The steel moment frame, to someone with shallow knowledge, sounds so strong and resilient. But in fact, a rigid steel structure is more vulnerable to seismic (and even wind) loads than wooden framing which can flex and move and dampen those loads naturally.
The stainless spec for the frame is just pure silliness. Looking at my notes now, for steel beams buried in the ground:
200 microns of rust per year in very aggressive soils, but it rusts on both sides, so make that 400 microns.
... which also means that unburied steel, protected from elements, up in the air, is going to last more than 1000 years.
Oh, and also, the SS is more brittle so you've made your seismic issues even worse.
If I had an unlimited budget and was aiming for >1000 years I would pour the piles to bedrock with stainless rebar inside fly-ash concrete and top those pilings with plate connectors into which you could socket large wooden columns (perhaps 8x8) and build the structure with large wooden members connected with steel connectors and column caps, etc.
I would only use steel members if the span called for wood that was too big (like a 24' span needing a 8x14 or whatever).
Steel is springy. Tall steel-framed buildings and bridges routinely sway in wind, which is usually harmless to the structure but annoying to occupants. Unless you get harmonic oscillation, where the energy stored in the motion builds up, which can be a problem and
has destroyed bridges. Much of seismic design involves connections which raise the resonant frequency of the structure so it can't oscillate at a low frequency with high amplitude. That's what those triangular reinforcement beams one sees in San Francisco really do. It's also what all those rectangular trusses under the Golden Gate Bridge do. Those were a retrofit.
Wood's flexibility usually causes problems at joints. Nailed joints are not very strong in tension. Most construction today in areas with earthquakes or high winds involves metal reinforcement of joints. There's a collection of galvanized sheet metal parts for that at any Home Depot.
Tension joints for wood are seen in classic Japanese construction, in boats, and in cabinetry. Not so much in modern houses, partly because they work better in hardwood. I wonder if, in the next installment, the author will discuss those.
Interestingly enough that’s not quite right. They were added in response to the Tacoma Narrows collapse which was not, as is popularly misstated, destroyed by harmonic resonance but by aerostatic flutter.
Certainly resonance due to cars or pedestrians can damage a bridge, but that’s a separate issue.
This is my favorite topic and I could go on and on about this. Point: it is a matter of precise definition. How rigid are we talking?
Japan also has several wooden buildings that purport to be 1,000+ years old—although these situations inevitably lead to Ship of Theseus debates.
exactly, i recently mentioned my swaying-in-an-earthquake story, which was in a class A (steel+concrete) highrise office building. driving steel into the ground doesn't automatically mean it will rot and/or break in the first earthquake/windstorm that hits, even if that's a general possibility, given that engineers do think about that stuff when designing buildings. the gp comment is classic bullshit, plausible sounding but unconcerned with truth.
With regard to your skyscraper experience:
I'm not sure this is an apples-to-apples comparison.
Skyscrapers are not made of skyscraper-height columns - they are a stack of elements that are connected every X height that has a well known flex per connection. It's also (hopefully) a uniform flex at every connection.
But a smaller building would, indeed, have unbroken steel members (like a column) and you might "successfully" connect them to one another with an incredible amount of rigidity.
It will either be tremendously strong throughout (good for you) or there will be some tiny piece of the chain that isn't as strong and can fail.
I would be confident attempting this on a very small building.
I would be hesitant to attempt this on a medium, two-story building. I would want wood framing.
For aesthetic reasons, I would want that wood framing to be big timbers. I'd rather spend my money on those than on stainless steel roof framing :)
The flex is supposed to be in the beams, not the connections. Stress concentration is bad. Here's an intro. Beams are easy to analyze, and tend to meet their specs, while connections are hard to analyze, and are subject to construction mistakes.
The January 1994 Northridge CA earthquake caused damage at beam-to-column connections in steel moment resisting frames. That got a lot of attention. Few buildings collapsed, but a lot of joints needed to be fixed or reinforced. Welded flanges with bolts turned out to be weaker than expected.
Now, there's a style of construction where all the joints are rotational. That's seen in older truss bridges. In classic designs, all components are in pure compression or pure tension. This shows in the construction; the tension components are flat plates or cables, and the joints are big steel pins. Those are easy to analyze, and if you take a statics class, that's a homework assignment. Popular for railroad bridges.
But building skeletons aren't usually built that way. They usually have rigid connections. You do see some buildings with lots of diagonals and pin joints. Long span roof trusses, which are a lot like bridges, are often built that way. Look at buildings with large atriums and you'll often see pin joints.
In one particular case (the steel truss roof of a convention center in Amsterdam) there are many such places where slack was built into it, the structure is many 100's of meters wide and if connected rigidly would put undue stress on the uprights and the foundations.
The other structural aspect not mentioned in the above discussion is strength. You can trivially get an order of magnitude more strength than required by even the harshest of loads using steel in a small structure like this. The same cannot be said about wood. For instance, a single 3/4" A325 bolt will be able to resist about 40,000lb shear or 70,000lb tension. The entire base shear of this size of structure in a code-design earthquake would be somewhere around 4,000lb.
i also vastly prefer wood/mass timber for aesthetic reasons. mass timber has better burn characteristics than steel, and i'd recently read that builders are actually starting to surround steel columns with cross-laminated timber (rather than concrete) for that reason, while providing greater strength/flexibility and better aesthetics. that's probably what i'd want if money were no object.
