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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Modern houses are better than they look

Over at TBHN, there are two further comments from readers about modern housing, one being of particular interest because it is from an architect.

Alistair Twiname confirms an inexpert impression I have long had, which is that while the finish of modern buildings is indeed fairly tacky, because of this being a craftsmanship thing and craftsmanship now being either worse or more expensive than a century ago, anything in a building where modern industrialisation techniques can work their magic is now improving steadily.

(The above direct link seems dodgy. The blogspot archive thing again? To get there by hand, it’s www.tbhn.blogspot.com – August 22nd 2002.)

I remember, when I worked as a junior functionary for a house builder many years ago, being very impressed with how clever the hidden bits of the buildings often were, and how rapidly such things were progressing, underneath the twee and conservative exteriors, which just looked like cheap copies of past glories with added garages. That being because they were.

Any man-made, mass produceable object small enough to be moved easily is improving fast, in quality, price, cunning, everything. Why can’t houses be as good as cars and aeroplanes? Because you can make cars and aeroplanes in convenient indoor factories, and then move them easily to where they’re wanted. A house is a hell of a lot harder to move, and to make it movable, you have to build a self-supporting structure into it which will only be used once (unlike the equivalent car and aeroplane structures, which get used throughout the machine’s life). But with a house, for the rest of its life, the ground will support the house. Doesn’t work. So, the thing has to be assembled on site, in the rain, by those now reasonably well paid building workers. Thousands have tried, but nobody has cracked industrialised housing yet.

The other thing Twiname’s comments confirm for me is the enormous value of specialist blogs, and specialist debates and discussions on blogs. These draw specialist people, who might have no interest in or agreement with general pro-free-market bombast, into debates and discussions of genuine interest to them in which our questions and concerns still set the agenda. And, such people educate us.

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