At times the techniques seem to defy gravity, or at least common sense, for although the buildings appear intact, they slowly shrink. The methods, which make for a cleaner and quieter work site, may eventually find favor in New York and other cities as aging skyscrapers become obsolete and the best solution is to take them down and rebuild.
The latest Tokyo high-rise to get the stealth treatment is the Akasaka Prince Hotel, a 40-story tower with a distinctive saw-toothed facade overlooking one of the city’s bustling commercial districts. Since last fall, its steel and concrete innards have been torn apart, floor by floor, starting near the top, by hydraulic shears and other heavy equipment. The building has been shrinking by about two floors every 10 days; this month it will be gone, to be replaced by two new towers…
The cap helps keep noise and dust down compared with more conventional methods of demolishing tall buildings, which involve erecting a scaffold all the way up and around the structure but leaving the top exposed. “All the work is inside the covered area,” Mr. Ichihara said. “The noise level is 20 decibels lower than the conventional way, and there’s 90 percent less dust leaving the area.”…
It is unclear whether demolition contractors in the United States will adopt any of the Japanese methods; even in Tokyo many buildings are demolished in more conventional ways. (With the new techniques, setting up the project can be more expensive, but the demolition often takes less time than with conventional methods.)
We put a lot of effort into thinking about how buildings are constructed but less effort in thinking about how to effectively repurpose them or tear them down. Perhaps the owners of many new buildings aren’t terribly concerned with the long-term prospects of a building but the buildings aren’t just about the initial occupants and become part of a community.
Just a quick thought: with the relatively slow pace of demolition, how many people who see these large buildings day-to-day notice the demolition? I suspect for some that the building will disappear and they won’t notice until the end.
I argue that Avery Johnson’s 14,396 square foot home is way beyond a McMansion – it is clearly in mansion territory. What pushes it into the mansion category?
1. The square footage seems beyond mass produced and is only really available to the wealthy. Johnson certainly is wealthy – he was fired as coach of the New Jersey Nets in December 2012 in the midst of a 3 year $12 million contract. Also, the home is listed for $9 million. While the home is located in The Woodlands which has a median household income around $85,000, this home is way past this median income.
2. The home is beyond large. It has seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms.
3. The luxury features go beyond a typical McMansion. Check out the pool that looks it belongs in a resort, the bathroom with a giant tub and three central columns, and the fully appointed game room.
In my mind, the best argument for why this home is a McMansion has less to do with the house itself and more to do with the community in which it is located. The Woodlands is a master-plan suburb outside of sprawling Houston and fits the image of the newer kind of wealthier suburb with bigger homes and office parks.
One hundred and fifty years after twin defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg destroyed the South’s quest for independence, the region is again on the rise. People and jobs are flowing there, and Northerners are perplexed by the resurgence of America’s home of the ignorant, the obese, the prejudiced and exploited, the religious and the undereducated. Responding to new census data showing the Lone Star State is now home to eight of America’s 15 fastest-growing cities, Gawker asked: “What is it that makes Texas so attractive? Is it the prisons? The racism? The deadly weather? The deadly animals? The deadly crime? The deadly political leadership? The costumed sex fetish conventions? The cannibal necromancers?”…
While the recession was tough on many Southern states, the area’s recovery generally has been stronger than that of Yankeedom: the unemployment rate in the region is now lower than in the West or the Northeast. The Confederacy no longer dominates the list of states with the highest share of people living in poverty; new census measurements (PDF), adjusted for regional cost of living, place the District of Columbia and California first and second. New York now has a higher real poverty rate than Mississippi.
Over the past five decades, the South has also gained in terms of population as Northern states, and more recently California, have lost momentum. Once a major exporter of people to the Union states, today the migration tide flows the other way. The hegira to the sunbelt continues, as last year the region accounted for six of the top eight states attracting domestic migrants—Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia. Texas and Florida each gained 250,000 net migrants. The top four losers were New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and California…
Bluntly put, if the South can finally shake off the worst parts of its cultural baggage, the region’s eventual ascendancy over the North seems more than likely. High-tech entrepreneurs, movie-makers, and bankers appreciate lower taxes and more sensible regulation, just like manufacturers and energy companies. And people generally prefer affordable homes and family-friendly cities. Throwing in a little Southern hospitality, friendliness, and courtesy can’t hurt either.
Kotkin is determined these days to wave these economic and population figures in the faces of urbanists and coastal residents. That said, the shift to the South is intriguing and significant. Whereas the Northeast and Midwest were ascendent in the early 1900s, the South and Sunbelt have rebounded.