: mentioned in this article, but i'd read more about it elsewhere: https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2020/1/15/2105805...
p.s. - i've also daydreamed about building warehouse style: a separate steel superstructure for the roof integrating solar panels and solar heating, with a simple stick-built house underneath.
Somewhat relevant - might interest you:
TAMedia office building in Zurich.
Not sure if this is a regional / language difference, but I've more commonly seen it called "engineered wood" . Which apparently now also includes transparent(?!) wood composite .
If you’re referring to the wood bracket system, that is true, but for posterity, it didn’t originate in Japan. Imported, very likely via Korea (which also uses it in their classic construction), from China.
Unless it's not. Steel isn't one homogeneous thing. Depending on what trace elements you add, steel can have wildly different values of strength, rigidity & hardness.
Are there any existing buildings constructed that way that have stood for >1000 years?
If not, my approach would be to copy an existing building that has stood for >1000 years in a region that has had several of the same kind of natural disasters that happen at the place I'm going to be building.
When rebuilding it, they had to decide whether to remake it in the same way it was originally, or to use a modern approach. They decided to use oak beams again because of lack of evidence about what happens to steel structures after hundreds of years. But then they couldn't find any oak trees big enough.
An old story about people having thought for the long term.
The oldest stone house of germany, ca. 1k years old. The wood is dated to 1035..1075 ad.
But Im sure that house is pretty young for Italian or Egyptian standards…
Dig out all other buildings that failed over the last 1000 years, figure out how they failed and why, and take action?
You can just copy what is known to work instead.
Personally I'd a concrete dome: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheon,_Rome
You are building the strawman of looking at _ONE_ 1000+ year old building, and then building that because it must work. Nobody is arguing about this, and probably everybody here would agree that doing this is a bad idea.
With that out of the way, there aren't many 1000+ year old buildings made out of wood. There are some, e.g., japanese temples, that IIRC have burned a couple of times along the way, but are 1000+ year old and build out of wood.
But most buildings in the 1000+ year old range are made out of stone and only partially out of wood (cathedrals, etc.).
From what I understand, basalt rebar does not have the usual problem of regular rebar where oxidizing (rust) expansion can cause cracking in concrete. Additionally, the temperature expansion rates are much closer (rebar vs concrete).
My main hesitation would be that it is relatively new so we don't have that much data on how well it ages. Overall, it seems better than rebar classic by far (other than cost - which hasn't been scaled) - but I don't build structures for a living.
Basalt rebar has a much lower elastic modulus, so when it fails, it fails. Steel on the other hand has a much larger elastic region - where the steel stretches while still carrying the same load. Part of the benefit of reinforced concrete is elastic failure - essentially every (properly) designed reinforced concrete structure is designed to fail with the tensile side of concrete cracking while the steel rebar still caries load, giving visual evidence that the concrete has failed. This is called elastic failure. This works because steel has a large ductile range. Basalt rebar doesn't fail the same way, so substituting it 1:1 seems inappropriate, regardless of it being stronger (per unit area).
I did find one random study that substituted basalt rebar 1:1 with steel and compared the failure modes, and found that basalt-reinforced had cracking load essentially the same as a steel-reinforced, but a much larger ultimate load. Interestingly, the higher ultimate strength more than makes up for the much lower elastic modulus.
A cube-like building frame without diagonals or shear walls is unstable and
does not sound so strong or resilient at all.
Here's an interview with the author: https://on.substack.com/p/what-to-read-construction-physics and his LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brian-potter-6a082150
Anything's possible, of course, but he does seem to have the right credentials and experience for the subject matter.
at some point on the price scale you can just build a titanium cast for a house and pour molten rocks in, probably a basalt. what's the yield strength of igneous rocks? maybe the roof need to be arched.
I like your thinking. ;)
It seems plausable you could begin with that kind of shelter and use that as a basis for further reinforcement.
Yeah they reject reinforced concrete, but the reason it doesn't last is the type of rebar used. To then site stainless later seems odd. IMHO our roads need to be built with stainless rebar.
I worked in a post and beam barn built in the 1600s. It will be there in 2200. Basically, if you need the roof maintained and those buildings will last forever.
Personally, I’d do a stone foundation with post and beam. Over 1000 years, luck and location mean more anyway. Chances are the building will be flattened by a war or other calamity over that timeline.
The foundation is concrete piles to bedrock supporting a floating concrete foundation. Clearly that limits building locations, but plenty of places have bedrock reasonably close to the surface.
Wood for example could hypothetically last that long, but both fire and leaks are a real concern.
If you want something to last, you plan for when it does go wrong. You should be designing a house that survives ten once-in-a-century floods and storms. Freezing pipes. Hot and cold. Termites, carpenter ants, mice.
> ... which also means that unburied steel, protected from elements, up in the air, is going to last more than 1000 years.
