12 Comments

I would love to see you incorporate a city like Toronto in your analysis. They currently have the fastest growing skyline in the western hemisphere.

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and Shanghai!

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This seems a little simplistic. To turn a piece of urban land into great apartments requires an investment in the land and hiring people to build the building. What actually has changed in 100 years? More expensive land? More demand for amenities that cost money? Regulatory headaches?Less efficient labor? If it's the last we've really made no progress in 100 years.

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Great post, loved the mission statement about speed in the intro. I featured it here and linked you:

https://www.libertyrpf.com/i/109002880/why-build-fast-when-did-new-york-start-building-slowly

Keep up the great work 💚 🥃

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Regulatory environment?

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The regulatory environment is a huge issue for certain, but seems like it would have less of an impact on what this data is measuring. If I understand correctly, this is just time from 'shovels in the ground' to completion. Maybe some more building inspections here and there slow construction down but the major impact of regulations would be before construction starts (so if this analysis for 'total development time' were done I am certain it would look orders of magnitude worse) so this is the physical act of manufacturing a building on site is just much slower.

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I wish more cities built skyscrapers in the same number so we had more data. A big difference in Chicago vs NYC is population growth. While both metro areas have grown significantly over the period we are looking at, the cities themselves (presumably where these buildings were built) have very different population profiles. Chicago still has about 1 million fewer people than its peak in 1950. NYC had a 10% population decline in the 70s but rebounded and is now a large as it ever has been.

I am curious how this impacts construction speed. Its possible buildings in Chicago are being built in areas with fewer existing structures or on larger plots or have to fight against fewer existing residents. All these things may speed construction in someways (but not in others).

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Didn’t 1 Vanderbilt go up in record time?

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a. what about deaths/million sq ft ? I expect they are lower, hence slower. Any data?

b. In the 20s, 30s 40s -- I would say construction was built with a large safety factor in strength of walls, floors, girth. Lately, these super new engineered structures are - finely tuned, aeroelastic framings and floors that have maybe (data ?) 1/2 to 1/4 the structural safety margin. This approach for "thinness" is most certainly more tolerance insensitive. More detailed precision of assembly. That means slower

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The Chicago vs NYC comparison is brilliant. For NYC, are the (few) skyscrapers outside Manhattan different? There were few or none when I left NYC for grad school in 1980, so any in your database would be in the slowdown era. Congestion in Queens was qualitatively lower...

For Tokyo, well, it took 20 years or more to assemble land for a number of major redevelopments, fragmented and small landholdings plus strong tenant protections plus protections for small retailers. I looked at that ca 1991 while on a research leave in Tokyo, but I have no idea about the construction phase, at the time it wasn't the bottleneck and I paid it no attention.

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Brian, I’ve started a post in the spirit of your substack, and sent a longish email not realizing that it wouldn’t reach you. Anyway, see the start here, other elements will include the implications of how stuff got to plants (rail vs truck) and how workers got to plants (streetcars/public transport vs personal cars): autosandeconomics at blogspot, comments apparently don't accept links, though I'll try again: https://autosandeconomics.blogspot.com/2023/03/automotive-productivity-plant.html

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May 20, 2023·edited May 20, 2023

Have you considered the "financial contracts"? If the building loan (nobody builds straight out of 100% equity, the big lenders are always involved "for a piece") covenants stipulate a minimum 3 year term......well there's no return to speeding up! Don't forget the invisible hand?

Putting up skyscrapers is a ready financial commodity business. Nobody blinks an eyelash. It's like depositing money.

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