One way this play out with undergraduates is when we discuss how to control for geography in basic regression models. One of the most common ways in sociology to do this is to make a dummy variable for the South. When students ask why this is, I explain that sociologists tend to assume the South is the most unusual region compared to the other three. There are demographic and cultural reasons for this but I wonder if there is some latent feelings about the South…
The reason: The price to reserve “capacity”—the right to buy electricity during peak-demand periods—will soar next June. That rising cost, which is embedded in the energy price on customers’ electric bills, will hit households consuming small amounts of power far harder than owners of large homes using a lot of electricity. Residents of wealthy suburbs with larger, high-consumption homes could well pay 1 to 2 cents per kilowatt-hour less for electricity than city residents.
Why? ComEd allocates the capacity charge evenly among all residential customers regardless of their usage. So the owner of a city bungalow consuming 500 kilowatt-hours per month pays the same dollar amount for capacity as the owner of a McMansion in the suburbs using three times as much. The McMansion owner’s total electric bill will be higher than the bungalow owner’s, but the McMansion owner will pay less per kilowatt-hour because the added capacity charge makes up a much smaller percentage of the total.
This disparity hasn’t been an issue to date because capacity costs have been unusually low over the past two years. But the price for capacity in PJM Interconnection—the 13-state power grid that includes northern Illinois—will rise 350 percent for the year beginning in June 2014. That will have a bigger impact on towns and cities with lots of small-usage households such as Chicago than it will on suburbs featuring larger homes…
Evidence of “have” and “have-not” municipalities already is starting to appear. Two wealthy north suburbs with many large homes, Bannockburn and Kildeer, last month locked in an energy price for their residents of just below 5 cents per kilowatt-hour for the next two years beginning in September. By contrast, under the Integrys contract, Chicago residents pay 5.42 cents, or 8 percent more. And next May, when the city must reprice the deal, it’s expected to struggle to beat a ComEd price that will approach 7 cents.
The article doesn’t answer the most basic question: how did this disparity end up in the regulations in the first place?
The article suggests that people in the city or suburbs should be paying the same electricity rate. It is only fair to pay equally. But, I wonder if some wouldn’t argue that the suburbanites who are more spread out, require more infrastructure to reach this larger area, and tend to live in bigger houses should actually be paying higher rates. Couldn’t that be written into the regulations? This may not be politically popular but I imagine the argument could be made. Indeed, using the term McMansion in comparison to the humble Chicago bungalow leans in this direction by referring to unnecessarily large homes.
A New York Times video highlights the large number of Chinese residents the government intends to resettle to cities in the new two decades. Three quick thoughts on the video:
1. Yes, the scale of urbanization in China is astounding. As the video notes, China’s urbanization rate has approached Western levels in a matter of decades while it took centuries in the West.
2. The video argues that the rapid urbanization in recent years was more natural while the planned urbanization in the next 15 years is more forced by the government. I think this is an odd choice of words: “natural” versus “forced.” This seems to borrow from a typical US/Western explanation that people are free to make choices between urban, suburban, and rural areas. It may feel this way for those with money but it obscures that there are plenty of social forces, such as economic opportunities or race/ethnicity, that “push” and “pull” people away from certain areas. “Forced” seems more correct for official government policy that will require people to move but as a sociologist, I would be very hesitant to suggest social process were inevitable or “natural” or that individuals are complete free agents who can live where they like.
3. The visual in the video is unique. I understand the purpose: to give people the sense of just how large this urban resettlement in China will be. And it is visually more interesting than a graph. At the same time, it is odd to put so many major metropolitan areas in a line. The cities are geographically disparate so why line them up?
Here is an update on the average (not the median) new house size in the United States and in the Chicago region:
As a result, the average new home completed last year was 2,505 square feet. That represents the third annual increase in square feet and puts the average home size on par with where it was in 2008. Average home size peaked in 2007 at 2,521 square feet…
In the Chicago area, the average size of homes being built today is about 2,650 square feet, down from the 2,800 to 3,000 square feet constructed during the housing boom, according to Chris Huecksteadt, director of the Chicago region for Metrostudy, a housing research firm.
The US average is not surprising but it is rarer to see see figures for specific metropolitan regions. The higher than average new housing size in the Chicago area is likely related to the wealth of the metropolitan area but its lack of recovery compared to the national average suggests the region hasn’t bounced back as much as some other regions.
Put more bluntly:
Even if a white and a black child are raised by parents who have similar jobs, similar levels of education, and similar aspirations for their children, the rigid segregation of urban neighborhoods means that the black child will be raised in a residential environment with higher poverty, fewer resources, poorer schools, and more violence than that of the white child.