Rust is protective. That's why cars can rust so quickly, because vibration breaks the rust flakes off and exposes steel to more air and water. Steel beams are subject to bending and vibration. Steel buried underground is not. A larger problem is also that rust is expansive. I'm not positive what you mean by plate connectors, but nailed tie plates push their nails out over time. Screws and bolts work fine.
The biggest problem comes with using treated wood and steel together. Treated wood, even the non-arsenic ones, use copper compounds. That causes galvanic corrosion. It'll even eat through zinc-coated steel. Galvanized steel is enough for at least a couple decades, but I have no idea about a millenium.
> but not actually built anything.
That was my impression. As soon as they started talking about unenforced concrete pilings (drilled? monopile?) to bedrock and stressed steel framing I wasn't certain I would enjoy anymore or that it was a good use of my time.
I think costs at this stage are unrealistically low "probably in the neighborhood of $1000-2000 per square foot ... (8 to 16 times as much as conventional construction)". ~$250-400 sq ft is the cost of modern labour expediated and material optimized building. They're describing stainless steel framing with what would be (what?) 316 SS in S-beam with a custom end plate? A blob of rolled 1" x 6' 316 SS is $200.
There are the examples we could draw from:
Material wise we'd look at clay, solid high-density rocks, non-ferrous metals (lead, aluminum, copper, tin), dense naturally mold resistant woods (cedar, redwood), high density with high oil content woods (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lignum_vitae), and easily replaceable sacrificial surfaces, dirt with live plant, cobble rock.
Building techniques aren't going to improve with technology, we already have examples that have lasted -- we're looking at building a heap temple with ancient style water and sewers. This is either a rock temple or a log-house with highly resistant woods.
Either we aim for a light-weight footprint or we find solid rock for building on. Solid rock is the most appropriate.
Our fasteners are all based on managing gravity. Rock with concave and convex connections under gravity. Wood pegs in non-load bearing configurations. Lead sheets with crimped folded seams. Solid copper sheet trays with crimped folded seams in rock trays.
The first thought should be "what happens if I drive a truck into the side of this building 10 times?" And the answer should be "not much, you move a few things around, but there is limited stressed coupling, and things rest on top of each other." If you do substantially damage the building, all you should be doing is reassembling the pile.
I called the author out for not having built anything, and in honesty, I haven't built using these ancient approaches, so, perhaps this is a self-destructing prophecy.
Stainless steel is insane, in those conditions it will corrode in several decades, if not faster.
Foundation is just laughable, it won't last 200 years, much less 1000.
Like you say, a structured pile of rocks with everything else easily replaceable is the recipe.
The question actually should be not of a several truck hits, but of several fires, like, complete burnouts. That's what would happen in 1000 years.
What would situation be if you used proper hot-dipped galvanizing instead? (And I mean proper quality hot-dipped galvanizing, not the usual 'toy' stuff that passes for galvanizing these days.)
I've a good reason for asking, as I've an example of galvanizing that is in such good rust-free condition after being exposed to the weather and elements for 65 years that I would not have believed the fact unless I'd actually known its background and seen its condition, which I've done on multiple occasions for reasons I've explained below.
The galvanizing in question involves an extant clothesline that's still rust-free and in good condition, it consists of three galvanized, multistrand (7 strands if I recall correctly) of clothesline wire that span the full length of the backyard and that terminate on wooden poles with horizontal 'T' beams spanning them (it's a typical clothesline that everyone's familiar with).
The clothesline was installed in the backyard of my patents home in the mid 1950s and in 1957 an electrical conduit tee junction of 3/4" diameter (for joining conduits) that was made from folded steel was wrapped freely around the middle clothesline and a dog chain attached. This meant that the dog could pull the tee junction along the line so that he could gain almost full access to the total area of the backyard.
Despite the wear and tear on the clothesline from the steel in the tee constantly sliding over the line—to wear that's even extended to the galvanizing being worn off from the high points of the strands of wire by the steel tree to the extent that it's exposed the underlying bear steel yet nevertheless this clothesline still shows no signs of rust after 65 years.
I've studied chemistry for some years so I understand how galvanizing works but I still find it incredible that this galvanized wire is still rust-free after 65 years. Frankly, I find it so astonishing that every time I visit my parents' old home I cannot but help to cheek up on the status of said clothesline.
Incidentally, little remains of the electrical tee junction, it was made of mild steel and painted black, the paint offering little protection and there would have been no paint that the point of interface between the steel and the wire.
What about laminated timber to achieve these spans?
We can, however, apply modern technics and materials when they make sense : insulation, windows, waterways... Prefer wood, wool and steel over plastics or composite materials and you're good to go.
On a side note, I'm currently buying a house (old farm) with over 200 years old plain oak carpentry. The thing is absolutely massive and would be unimaginably expensive to build today. With the proper care, it might last another 200 years without issue. Remember, Notre-Dame de Paris used 300 years old trees cut in ~1150 for its roof -before the 2019 fire-. With the proper care it would have still be standing today. I find that to be deeply humbling.
