around 15 years depending on the type, with plaster mixed in much more. Or consider the use of clay paving which lasts a lifetime against the commonly used asphalt drive way with a lifespan of 15-20 years.


* = information gathered from the following link -http://www.nahb.org/fileUpload_details.aspx?contentID=72475

Photograph Courtesy of - http://www.faqs.org/photo-dict/phrase/491/neighborhood.html

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