The Suburban Exodus: Are We There Yet?


For many years, critics of the suburban lifestyles that most Americans (not to mention Europeans, Japanese, Canadians and Australians) prefer have claimed that high-density housing is under-supplied by the market. This based on an implication that the people increasingly seek to abandon detached suburban housing for higher density multi-family housing.

The Suburbs: Slums of the Future?  read more »

Subdivisions: The Lots-Per-Minute Race

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When you get that morning cup of Java, do you desire the minimal flavor? How about your career, do you desire the most minimal pay check or profits or the most mundane of positions? Let’s assume for some reason that you said 'No, you would always want to strive for something better than the minimum'.

You now have three hats in front of you, one says “planner” on it, one says “engineer,” and the last one says “developer”. When you put on the “planner” hat, your job is to develop and enforce a set of rules that will guide the development of a city. You suggest to the council a set of standards that recommend the minimum dimensions and areas for residential or commercial projects that are brought in for approvals.  read more »

The Limits Of The Green Machine


Environmentalism is strangely detached from the public's economic goals.

The awful oil spill in the Gulf--as well as the recent coal mine disaster in West Virginia--has added spring to the step of America's hugely influential environmental lobby. After years of hand-wringing over global warming (aka climate change), the greens now have an issue that will play to legitimate public concerns for weeks and months ahead.

This is as it should be. Strong support for environmental regulation--starting particularly under our original "green president," Richard Nixon--has been based on the protection of public health and safety, as well as the preservation of America's wild spaces.  read more »

Santa Fe-ing of the World


This is part one of a two-part piece. Read Part two.

Human settlements are always shaped by whatever is the state of the art transportation device of the time. Shoe-leather and donkeys enabled the Jerusalem known by Jesus. Sixteen centuries later, when critical transportation has become horse-drawn wagons and ocean-going sail, you get places like Boston. Railroads yield Chicago – both the area around the “L” (intraurban rail) and the area that processed wealth from the hinterlands (the stockyards). The automobile results in places with multiple urban cores like Los Angeles. The jet passenger plane allows more places with such “edge cities” to rise in such hitherto inconvenient locations as Dallas, Houston, Seattle and Atlanta and now Sydney, Lagos, Cairo, Bangkok, Djakarta, and Kuala Lumpur.  read more »

Is It Game Over for Atlanta?


With growth slowing, a lack of infrastructure investment catching up with it, and rising competition in the neighborhood, the Capital of the New South is looking vulnerable.

Atlanta is arguably the greatest American urban growth story of the 20th century. In 1950, it was a sleepy state capital in a region of about a million people, not much different from Indianapolis or Columbus, Ohio. Today, it's a teeming region of 5.5 million, the 9th largest in America, home to the world's busiest airport, a major subway system, and numerous corporations. Critically, it also has established itself as the country's premier African American hub at a time of black empowerment.  read more »

The Real State of Metropolitan America


The week opened with an important report on metropolitan demographics by the Brookings Institution, only to be followed by the Census Bureau's annual report on migration, which contained a different message than the Brookings report. We offer yet a third analysis, since both the Brookings and the Census Bureau reports classify up to one-sixth of suburban population as not being in the suburbs.  read more »

Australia: Housing Soars Down Under

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Finally, an important turning point has been reached for Australians in the housing market: on 22 April 2010 the Council of Australian Governments endorsed a new housing supply and affordability agenda.

The shift in attitude is long overdue. The population of Australia has passed the 22 million mark and is growing at 2.1 per cent per annum. Until now, planning policies based on higher densities have been seen as the solution for this population increase. Such policies are variously euphemistically termed “smart growth”, “urban consolidation” or, more recently, “urban renewal”.

The deleterious results of high-density policies on both people and the environment are becoming more and more apparent. Australian cities, especially Sydney, are starting to exhibit the downside effects of what might be the most aggressive high-density policies in the world.  read more »

The New E.D. -- Environmental Density

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Developers often have an E.D. problem and are not even aware of it. No, not the type of E.D. temporarily cured with Viagra. Environmental Density — E.D. — is the measurement of the impact of man made construction on a site. In simple terms, E.D. is the average per acre volume of impervious surface due to land development construction. It has two very important impacts, one environmental, and one financial. One acre of land is 43,560 square feet. The lower the E.D. — square foot of impervious surface area divided by 43,560 — the lower the surface area of manmade structures that divert rain run-off, and the less environmental damage.  read more »

Growing America: Demographics and Destiny


Over the next four decades, American governments will oversee a much larger and far more diverse population. As we gain upward of 100 million people, America will inevitably become a more complex, crowded and competitive place, but it will continue to remain highly dependent on its people's innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.  read more »

How Tough Times May Lead to Better Architecture


By Richard Reep

While Ben Bernanke fantasizes about the Recovery, most people in the building industry – especially in overbuilt Florida – will correct this gross error immediately and emphatically. The recession may be over for the Fed Chairman, but unemployment in the design and construction professions is probably in the 25-30% range, matching that of the Great Depression.

Even so, tiny glimmers of light shine in what many design professionals call the “microeconomy” of building – small commercial renovations, house additions, tenant improvements, and other projects normally too small to even be counted.  read more »