The article raises an important point that could be a problem when trying to mix old and new build techniques. When talking about brick walls it says:
> One tricky thing with this type of assembly is that while it has performed well historically, it doesn’t necessarily play nice with more modern, energy efficient construction. A solid brick wall was traditionally designed to be exposed on the inside, exposing it to interior heat and allowing it to dry. Adding interior insulation makes the house much more comfortable, but also changes the thermal dynamics, potentially causing freeze/thaw damage in the brick, and allowing moisture to accumulate between the brick and the insulation. This is one of the many details that would need to be worked out for the complete design of the home.
You can't simply build something following the examples of a castle or a cathedral, but then add modern insulation, because the insulation won't allow the masonry to breath and dry to both sides, leading to water damage, mold, rot, ...
At the end of the day, a badly insulated building can be made to last for ages passively by just making it breath, so the temperature and humidity vary with the weather but are kept in check by passive external factors (e.g. the sun shining on a external wall dries it from the outside). While a well insulated building absolutely needs constant mechanical HVAC with fine tuned control. You can have a well insulated building or a passive building, you can't have both (by the way, the "Passive House TM" insulation standard is a complete misnomer, being that mechanical ventilation is its second biggest tenet).
Essentially you end up with a home inside a shell. There are several advantages to such structures such a potentially great sound insulation and aesthetics, but it’s not cheap. Having an essentially air tight structure requires a hvac system to match. A combination of heat exchanger, filter, humidity control, and temperature control let you have a very comfortable environment while still benefiting from significant insulation.
Which then works against the headline design goal: a house that lasts for 1000 years. How many times would you need to rip down and replace the interior shell? How much more difficult would be demolition if you can't use large equipment and smash the whole lot flat, but instead doing by hand from inside, carefully avoiding damage to the outside shell?
That said, the real trick to a 1,000 year home is making something that people want to actually use for the next thousand years to avoid it getting replaced rather than the weather or minimal maintenance issues. Because frankly that’s the real threat, which suggests going for something interesting might beat pure utility. An ideal location might be enough but a hook like artistic frescos, intricate stonework, unusual architecture, famous occupant etc could also get you over the hump until the buildings age inherently becomes a draw.
PS: Don’t forget flexibility needs to be part of the design. Electricity, central heating, phone service, AC, and eventually the internet are all relatively recent inventions. I can only assume plenty more systems are going to become normal in the next 1,000 years.
We recently replaced our furnace and found the footprint of the original coal-fired "octopus" gravity furnace, and learning about the operation of the old furnace makes the seemingly inadequate ductwork make more sense. Instead of a furnace blower (which hadn't been introduced yet at the time the house was built) the air moved around the house by convection and relied on a temperature differential between the center of the house and the outside walls. Hot air came up a few ducts in the middle of the house, and cold air came down through return ducts on the outside walls.
Unfortunately the chimney was also acting as a radiant heating element, and one of the upstairs bedrooms has become much colder since switching to the higher-efficiency furnace (which scavenges much more heat from the exhaust, and vents out the side of the house). Ultimately I'm sure the much more efficient furnace will be worth it, but there are trade-offs that will need to be addressed.
Yes those are better for old houses with old insulation or no insulation because then you wanted radiator to keep warm so you can sit close to it and get yourself warm. Where with new thing ones you want to heat up the air so you don't want radiator to be warm but air in well insulated building.
This is more complicated than this, and the construction industry has actually gone back and forth on this topic for the past 40 years. A few consideration against your point:
- When you heat air, you dry it up, which can be pretty uncomfortable for the inhabitants.
- Air stratification is a big concern: when you heat air up, it raises up to the ceiling, warming nobody but the spiders in the corners. It's not uncommon to have a multiple Celsius degree difference between floor and ceiling, even in an air-tight room.
- A house cannot be air-tight because you need to bring new air for breathing, but also to avoid excess moisture in wet rooms, which means your precious warmed-up air is being vented away, and you bring cold air from outside instead. There exists sophisticated systems with heat exchangers to collect heat from the outgoing air and warm the incoming air, but those are really expensive and far from ubiquitous.
- Under standard conditions, thermal comfort comes in roughly equal part from the radiative flux (from the walls) and conduction/convection (from the air) one. So you can achieve a similar level of comfort with lower air temperature when you have a warm radiative surface in a room.
At the end of the day, old cast-iron radiators are pretty good from a heating standpoint. (But they have multiple drawbacks, like being really big, and so heavy you can't move them when you want to refresh the room paint, etc. which means that nowadays, people usually prefer underfloor heating instead)
Energy recovery ventilation units are not that expensive and are required by code for new construction here in Ontario as of 2017. Adds some cost to the HVAC of a new build, but not that much.
I've recently had my (individual) house built, and it was 3-4 times more expensive than a regular system. It's not a prominent part of the entire budget for a house, but the difference still made me chose the regular one. But maybe a significant part of the price difference was just a premium for having the high-end tech, more than a real cost difference for the builder.
> are required by code for new construction here in Ontario as of 2017
Interesting. Even for individual houses? Maybe that's a good idea to make it mandatory, if the premium hypothesis above turned to be true.
I’m not a super expert, but I believe HVAC here in new builds is about 20-30k, split fairly evenly between parts and install. ERVs are around 1-2k for parts and another grand or so for installation (and significantly easier when done at build time). It likely helps we have such extreme climate our HVAC costs are already quite high, so an extra $1000 here or there isn’t a big deal.
