4 votes

In defense of Shattuck: Housing in downtown Berkeley

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  1. skybrian
    From the blog post:

    From the blog post:

    King’s next issue is the bulkiness of the new apartments. He would prefer slimmer and sleek buildings, with more creative designs over the dense building blocks with generic facades. This is a common criticism lobbied at “5-over-1s” (five stories of wood frame housing on top of 1 concrete ground floor) apartments in many American cities. Too bulky and ugly; designed to cram in as many apartments as possible to make money at the expense of artistry.

    The issue isn’t height, which people tend to fixate on (wrongly). It’s bulk. Developers and their planning consultants figure out how much space they can jam onto their site using the new bonus, then wrap it in “architecture.”

    Oddly absent from King’s article is the glaring reason 5-over-1s and bulky buildings are so popular and homogeneous in the United States but not elsewhere in the world: double-loaded corridors a.k.a two stairwells.

    In most the United States and Canada, new apartments beyond a few stories must contain two stairwells on opposite ends in the event one stairwell is made inaccessible due to fire. The problem is that there’s isn't much evidence that having two stairwells increase fire safety — hence why the rest of the world doesn’t require double-loaded corridors (see map above). In Europe, Latin America and Asia, new single-stair apartment complexes are common, and most of those countries don’t have higher rates of residential fire deaths than the United States.

    1 vote