The modern mid-rise mini-boom
|If you live in a North American city, these will look familiar to you... no matter in what city you live|
- Every new architectural style created a backlash when it was introduced, before later on being cherished by the same who criticized them... see for example "browstone" buildings in New York, first seen as soulless atrocities, now absolutely beloved by architects and urbanists.
- These represent a new boom in urban housing that had been underdeveloped for decades, so I'm of the advice we shouldn't start objecting to something necessary just because it's not to the aesthetic taste of all.
Now that I have your attention, let me provide a few examples of apartment buildings in many different countries to illustrate the point.
Fit, slim modern and traditional apartment buildings around the world: providing family housing at urban densities
|Haussmanian apartment buildings in Paris, the depth of the building measured here is 9,7 meters|
|Vienna traditional Euroblocs, depth of 12 meters|
|These more recent Euroblocs in Prague have a depth of 16 meters|
|Warsaw older apartment buildings, depth of 10 meters|
|Singapore, urban apartment buildings, depth of 12 meters|
|Project from Urban Renaissance in Tokyo, depth of 9 meters|
|Manshon projects in Sapporo's suburbs, depth of a bit less than 15 meters|
|Apartment buildings in Uppsala, a midsize Swedish city, depth of 14 meters|
|Boston's Methunion Manor coop buildings, depth of 11 meters|
Fat, obese new urban apartment buildings of North America
|New condo buildings in the Griffintown neighborhood of Montréal, depth of 21 meters|
|Chicago, depth of 19 meters|
|Seattle, depth of 20 meters|
|Dallas, depth of 21 meters|
|Los Angeles, depth of nearly 22 meters|
Why it matters
Alon Levy on Twitter remarked that living space by person in the US tends to be significantly higher than the numbers I selected. It's true that I used minimum floor area sizes reflected in Montréal and a lot of cities with expensive real estate... what happens if I adjust the numbers a bit for higher to take that into account?
So even adjusting for bigger apartments, the conclusion remains the same. Now, luxury apartments or suburban apartments obviously go beyond that minimum, but I don't think these are relevant or typical of what could be build but cannot when buildings start getting too thick.
What this metric reveals is that the modern obese apartment building doesn't provide near enough exterior wall to provide the desired housing units of households with more than 2 people in them. As a result, if someone wants a 2-bedroom or a 3-bedroom unit, they are going to consume a lot more floor area than they would actually need. This has the consequence of increasing the cost of such units needlessly and by a lot.
Consequences of obese apartment buildings
Why it came about
- Front setback
- Back setback (the building can't extend to a certain distance of the property line in the back)
- Height limit
Approaches to maximize lot coverage and still offer a reasonable amount of exterior walls
|Apartment buildings in Hong Kong, shaped like intersecting Hs, creating exterior walls between the arms of the building|
|New apartment buildings in Singapore, also using irregular shapes that look like the letter H, again, to maximize exterior walls and allow the production of more multi-bedroom units|
|This extremely deep apartment building in Madrid, Spain, has inner courtyards that reduce the effective depth of the building from 25 meters to just 12 meters|
|Some tests I made of different apartment building shapes and FAR per story of each, showing high lot coverage can be achieved while avoiding the obese apartment buildings we're building currently|