Places more moderate it could easily be a much bigger percentage of the budget and come with reduced ROI. Right now over night I’m heating about 30C temperature difference and I live in one of the most mild parts of the country. Recovering energy is a big deal, as is capturing moisture to reduce load on the humidifier (evaporating water is far from free).
This is an easy place to run in to a survivorship bias problem - pick a random 1000 year old farmhouse. How many farmhouses built exactly the same way didn't last for various reasons? Is the fact that one is still standing due to luck, or was it destined to last 1000 years the day it was built?
Your home can have perfect architecture, but if a rich person buys your land after you are gone and decides what you've had sucks, it will just get demolished and replaced with something more modern. That rarely happens with churches.
I agree. If the church didn't survive, they would just build a new one.
I imagine there lie the remains of hundreds of separate cathedrals under one. But you would never say "the church fell down". Rather, "there was an accident and renovations were required".
I see them as a Ship of Theseus, where the most long-lasting examples were determined through a lot of trial and error.
Isn't this a thing with Notre Dame? It's been a while but I remember the opening of Hunchback mentions the rebuilding right?
Straight masonry without rebar lasts essentially forever - think of all those Roman viaducts that are still in use. Water can wear through it eventually if the shape lets it, especially in places with freeze-thaw cycles (so there's a saying that a church will survive as long as there's someone around to clear the gutters). I guess hurricanes would probably do it if you're in a place that gets those. But there's just not a whole lot to go wrong with what's essentially a big lump of stone. (Of course a bare stone building is not particularly comfortable for living in, and you have to be a bit more careful about how you maintain wood or fabric on the inside - but the building shell itself will last as it is)
A 1000 years is a lot of time to go without a fire. I think just because of the fire risk wood is simply out of the question. Well unless you can protect the wood against fire like the OP is doing with the steel.
Considering modern times, I think you would have to go one step further and also consider gas explosions and possibly being bombed as well. Just imagine how many 1000+ yr old buildings must have been in Germany before WW2.
Designing with WW2 in mind is preparing for the next conflict based on the last one. Climate change will have implications, which tend to come out as fire and flooding. This will impact siting.
I'm very curious about this kind of stuff. And now especially "activhaus" ideas. Being a software guy, probably from envy.
Ages ago, I started remodeling while my Belgian coworker (working from Belgian) started his new home construction. My house in the USA Pacific Northwest is timber framed with tar shingle roof. Coworker's house, IIRC, was block walls and ceramic roof. My house so temporary, their house built for the centuries. A real home.
In North America, I now find the homesteading and packed earth style homes most compelling. Basically, latest tech Arcosanti. (But with better finances.)
Timber Frame + external insulation with anairtight building envelope is a really good construction method that will be energy efficient and last a long time.
There are lots of materials to play with and mix up for structures.
I too have a 200 year old house and the sagging mentioned in the article seems inevitable in wood.
However plastic is a great material for dark, rodent free places.
As a matter of fact, the amazing carpentry I was talking about previously is made from "fresh" oak, but a significant part of it was also taken from a previous building (church, farm, stable or monastery). It's doing just fine, apart from a few out-of-place mortises. I tried reusing plastic pipes, once, but that wasn't a great idea. It's fine for a few DIY, though.
Stones, bricks, wood are great mostly because they can be reused, but also because they will continue to look great afterwards.
(Note: You might argue that "your" wood is not easy to reuse as well. This happens because we put nails and screws everywhere and we prefer less-dense wood over heavier ones (pines vs oak))
even if we understood plastic to retain its original qualities over time, it is impossible to speculate about a thousand-year lifetime. it's unusual to come across any plastic a hundred years old, intact or not.
There's also plenty of timber buildings that last for millenia.
After reading some of Stewart Brand's writing, I've learned to love ugly buildings.
(a) human needs change faster than buildings age, and thus buildings must adapt to that change over the lifespan of the building
(b) there are two reasons a building lives to be more than 100 years old: either the building is historic / well loved enough that we live with a building's warts even though it doesn't meet our needs perfectly (a Parliament building, a church, a house that cannot be modified) OR it is so flexible or easy (cheap) to modify that it can suit many purposes. (A small commercial building that can hold a dentist office or a restaurant or a law office or a nail salon, a house with an extension, a warehouse that can be converted to a modest factory floor, etc)
Buildings that cannot be adapted are torn down and replaced.
The book is excellent, and beautiful, and I recommend a physical copy to everyone.
Today, everyone wants a kitchen that's integrated with the dining area. Cooking has been culturally elevated – people don't feel like they need to do it out of the way. But unfortunately, many of these older homes cannot be easily modified. Walls are often load-bearing instead of being reconfigurable.
Every time there are people gathering at someone's house, they tend to congregate in the kitchen as that's where the food action is all at. Give me one big open space with kitchen, dining space and a living room all in one. Open concept is highly desirable in modern housing.
...Leave me alone to cook an awesome meal in peace. I'm working in there not messing around.
That, and kitchens require so much maintenance to keep clean and presentable. I hate how my entire house feels dirty because it's visible from any public spot in the house that I didn't get around to cleaning a few pans the night before.
