(For part I of this series, click here) Designing for decay and drift Designing our house to survive disasters (natural or otherwise) is important, and is something building codes and design standards are well-equipped to address - we can get significant survivability simply by designing our house to the standard that things like power plants and tornado safe rooms must meet. But these sorts of events account for a relatively small fraction of homes that get removed from the building stock. Looking at this graph from
Thanks Brian. I especially appreciate the break down on the statistics related to the destruction of buildings. We're pretty good at accident prevention, but media reports will fixate on the few thousand homes eliminated by natural disasters vs. the hundreds of thousands that are demolished voluntarily.
Since you're last post I've been trying to think of real world examples of 500 year old dwellings that have a high probability of being occupied for another 500 years. I think that many of the "upper middle class" villas in Tuscany and other Mediterranean locations have architecture suited to longevity. The construction type consists of masonry bearing walls, timber floor and roof framing, and tile or slate roofs. Positive features include decent room proportions, high ceilings, and good natural light. A pain to renovate initially, but once you've established modern utilities you can repair them without tearing apart bearing walls.
The construction methods you describe are most consistent with what the Unity Homes branch of Bensonwood has been doing for more than a decade. I'm impressed by their solutions but skeptical of them as a platform that could be replicated successfully. The verdict is still out on the American stick-framing revolution. Our current demolition rate implies that every dwelling built in the 20th century suburban housing boom will be gone by the end of this century--or the middle of the next one.
I wonder what it takes to make a really large building culturally valuable enough to retain for 1000 years. Are the Empire State Building or the Pentagon examples of that? Probably not, but what would be?
Sounds like an earth-berm, monolithic dome home is the way to go. Protected by earth itself underground removes most of the environmental damage, assuming adequate drainage and moisture control. Domes are basically the strongest structure. Boom.
Hi Brian, I didn't know how to reach out to you, but I wanted to propose a future post that I would be very interested in: Why don't we see more vertical upgrading of houses? I am an economist partly interested in housing economics. There is always a lot of talk about zoning restrictions and housing regulations that prevent more house building. Often, the focus is on new buildings. But it seems to me that there is also a technical bottleneck for why there is not more "adding additional floors to houses". On the surface, it seems like an easy short-term fix for low housing supply: just add cheap additional floors on existing housing stock and make these upgrades financially lucrative to house owners. I live in Toulouse, France, and I am always amazed that there are many 1-floor houses next to 3-floor houses even in the city centre. My prior would be that its technically not easy (depending on housing type), that there is a lot of neighborhood opposition to this (its loud) and that there are housing regulations that prevent some of it. I am sorry if I missed a previous post of you that touches on this issue.
Your analysis seems sound, but I think it misses a major issue.
Being "built to last for 1000 years" is actually an anti-feature for many actors in the political economy. Forces that want more housing supply care much more about low cost than 1000 year life span. Government doesn't really want 1000 year lifespans, because at least in the US the ability of government to apply retroactive rules is very limited - if very many houses will last 1000 years it becomes very difficult (impossible) to force all housing to be carbon neutral, bird friendly, <insert whatever cause you want here>. In addition at least in WA state permit fees are a big part of local government revenues, and so a town full of "forever" houses may not be economically viable.
Most buyers have no interest in it, since they won't live to benefit from it, and that will be true for generations of future buyers so it's essentially impossible to monetize.
And in many of the most intense markets (the ones suffering badly from the lack of learning curves and scales of efficiency that you describe so well) - it is simply not possible for a house to be acceptable for 1000 years. The desire to forcibly turn it into some kind of apartment (say) may be overwhelming. In some other "intense" markets (like my waterfront house) the parties that buy such houses often wish to replace them for entirely "personal expression" reasons ("MY awesome lake house, not HIS old lake house") [You talked about value changes, but personal glory changes are a thing too.]
In short, basically nobody views 1000 year life spans for houses as a feature.
Good insights Brian, looking forward to the conclusion in Part 3.
Excited for part 3, I want to see what this thing will look like!
Maybe it can store or be near the Long Now clock