This might not seem to make sense: education gains have been fairly substantial, so shouldn’t income and wealth follow? The problem is that whites are more likely to lock in gains over generations. Blacks are more likely to be in a higher income centile than their parents than whites (55/50), and less likely to be in a lower one (44/49). But they’re more likely to be in a lower income quintile (53/41) and less likely to be in a higher income quintile (35/45). Whites are more likely to inch down and leap up the socioeconomic ladder; for blacks, vice versa.
By way of explanation, Sharkey points to the work of Northwestern sociologist Mary Pattillo on the black middle class: “When white families advance in economic status, they are able to translate this economic advantage into spacial advantage by buying into communities that provide quality schools and healthy environments for children. An extensive research literature demonstrates that African Americans are not able to translate economic resources into spacial advantage to the same degree.” In the real world, this is the reality for middle-class neighborhoods like Chatham, which struggle to maintain their economic and residential base while buffeted by violence creeping in from neighboring communities.
This research counters the idea that decreased educational differences necessarily leads to reduced wealth and spatial differences. There are other important factors at work, including the spatial context. Education is not a silver bullet that solves all of the issues related to poverty.
This would seem to line up with research on wealth differences between whites and blacks (see Black Wealth/White Wealth by Oliver and Shapiro). Even if blacks have made educational gains, wealth is partly generational. Wealth really helps with buying a home in middle- and upper-class neighborhoods that then offer better schools, environments, and social capital. And this homeownership gap is still large in the first quarter of 2013 (Table 16): 73.4% for whites, 43.1% for blacks, 45.3% for Hispanics, and 54.6% for all other races.
The Chicago Cubs moving out of the city seems unlikely. But, that hasn’t stopped several Chicago suburbs from suggesting they would be willing to work out a deal with the Cubs to build a new stadium:
What the soliciting suburbs believe — and sources close to the Cubs confirm — is that the siblings of Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts are souring on Chicago and growing increasingly concerned the deal will be modified in a way that denies the team the revenue it needs to renovate Wrigley without a public subsidy…
“If this deal looks like it’s going down in flames or not getting done in a reasonable time, Tom will invest in ‘Plan B’ locations. He’d still work with the mayor on a city site. But, maybe not in Wrigleyville. I know people don’t believe it. But, it’s true,” the Cubs source said…
Aides to Mayor Rahm Emanuel privately dismissed this week’s public solicitation from DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin as a Cubs-orchestrated negotiating ploy.
“This is all manufactured to gain leverage,” said a top mayoral aide, who asked to remain anonymous.
Last month, Ricketts threatened to move his team out of Wrigley and Chicago if he doesn’t get the outfield signs he needs to bankroll a $300 million stadium renovation without a public subsidy.
This comes after the announcement this week that DuPage County has two potential sites for the Cubs. But, little extra information about these plans were provided.
But, I think a more interesting take is the regional nature of sports teams and stadiums. Sports teams these days are really regional entities, particularly considering that more people live in the suburbs than central cities. It is unusual to have a team like the Cubs so closely tied to a specific neighborhood. Additionally, cities often see sports stadiums as economic engines, even though research suggests spending lots of taxpayer dollars on stadiums doesn’t pay off for communities. On one hand, it is not all that different than fighting over big box stores or corporate headquarters because of the supposed economic benefits. Yet, on the other hand it is a constant status symbol. Could the city of Chicago really afford in terms of prestige to lose the Cubs? I don’t think so. Would a suburb get a big status boost from hosting the Cubs? Possibly. If a suburb was able to woo the Cubs, I imagine they would trumpet this fact and try to build around it for decades.
This has happened before in Chicago. When the Chicago Bears were looking for a new stadium from the 1970s to the early 1990s, several suburbs were involved. The Bears ended up getting a decent enough deal from the city to stay. (Maybe they should have pushed harder. They have the smallest NFL stadium in terms of seats and with it also being an open-air facility, this limits its Super Bowl possibilities in the future. Also, the facility is still owned by the Chicago Park District and this has led to issues over the years.) Again, it is hard to imagine the Chicago Bears, a historic NFL franchise, playing out in the suburbs next to a major highway. What would have been a boon for a suburb would have been a big perceived loss for Chicago.
In the end, these sorts of negotiations can pit cities against suburbs in similar ways to fighting over business opportunities. But, rather than arguing about just money, sports teams are viewed as public goods that belong to a region. Perhaps the worst possible outcome is for the region to lose a team to another region altogether. The second worst outcome might be for the big city to lose the stadium to an upstart suburb.