It is actually an ongoing joke with my partner, who has lived an open-kitchen life until meeting me.
PS: would be interesting to correlate enclosed kitchen with cost and availability of home labourers (slaves, maids, cooks, etc)
And (IIRC) in Japan they often don't last past one owner, since a new owner will typically want to build a new house for themselves on the lot. An old home actually lowers the value of a lot, since you have to factor the demolition cost into the price.
This has been brought up before on HN and I remember a comment mentioning that they thought it was due to the fact that earthquake proofing technology advances quickly in Japan so an old house might not be up to the most current standard. Curious if that's correct, and if not, why is this so common in Japan then.
What you see as a "more western home" is a more energy efficient outer shell. Which just happens to be fairly universal.
And more recently, considerations for SDGs (sustainability goals) with respect to materials used.
Longevity is not a priority, as homes are expected to depreciate in value over roughly 20 years. There are many reasons for this, but my personal opinion is that industrialization has made it possible to upgrade the technology of the home at a pace and a price that favors rebuilding.
As for machiya and kominka, local governments like Kyoto have tried to intervene to preserve the traditional homes. The "no build" lots do not allow a property owner to build on anything other than the load-bearing structure for the old home. As a result, you have many empty lots and coin parking lots around Kyoto where the old home was unsalvageable or where the owner could not afford a renovation. To be honest, only tourists/foreigners would want to stay in a machiya for the novelty of it. Although they were marvelously engineered for their time, they tend to be rough living compared to the extremely easy and cheap prefab homes. There is also the problem of craftspeople who can maintain these old homes dying out, which adds to the cost of keeping them.
I don't think it's possible to attribute any of this to a general "Japanese" attitude, though. On the one hand, one of the most important and longest-lasting spiritual sites in Japan is Ise Jingu, which is rebuilt from scratch every 20 years as a Shinto ritual of renewal. On the other hand, you have some of the oldest and largest wooden structures in the world still standing in Nara.
As usual, it's complicated.
> Designing a building for an extremely long lifespan is in some sense a bet on a certain kind of future - one where tomorrow’s physical infrastructure needs aren’t all that different from todays. And because physical infrastructure is hard to change once it’s in place, it’s also an attempt to bring that kind of future into existence. But if you think agglomeration effects should push cities to get larger and denser, or if you think we’re likely to see some cities shrinking as the nature of the economy changes, or if you think building technology is likely to change significantly, an extremely durable, an extremely long-lived house is perhaps less desirable.
He mentions how the building shape is just a rectangle, which makes it reasonable to repurpose for many uses (he mentions office & separate apartments). He takes care to allow for routing of utilities under and inside the building.
It's not quite as reconfigurable as I think you're getting at - optimized for being torn down, but it's much closer than a typical 100yr house would be.
That said the cost to make homes reconfigured/recycled easily is probably quite high and who knows if there will be people with knowledge to be able to perform that work in 400 years. Whereas a shelter can always be used by humans...
The key is that the structure is basically self standing with nothing but the outer walls, and if it's a tower, the center core instead.
Add a vertical chase way too to bottom for easy reconfiguring of cables and pipes and you can basically do anything you want until the structure fails.
Modern residential doesn't build like this because it would be expensive and probably pretty ugly. It's a lot cheaper to get your structure in bits and pieces by stacking walls on walls on the foundation then have just an outside structure and then have the floors and roof spanning outside to outside.
But it could easily be done with the materials we have.
Another major thing is the drop ceiling. It's designed to make access easy so that you can run cables and new plumbing anywhere you want.
It's ugly so you'd want to find a way to have a modular ceiling that isn't a drop ceiling, but maybe that works for you.
Last, for residential, you may butt up against height issues as to be modular like that you're want to have a couple feet extra between floors so you have room to move things around without opening things up.
If you build with trusses for floors instead of joists, you can get a lot of the same benefits as a drop ceiling without the ugliness. You can run plumbing/vents/whatever though the trusses without destroying the whole ceiling to get access. You might not need to cut into the ceiling at all depending on what you’re doing and what existing access you have (e.g. an unfinished utility space may allow access to supply new power cables).
Of course patching the ceiling is hardly a big concern if you’re talking about a structure surviving for 1000 years.
On the other hand, if you make the trusses large enough and give an /attic/crawl access you could go up there and do the thing without needing to renovate. Then all center walls are non structural and you can move them as you please.
Come to think of it, I might build a house like this.
You can also leave the mechanical on the outside and not cover it too. I guess there's a certain beauty to me in the robot parts but I don't think many would like that.
You can also get away with ugly ceilings more easily when they are higher. A drop ceiling 8 feet or less from the floor is an eyesore. At 12 feet up it’s a lot less noticeable. Of course if you have very high ceilings you can often just leave them uncovered and have a more industrial aesthetic. You have to be more intentional about routing all the utilities then.
An example he cites is MIT's Building 20. It only stood for 50 years, but that's not too bad for a structure that was intended to be temporary. Some amazing stuff came out of that building.
Oddly enough, the value of houses in Japan depreciate over time (like cars). It's kind of a cultural thing. People want to live in a new house of their own, so many houses are built in a pre-fab way, with the intent that they'll be torn down and recycled in 20-30 years.
