Daily Challenge Day 65

Todays reading on the London Grenfell Tower fire:

  1. Australia’s use of cladding to be investigated by Senate committee following Grenfell fire
  2. Many are complaining that “green targets” are to blame for the Grenfell fire. They’re wrong.

I was thinking about how to get some interaction going on the website so that I could sketch and discuss things live, or what tools I could recommend for people to use to generate sketches in a digital format.

Then I got thinking about the proposed national audit of buildings. First in terms of the Rum Corp that is Engineers Australia using fear and uncertainty to generate work, and then how if all building approval documents were stored in a national content management system (CMS) or otherwise a database, then a desk audit could be carried out. A digital desk audit could be carried out automatically by computer at any time, for any set of conditions. It could take anything from seconds to a few hours to check all the buildings.

For example with such a database I could identify all  the buildings with timber framing which were approved before 1974, before Tropical Cyclone Tracy. Not that the timber framing code changed much after Darwin was flattened, it still only suggested may have to design for high winds. So also useful to look for buildings approved between 1974 and 1992, and between 1992 and 1999, and finally between 1999 and now.

Also as I have mentioned before the building code of Australia (BCA) or National Construction Code (NCC) is revised every year, so at any one time, less than around 1% of buildings comply with the current code. So it would be useful if Building Surveyors could conduct independent surveys and grade houses before they are put up for sale. Just for sake of discussion, a grade 5 building would be to the current code, after one year it would be downgraded to grade 4. A grade 1 building wouldn’t be to any code, whilst grade 2 is a building to codes over 50 years old. Though previously I described a system with different grades for different systems: such as structural requirements, and energy efficiency requirements, then all these parts combined to give an overall grade. The system could be made as complicated or simple as wish. The point is to downgrade buildings, to encourage removal or renovation of buildings.

As I have indicated before the cost of houses should decrease with time, they age and deteriorate. We should separate location and space from the building. Also continuing with the concept that humans have legs and are meant to be mobile, if the houses were not anchored to the ground, then we would be more willing to consider deterioration of value: just as is done with cars. Instead of telling Japan its housing should fit into the same economic model as in the West, it might be better for the West to adopt the Japanese model.

  1. Why Are Japanese Homes Disposable? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast
  2. Why Japan Is Home to the World’s Craziest Houses

Also suggest that the best defence is the speed with which new construction can be built. Whether buildings are destroyed by war, or by natural phenomena, recovery is dependent on the speed with which buildings can be built. Note the occurrence of natural phenomena, such as earthquake or tropical cyclone, does not automatically result in disaster. The state of disaster is largely a consequence of slow response and slow recovery, otherwise such events are just an inconvenience.

More importantly small mobile facilities can rearrange into different configurations, or shift to new locations. It is easier to shift a city, a civilisation, in small increments, as small elemental blocks, that as one massive single entity. Adelaide for example wants to increase housing density. With mobile housing units, all the buildings can be moved closer to the city, the entire city can be collapsed. Want to collapse the city further, then build elevated frames and place one building on top of another. Why build office blocks, when people can work from inside their cars parked in a multi-storey carpark, and connected to the local computer network? Want to decentralise, then easily relocate all the buildings around alternative centres. Mining towns are typically built using transportable houses, when no longer required the houses are sold and moved. However, transportable buildings are not as mobile as caravans and motor homes, nor as transportable as shipping containers.

But Britain needs the multi-storey buildings. Nah! As shown at the beginning of the movie “The Alf Garnett Saga”,: a grand bold plan, in which the horizontal terraced houses are shown raised into vertical tower blocks.

As I have shown on the previous posts, a future world population of 10 billion can be housed in 1000 industrial city-states each 100 km in diameter, with everyone in a single storey house, and where 2/3rds of the area is used by infrastructure and industry, with agriculture outside the city. The big issue to sort out is what industry and infrastructure needs to be supplied by local centres within reasonable walking distance? Work this out and the cities shrink in diameter and increase in number and further increase in distance of separation. That is the towns we already have, become more independent of the big cities and more sustainable.

The logistics and geographical economics of supply is only an issue whilst resources are outside the city or town, was they accumulate inside the town the situation changes. Which is a good reason for materials recycling.

Note a mobile population isn’t entirely in conflict with conserving fuel supplies. As I mentioned the mobile buildings collapse towards a common centre, to within walking distance. All the wasteful daily trips from “A” to “B” and back to “A” are largely eliminated: or at least are much shorter and walkable.