The superstation, which was mothballed in 2008, runs on a diagonal from beneath the corner of Randolph and Dearborn streets, southeast to the corner of State and Washington streets. I’m not supposed to say how you access the space — security concerns, you know — but let’s just say that a variety of elevators, locked doors and ladders are involved.What’s striking once you get in the space is its size: as long as a football field-and-a-half (472 feet), 68 feet wide and averaging 28 feet high. Call it a concrete bathtub — or an “envelope,” as our tour guide, Chicago Transit Authority Chief Infrastructure Officer Chris Bushell, put it — with rows of support pillars receding into the dim far distance. And all completely unlit, except for some temporary light strung up on the mezzanine and the portable lights we brought along…
The money needed for express train service, likely in the billions, never was obtained. And any private-sector interest melted away when the economy entered its worst downturn in many decades in the late 2000s. So, the city stopped after completing the shell and built no more.
By that time, though, City Hall had spent $218 million — $171 million of CTA bonds, $42 million in tax-increment financing and $5 million from outside grants, the CTA says. And to make the station useable — to connect the tracks, build the escalators, attach all of the needed electrical and plumbing to the outlets — will take an additional $150 million or so, the CTA says.
It’s too bad the city won’t say what they envision doing with this space. Just how long will it stay empty? Because of this, I’m a little surprised Chicago was willing to show reporters exactly what they built. Not only was several hundred million spent, the city still does not have any faster train service to the airports. All together, this is not exactly a shining moment in Chicago infrastructure.
Chicago tries to solve stormwater issues with Deep Tunnel but is behind in utilizing greener options
Cities from Philadelphia to Seattle already are moving aggressively to prevent basement backups and sewage overflows without the expensive work of laying pipes and boring tunnels. Milwaukee is the first city in the nation with a federal stormwater permit that legally requires “green infrastructure,” such as streets and parking lots with permeable pavement and neighborhood rain gardens designed to capture the first flush of stormwater…
For instance, the Green Alley program promoted by former Mayor Richard Daley has overhauled just 1 percent of the 1,900 miles of Chicago alleys with permeable pavement, according to city records. Other than a showcase project on Cermak Road in the Pilsen neighborhood, city officials could not provide details about any other street outfitted with green infrastructure…
Daley’s 2003 “Water Agenda” and 2008 “Climate Action Plan” promoted green infrastructure as a solution. Mayor Rahm Emanuel embraced the idea last year in his “Sustainable Chicago 2015″ plan, which called for making the projects a routine part of the city’s bricks-and-mortar budget and promised to annually convert 1.5 million square feet of impervious surfaces into areas that allow runoff to seep into the ground.
But despite the years of talk about green alternatives, the city’s money and political focus largely is still on big-ticket construction projects like Emanuel’s program to replace and refurbish old sewer lines, funded in part by doubling water bills for the average household by 2015.
The larger official response to flooding and sewage overflows in Chicago and suburban Cook County is the Deep Tunnel, a network of massive storm sewers and cavernous flood-control reservoirs that has been under construction since the mid-1970s. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, a tax-supported agency that operates independently from city government, has spent more than $3 billion on the project but isn’t scheduled to complete it until at least 2029.
There seem to be several issues at work:
1. Deep Tunnel is a sunk cost already and it will still be years before it is fully operational. Can a government back away from such a large project, supposedly one of the largest civil engineering efforts in the world, when so much money has already been spent? This kind of retreat with billions spent already is difficult to envision. Also, I assume we know more about stormwater management today than people did in the 1960s and 1970s when Deep Tunnel was planned.
2. The greener alternatives seem to take a different approach to stormwater. Instead of relying on a large, centralized system, it sounds like other cities have stricter requirements for individual property owners. These owners can’t foist the problem off on the city or nearby properties; they have to find ways to reduce their contributions to the system.
3. Chicago has tried to promote a greener image over the last decade or so. Mayor Daley was fond of pointing out the city’s green roof initiative. Here is a little bit more on Chicago’s green roofs:
“If every rooftop in Chicago was covered with a green roof, the city could save $100 million in energy every year,” said Jason Westrope, a developer for Development Management Associates, who has overseen the building of green roofs in the city.
Green roofs also help absorb stormwater runoff. That’s important because the city’s stormwater drains through its sewers, and if the system gets overloaded after a big storm, that wastewater is in danger of backflowing into the river, the lake, and even into people’s basements.
Chicago already has 359 green roofs covering almost 5.5 million square feet — that’s more than any other city in North America. But city planners are pushing for even more.
Chicago has mandated that all new buildings that require any public funds must be “LEED” Certified — designed with energy efficiency in mind — and that usually includes a green roof. Any project with a green roof in its plan gets a faster permitting process. That combined with energy savings is the kind of green that incentivizes developers.
Does this assessment of Deep Tunnel work against this green image? Compared to other major cities, how exactly does Chicago rank in terms of green programs and initiatives? It is one thing to look at a single project, even a massive one, compared to an overall assessment.