Hmmmm. I think that doesn't count on ship of Theseus type grounds.
The Progresso Pier in Mexico was build over 80 years ago with SS rebar, and reportedly has not needed any renovations. A pier built 20 years later using mild steel rebar has been almost completely destroyed by the ocean.
I wish more large infrastructure projects would use it. The up-front costs can be 2x higher, but the lifetime savings win out in many situations.
We don't know. Existing structures that use "Roman Concrete" are (roughly) 2000 years old and counting ...
Since it’s 2000 years old now.
TL;DW: whereas modern construction uses rebar as a way to keep concrete from fracturing under tensile stress, the Romans made their constructions enormous so that the weight of the structure itself would compress the material and keep it from failing from tensile stress. Their monuments weren't built huge just because it cool, but also because it was practical. But large concrete constructions are both expensive and take years and years to cure, and depending on your concrete chemistry the strongest mixtures can also be much more difficult to work with.
You start talking about rebar and other complexities when you want a shape that puts concrete in tension (where it's very weak), instead of compression.
Basically - lots of domes and arches.
The Romans did not have the quantity of cheap steel necessary for this, so they ensured only compressive loads on their concrete, so it lasted about as long as you'd expect a random rock subject to only compressive loads in a field to last.
Roman Concrete is a bit more special than some 'random rock' thanks to the presence of "aluminous tobermorite" which makes the concrete much stronger and more chemically stable
The oldest property record for the place dated it back to the year 1200. It's a large, normal looking house, and the walls are made out of irregular stone blocks mortared together.
For what it's worth, buildings like this aren't that uncommon in Italy.
A better strategy would be to build the house from massive blocks of the most common stone in the area. The blocks should be large enough that they would require significant effort to move or demolish. I wouldn't recommend using any metal in the structure of the house at all. Even wood could be conceivably stripped in times of need.
At one point the author even considered Inconel girders, but practical considerations on builder experience with exotic alloys made that a bridge too far.
Even so he is planning to have builders come in an brick up the entire frame before the rest of the house is built.
I did like that he realized one of the most important aspects of keeping a house around is to make people want to keep it around. Make sure it doesn't age poorly because then even if the structure is sound people will tear it down because "it is an eyesore".
> Our other option is slate. Slate roofs have extremely long lifespans and are extremely attractive. But, like copper, they’re more expensive upfront, and require more specialized skills to install (since they’re less common). A slate roof is also extremely heavy, putting more weight on our framing and increasing the risk of damage during an earthquake.
OP apparently doesn't know that slate roof have to be repaired all the time. Slates will age and break, especially if they're nailed (because the metal expands and cracks the slate).
I've spent 10 years with a slate roof, and it has to regularly be fully checked, and missing or breaking slates replaced (because they'll leak).
Screw slate, give me terracota tiles any day of the week. Lighter, way more flexible, and easier to replace when they invariably break.
This whole article to me reads: "I'm planning on an overpriced construction for my house and need a plausible excuse'. It's a status thing and a discussion piece, not a serious project. If you want to build for a millenium: copy the Romans. Done. And even then you're going to have to re-do all the trimmings every so many years because they'll all give out with use. Even staircases made out of solid stone will wear over such time spans.
25 years ago, when I saw some roofers working to replace an old slate roof on a church outside Philadelphia with asphalt (I was horrified), I asked them why they were taking this (to me) horrible step, since my parents live and stay in homes in the UK with slate roofs that are between 300 and 500 years old.
The roofers laughed and said "yeah, that's probably welsh slate. The stuff here in PA is so much worse than that. Freeze-thaw will destroy it in 20-40 years"
So the observations you're making about slate are true but only for specific slate quarries. There are slate sources that can provide slate which could last for centuries.
The UK seems not to have much of an issue with moss & lichens causing problems with slate roofing (it grows but it isn't much of a problem).
I live in upstate NY, arguably a nastier climate, and it’s not atypical to see 19th century buildings with intact slate roofs.
And one or two slates per year is indeed manageable, assuming they are in an accessible spot. If you're unlucky they are not and then you have to get to the spot to apply your fix without breaking more slates, which can be quite a bit of work (remove slates to make a path to the spot, fix, then rehang all the others, and hopefully they were uniform).
I've had one storm bad enough in NL that we lost some rooftiles, which were fairly easily replaced. Since in the rest of the country people had lost whole roofs and other houses in the same street were in much worse shape and comparing with the few houses that had slate I'm pretty happy with my good old 'dakpannen', which are almost maintenance free (due to the angle of the roof).
The worst is thatched roofs. Those require pretty much bi-annual upkeep and tend to become rodent infested. They look pretty in the first 10 years, a bit garish in the second and depending on their state of maintenance horror shows in the last 10. I'll never live in a house with one of those, people like them for status but they tend to be people that can afford to pay others to do their work for them.
This is an interesting one, lots of interesting buildings were torn down as old eyesores to be replaced with much more efficient modern buildings in the post-WW2 UK. Nowadays these are considered eyesores ripe for demolition and the buildings they replaced are valued, to the point post-War town planners are sometimes cursed to this very day. Taste changes often, I think the best chance of keeping a building around on these grounds are to make it an interesting or particularly elegant example of a style subjectively considered by most to be timeless.
I know it's purely subjective, but I really think the trend in architecture to do away with ornamentation was quite bad from a 'places real people have to live in' perspective, even if it's interesting from an artistic point of view.
This is some fun new meaning of the word "gladly"
Of course, designing widely beloved buildings is easier said than done.
If it were me I'd just build some monstrosity of a palace in somewhere that nobody wants such a thing and I'd build it out of stuff that's highly inefficient to repurpose, not steel beams. The best way to keep something around is to make its continued use better than any other option so that people take care of it and give it the capacity to withstand a couple generations of neglect without falling in on itself. A castle (metaphorical or literal) on some cheap land along the highway in North Dakota should suffice.
Instead of a steel frame, use insulated concrete forms, again using basalt rebar. This makes a concrete walled house. Use stainless steel trusses (or onsite galvanized steel) for the roof or build a concrete roof with similar construction methods as the insulated concrete forms.
The siding of the house should be concrete board or other non combustible material (brick or stone)..or both where it makes sense. But be careful on the mortar used..seal it at least if you expose any of it to the weather.
Make sure the eaves are at least two feet out and the eaves over doors more than that. This keeps water away from those areas and the house as a whole.
Make sure you have gutters...good ones.
Make sure your land around the house moves water around it - even in flash flood events.
Have real shutters for your windows.
Where it makes sense, especially those areas exposed to weather, do not use wood.
Instead of slate..use aluminum shingles.
Forget the fireplace...too many potential issues with fire, leaking, etc. They are hard to build for 20 years let alone 1000.
Use Fiberglass windows. The best ones will outlast any hardwood.
I also dislike how the author completely punted on insulation. I think that's a very important part of any new building. It's easy to insulate your proposed design.
I have a few questions regarding your suggestions:
> Instead of slate..use aluminum shingles
- Is this purely a question of price?
> Use Fiberglass windows. The best ones will outlast any hardwood.
- Wouldn't long term exposure of the fiberglass windows to the sun weaken the fiberglass (this effect seems to be called "Fiber Blooming")?
Finally, do you have any links to share regarding these topics for people wanting to build a house but without the technical background?
The higher quality fiberglass windows have resins and treatments that are pretty much impervious to UV light...so that has been a problem with fiberglass windows but not so much anymore. Another option are steel or aluminum windows. There are some very high quality windows made out of that material as well.
I do have links...will post them later.
Cold roof Design:
First layer https://www.homedepot.com/p/TECHSHIELD-LP-TechShield-Radiant...
Foam Layer: https://universalconstructionfoam.com/
Second Layer: https://www.homedepot.com/p/5-8-in-x-4-ft-x-8-ft-Zip-System-...
Outside walls, roof eaves, etc:
Edit: I should point out that the Edinburgh New Town is quite old, but not as old as the Old Town, obviously.
I would also expect outer shutters to insulate the window a little bit and thus limit the heat loss no?
Not any curtain I've ever encountered - people used to have net screens for privacy and curtains for warmth. But that's going back a bit (i.e. my youth).
It is still a decently common practice in a lot of European countries.
Other option would be to use rolling window shutters on the outside.
Solid, 3ft thick, limestone walls. Lime mortar. Probably no foundations, there has been quite a bit of movement previously but none recently. In one room upstairs the floor slopes by nearly a foot from one end to the other.
As far as we know the majority of the roofing/floor timbers are original.
Limestone slate roof, this needs replacing about every 70years.
Stays cool in the summer and relatively easy to keep warm in the winter. Not efficient in the modern sense though.
The way we live changes, trying to build a house for how people will live in the future is impossible. All we can do is build something that’s maintainable, solid and hope for the best.
I think the danger is that if you aim to design something that will last 1000 years you will over engineer it and it will be difficult to maintain and modify.
The other thing that they've not managed to control is moisture. You can't mix and match steel with lime mortar (I mean you can, but its not wise) You can just put a moisture barrier in there, but you need a way to maintain that (its not like a damp proof course, its far more extensive).
Personally if you want to make a house last 1k years, just make a clay lump house. It'll be far cheaper to build, look more realistic and much more well understood how to repair it.
Tangentially - it's not that we can't make concrete that way, it's that for many structures we're building of concrete, building to last 100+ years is over kill, and would increase costs drastically for a building or structure that will most likely be torn down before it reaches its life expectancy.
TLDR, the asymmetrical 4-2 storeys shape is the result of that earthquake when the top of the part of the building built on softer ground felt down.
tl;dr: we took a long time to realize that the Romans didn't use potable water, they used saltwater; the volcanic ash they had access to was also very important
Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters added one to his house and talks about it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0T3nIk3S8Wc
Stainless or ceramic chimney liner slows that process down, but neither will last a 100 years let alone a 1000.
Additionally, I think people who are outdoors still have to breathe air.
Mine's gone out...
If I am correct some of the Romanesque constructions don’t need wood and those have been there for 1000 years.
The seismic activity in Spain is almost null, which I guess matters for this structures.